Nuclear Energy Debate ~ Ontario Election 2011

Over the heads of the audience; Satnik stands front and center, flanked by Ron Oberth seated at left and moderator Bob Jonkman standing at right.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the “The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario’s Clean Energy Future: A Debate” put on by Fair Vote WRC and CAPP (Canadians Advocating Political Participation).

Since it was part of Fair Vote Canada‘s first annual Democracy Week, I planned to take still photos both for my blog and for my Fair Vote WRC and CAPP friends. But it was only while sitting in the front row listening to introductions that I spontaneously decided to record the debate.

looking at the back couple of rows of audience; the Fair Vote table on display behind

I’m still learning Free-Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) so I didn’t know if I’d be able to edit video at all. If I’d known it would be important to share the video, I wouldn’t have snapped noisy photos during the debate. But it was only listening to the information and arguments of the debate that I realized just how important the issue is in the here and now.

photographed over the audience from the back of the room
The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario's Clean Energy Future: A Debate

Right now, Ontario is at a crossroads. If we proceed as we have been, Ontario will soon decommission some existing nuclear reactors and will then have to make substantial new investments.  Part of the urgency to decide how to proceed now is that it takes a lot of lead time – decade or so – to build new reactors. The question is, is it necessary?

That nuclear energy is a necessary component to meet Ontario's engery needs.

Mr. Oberth answers questions seated at the table in the question period following the debate
Ron Oberth, nuclear energy expert

The Role of Nuclear Power in Ontario’s Clean Energy Future: A Debate

Ron Oberth of The Organization of CANDU Industries (OCI) gave an excellent presentation, explaining both the history and the current system. Currently Ontario’s energy generation revolves around the nuclear power “baseload.” This is the foundation of the energy grid which powers Ontario.

In fact, our system is so efficient that more than once Ontario has had to pay neighbors to take surplus power off our hands. You can’t instantly turn off a nuclear reactor, and too much unused energy could burn out part of the grid.

Kind of makes you wonder why consumers need smart meters.

Derek Satnik, renewable energy expert at Mindscape Innovations, gave a thorough run down of alternative energy options. The most surprising thing was that Ontario is at a point where it is possible to wean our province off nuclear energy through a transition into the emerging alternative energy industries.

Mr. Satnick answers questions seated at the table in the question period following the debate
Derek Satnik, renewable energy expert

Although in its infancy, wind power provides about 1% of the power to the grid. Solar power is another incremental player. Derek Satnik explained the potential: a federation of renewable micro-power generation facilities could generate a more robust baseload by virtue of flexibility.

But new clean energy resources can’t be added to the grid without reducing some resources. And right now, we have safe and clean energy sources that the government won’t use, because there isn’t room for it on the grid. Right now we could replace nuclear power with green renewable energy.

Three wing Windmill head against a baby blue sky.

I’m sure we have careful and capable people watching over our nuclear power plants. Even so, Ontario is very lucky not to have had a 3 Mile Island.
Or a Chernobyl.
Or a Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Because Nuclear Power is not 100% safe.
Accidents happen.
And thirty years later, we still have no way of making nuclear waste safe; our only disposal method is to bury it.

Nor is nuclear power cheap. We are still paying off nuclear facilities that are no longer in use. Instead of signing on the bottom line to build more expensive nuclear facilities, Ontario could make the transition to less expensive safe alternative energy, and simply phase out our use of nuclear power.

This is the most important issue in this election.

windmills atop the roof of the mall

Watch the debate for yourself:

My 32 minute video isn’t perfect. But you should see it now. Before we elect a new government.

You can watch it on YouTube:

Or download the high resolution version from the Community Video section of Archive.org.

More photos from the debate are available here.

Penelope: “You can’t really vote for a kid, but you can vote for her future.”

It seems Fair Vote and CAPP aren’t the only folks who think that Ontario’s Clean Energy Future ought to be an issue during this electoral campaign. Eight year old Penelope has joined the provincial candidates on the campaign trail, criss crossing the province and asking candidates questions about the environment. Penelope4ontario.ca is leading a campaign to direct voter attention to environmental issues. The idea is that we need to think about the environment we will bequeath to our children when we cast our votes.

Besides being a little girl, Penelope is, of course, an actress, fronting the campaign put on by environmental consortium Environmental Defence. Still, she knows her stuff. Kitchener-Center NDP MPP Candidate Cameron Dearlove had a good chat with young Penelope. Of course, I’m sure that it helps that the environment is one of the NDP platform’s strengths.

The best thing on Penelope’s web page was the Environmental Report Card which compares all the party platforms on environmental issues.

Environment Forum

looking over the audience to the head table where Green Candidate Mark Vercouteren has the mic

head and shoulders shot of candidate with microphone
Mark Vercouteren, #kitcen GPO

Last week Waterloo Region played host to a cross-riding Environmental Forum in at the Rockway Mennonite Church in downtown Kitchener. This forum allowed candidates from various parties to discuss their party’s environment platform.

head and shoulders shot of candidate with microphone
Eric Davis, #kitwat OLP

Kitchner-Centre Green Party Candidate Mark Vercouteren, Kitchener-Waterloo Liberal Party Candidate Eric Davis and Kitchener-Centre NDP Candidate Cameron Dearlove, all had an opportunity to explain their position to local voters and to answer questions following the debate.

head and shoulders shot of candidate with microphone
Cam Dearlove, #kitcen ONDP

Unfortunately, there was no representative from the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party at this Environmental Forum. Did the party decline to attend because they have no environment platform to speak of? I noticed the OPCP was the only party that declined to participate in the Penelope4ontario.ca poll as well. This makes me a bit nervous.

I think it is disturbing that the Ontario Conservatives are so cavalier about Ontario’s energy future. Even if the Progressive Conservative Party is convinced nuclear power is both safe and the best source for Ontario energy, can we afford to cavalierly forge ahead when nuclear power is also the most terribly expensive option? Particularly since it’s getting more so?

Groups of people chatting.

Still, it is especially difficult to take a hard line about nuclear costs, because we can’t afford to be cutting corners when a nuclear mistake cand render large parts of our land uninhabitable. I always thought one of the most important Conservative party cornerstones was fiscal responsibilty.

More problematic is Kitchener- Centre candidate Dave MacDonald, the local TV weather man who has achieved notoriety during this election campaign for expressing disbelief in climate change.

The twin issues of energy and environment are crucial to Ontario’s continued health and prosperity. Candidates who can’t find the time to carefully consider these issues are not candidates I want to see making these decisions for our province. Our future is at stake.

Ontario’s electoral system is every bit as broken as the Federal system. But the very fact that ever vote is not equal makes it even more important to cast our votes, and just as important, to cast them for the candidate we want to elect.

Flying againsy a blue sky with a few whisps of coud.

Thursday, October 6 is the Ontario Election.

#VoteON



Note:
Additional photos from the Environmental Forum are available here.

3 thoughts on “Nuclear Energy Debate ~ Ontario Election 2011

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