Recently-elected federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion dropped by Calgary for a visit Fri., Jan. 12 and weighed in on the issue of building nuclear plants to power the oilsands. As it stands now, a massive amount of natural gas is being used in the extraction of bitumen.
There are concerns when erecting nuclear power plants and those were brought up not only by Dion, but by prominent environmental organizations in Calgary. Marlo Reynolds, executive director of the Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based environmental think-tank, expressed concern about increasing the oilsands' prominence as a terrorist target.
Though terrorism is a harsh reality, the potential for terrorism is thrown around too eagerly and often amounts to little more than fear-mongering. Despite 9/11 proving that a large-scale terrorist attack can occur on North American soil, throughout nuclear power's 50-year history in North America, no attack has managed to successfully target a nuclear plant despite the existence of people, organizations and countries with the motive.
Another legitimate concern expressed by Dion and Reynolds was the difficulty of nuclear waste disposal. But as reactors improve and technology advances, the waste produced will be diminished and the facilities used to safeguard them will improve. There are many safe storage options that are being explored throughout the world as nuclear power has been considered a viable option by plenty of countries. What really should be of concern are the substantial emissions produced by the oilsands. If gas use continues at the same pace, there's no hope for Canada to reach its Kyoto goals. Nuclear power produces very little emissions--especially compared with the amount being pumped into the air now.
The probability of a nuclear power plant being built in Alberta in the near future is high, concerns over waste or not. Though they're legitimate concerns, high emission levels should be a higher priority.