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The large domed building is the Vacuum Building which is designed to suck any radioactive steam that could be released. to date, this has not been needed. Photos taken April6 2011 during a media tour of the Ontario Power Generation's Darlington Nuclear facility near Oshawa, Ont. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
The large domed building is the Vacuum Building which is designed to suck any radioactive steam that could be released. to date, this has not been needed. Photos taken April6 2011 during a media tour of the Ontario Power Generation's Darlington Nuclear facility near Oshawa, Ont. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Fukushima's ripple effects on nuclear power in Canada Add to ...

The destruction at Fukushima has renewed the volatile battle between nuclear energy's champions and foes.

Anti-nuclear activists seized on those images to argue nuclear power had never been as safe as it was touted to be: Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, one of the opponents to Darlington's new build, insists Japan's crisis indicates a complacence they think is mirrored in Canada.

The nuclear industry is mounting an aggressive defence: In both Canada and the United States, companies bought ads and airtime and published consecutive press releases touting their technology's safety. The company that operates Indian Point nuclear plant about 60 kilometres from New York City bought ads in several area newspapers last month emphasizing that "this facility is safe - designed with a margin of safety beyond the strongest earthquake anticipated in the region."

"Nuclear is safe. We have a very safe industry. But we can't be complacent," said Wayne Robbins, Ontario Power Generation's chief nuclear officer."[Three Mile Island]taught us procedures and training; we're going to learn the same kinds of things from Fukushima."

Mr. Robbins said he doesn't know what those "lessons learned" might be, although he said they'd want "to see how we would respond to certain events: Are our procedures good enough? Our backup power supplies, are they good enough?"

One of the biggest hurdles facing operators post-Fukushima is public perception, Mr. Adams said. "The nuke guys have a lot of credibility issues at this point."

But by focusing on the positive aspects of nuclear power, argued Mr. Thompson, government and industry players risk ignoring potential liabilities (even wildly unlikely ones) they should prepare for.

"If the industry and the regulators are constantly saying before the event, 'Don't worry, don't worry, don't worry, everything's under control, nothing can possibly go wrong,' the trouble is, if they believe it and if their staff believes it, then emergency response typically is thought of as a low-order priority."

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