Zero-emission nuclear still radioactive rhetoric to environmentalists

NORTHERN ALBERTA - Environmentalists demanding an end to global warming are calling on the world's governments to adopt clean, zero-emission energy.

But mention "nuclear power" - one of the safest energy sources available with no greenhouse gases - and their reaction can be summed up in a word: radioactive.

This creates a dilemma for politicians seeking a way to cut greenhouse gases while meeting growing demands for electricity.

Nuclear would appear to be a viable alternative. But any politician who utters a word of support for the nuke option risks being painted as an evil violator of Mother Earth on par with Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.

Even Ed Stelmach, the premier of let's-pave-paradise Alberta, wouldn't touch the nuclear issue with a 10-foot fuel rod.

Stelmach refused to state his personal opinion on nuclear energy after a Calgary company formally announced plans to build a $6-billion nuke plant in northern Alberta.

Stelmach did say Albertans will be "fully consulted" on the nuke proposal, however. But will British Columbians get a say on a nuclear plant that would be built near the B.C. border?

That's where NDP Leader Carole James got into the act.

She called on Premier Gordon Campbell to oppose the Alberta plant because of cross-border safety concerns.

"Community leaders are expressing serious reservations about living next door to a massive nuclear-power facility," she wrote.

But B.C. Energy Minister Richard Neufeld said he has no plans to meddle in Alberta's nuclear affairs.

"I have no opinion on what Alberta does. I have no authority on what Alberta does."

Besides, Neufeld argued, the proposed Alberta nuke site isn't that close to B.C., anyway, and we're upwind from any fallout if there's an accident.

"It's well over 100 kilometres from the border and the wind generally blows from the west."

He might get an argument about that from people in his own Peace River North riding. The mayors of Dawson Creek and Chetwynd are already expressing concerns about the proposed nuke plant.

Neufeld said British Columbia's ban on nuclear-power generation in this province will remain in place, but watch for this issue to heat up, anyway.

The NDP will keep up the pressure, but I doubt Campbell will oppose Alberta's nuclear plans.

For one thing, we buy power from Alberta. For another, Campbell doesn't want any downstream griping from Alberta if B.C. builds another dam on the Peace River.

So nuke on, neighbour.


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