By Melis Kilic, a volunteer with the Greenpeace Toronto local group.
Several people voted on a survey in the Toronto Star that the Pickering nuclear plant should be kept open because it “adds to Ontario’s GDP and keeps jobs.” Well, pollution also contributes to GDP and so do car accidents. I believe we can mostly concur that we are better off without those things. When we’re talking about energy, a focus on GDP has been weighed and found wanting. GDP measures production and not destruction, so the Toronto Star should ask better questions of its’ readers especially when the issue involves energy production.
The focus on GDP and jobs attests to the failure of our imaginations. Globally, the painful lesson has long been learned that by narrowly focusing on GDP we miss out on what is important to the overall well being of our populations - for example, a sustainable energy system. The transition to such an energy system would also create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Ontario Power Generatio (OPG) has a responsibility to prepare for Pickering’s closure with a transition plan for the station’s 3,000 workers, but unfortunately it hasn’t yet. Instead, OPG is now hoping to renew the plant’s operating license and continue production at Pickering until 2024. This is an additional 10 years beyond the plant’s design life.
Throughout this spring and summer we are going to be hearing often from OPG as multiple hearings on the plant’s extended operations take place. Last week, an OPG sponsored economic assessment of the Pickering plant was released by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis. The timing of the report coincided with OPG’s first private hearing with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).
The report aims to make an economic case to continue the plants operation, but crucial considerations have not been taken into account. For example, absent from the report’s assessment is the sacrifice we will make by continuing to operate Pickering far beyond its’ design life. Will we continue to risk harming the bountiful ecosystem of our Great Lakes, the public health of our most populated city, our drinking water, and our planet for this economic contribution? None of these are factored into the GDP estimates put forward by the Chamber of Commerce.
Clearly, there is abundant support for sustainable energy in Canada. Proponents of nuclear energy understand that support and thus argue that carbon free nuclear is better than coal. Fortunately, our options are not confined to just these two energy sources. There is now an abundance of cheap carbon free energy that does not leave behind radioactive waste or come with the risk of disastrous accidents -or even in the case of Pickering, millions of dead fish.
The majority of Pickering’s electricity is surplus and shipped to the US. There is no adequate or urgent reason this plant needs to operate beyond its’ design life at such great environmental and public risk. After over 40 years of production, we must finally allow Pickering to retire. We must widen our imaginations and embrace the opportunity, wealth, and jobs that will come from a whole and complete transition to sustainable energy systems.
If you want to join me and other Greenpeace volunteers campaign to close the Pickering reactors, sign up here.