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Friday, April 25, 2008

mel knight: the sierra club is pro-nuclear.

I paid a visit to Question Period at the Alberta Legislature yesterday afternoon and was sitting in the gallery when Tory Energy Minister Mel Knight gave his response to Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft's questions on the appointment of the pro-nuclear Dr. John Luxat to a supposedly "neutral" Tory appointed nuclear study committee:

Mr. Knight: It might be very interesting for the member opposite to understand that one of the, kind of, major forces working with respect to environmental concerns globally, the Sierra Club, runs ads in Europe in favour of nuclear energy, Mr. Speaker, in favour of nuclear energy. This is not – not – a consultation process. We’re going out to answer some questions for Albertans.
The Sierra Club is pro-nuclear? Really?

It just so happens that I exchanged a friendly email with one of the kind folks from the Sierra Club yesterday evening. Not only did they assure me that the Sierra Club continues to be steadfastly opposed to the expansion of Nuclear power, but that the Sierra Club doesn't even have a European wing or any extension of activities in Europe.

Why would Mel Knight blow this kind of smoke? Is this out of character for the Tory MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky? Has he just spent too much time enjoying the fresh air of Alberta's tarsands? Well, in 2007, Knight didn't hesitate in his defense of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board after they used taxpayers dollars to hire private investigators to spy on central Alberta landowners and their lawyers.

Is this just another step in Ed Stelmach and Mel Knight's nuclear agenda for Alberta?


Kyle G. Olsen said...

Utter incompetence, can't he even read his briefing notes, or are his aides incompetent too?

I am pro-nuclear, but come on, it isn't hard to cite north american examples of pro-nuke environmentalists if you look! The Environmental Defense Fund and the Wildlife Habitat Council in the states are a couple. And you can always point to Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore conversion to the nuclear solution, or Gaia theory originator James Lovelock as examples of reformed environmentalists.

But citing an organization that doesn't exist, with an obvious mistruth about a split in opposition, I wonder if he can be nailed for misleading the house?

eh said...

Great post Dave! Unfortunately it seems to be more and more clear that the AB government is going to rubber stamp nuclear in this province. Nuclear reactors and the tar sands? Should be a nice legacy for our kids.

Ian said...

I'll agree 100% that Eddie and his comrades are trying to pull a fast one, and their lies don't help their credibility, however I don't see nuclear energy as a threat to this province. Although there are many concerns around the projects, these can be addressed, and nuclear energy can provide us with safe, emission free electricity.

I lean more to disagreeing with the use of nuclear energy for further expansion of the tar sands, but to get us from oil to fusion energy nuclear seems like the safest, cleanest bet.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone really surprised that Mel Knight is just making shit up? He's the energy minister in a 72-seat majority government. Taft is lucky that Knight even shows up to QP.

Aaron said...

Greenpeace founder now backs nuclear power

riley said...

We have an complacent government and an apathetic public, so sadly the nuclear plants will go in whether Albertans like it or not.

Anonymous said...

"But citing an organization that doesn't exist, with an obvious mistruth about a split in opposition, I wonder if he can be nailed for misleading the house?"

Can Knight get pinned for this in the house? If he can, is it likely that he would apologize?

Anonymous said...

Mel Knight's a truly spectacular disaster of an energy minister but, no, he can't get dinged in the house for inaccurate statements.

Aaron: that would be Patrick Moore, who's no longer associated with Greenpeace or other environmental organizations. See his wiki page for more.

Anonymous said...

Need to post a comment in response to Kyle...unfortunately to remain grasping at straws. I gave a call to some friend at Enviro Defense and was directed to this comment on their website which clearly states their position on Nuclear Energy:

"Nuclear power is one possible wedge, but it carries with it significant concerns about safety, security, waste and proliferation. Fortunately, nuclear power is not the only wedge for addressing global warming."

Please, let us not implicate organizations without a thorough knowledge of their comments. As for Patrick Moore, it is such common knowledge that he is in the pockets of industry that he can hardly be classified as credible.

I encourage all who are unsure or leaning in favour of nuclear energy to educate themselves on the impacts and the alternatives. Even if you do not believe a Chernobyl type event is plausible, there is an increasing body of literature leading to conclusions linking nuclear energy plants to elevated levels of leukemia in children living near-by. One thing is certain, we do not know how to discard the high amounts of radio-active waste generated with the production of nuclear energy.

Germany made a conscious decision to turn away from Nuclear Energy in addressing Climate Change. The have subsequently built a renewable energy economy that already produces more electricity that Canada's entire Nuclear Energy Complex (and is doing so while creating more jobs than their previous conventional energy economy).

We have options - let's invest in those before turning to solutions that leave us with increased risk and uncertainty and far greater impacts.

Anonymous said...

There is a secondary application of CANDU. "Cooking" long chain hydrocarbons from any organic matter. Municipal garbage, forest industry waste, grass, you name it. (Use Modified digesters from pulp mills being closed due to the current economic downturn)

Nuclear to crack tar sands only keeps an old fuel source going a bit longer. It would save a trillion or two US in the short term infrastructure replacement. That said, one pilot plant could be installed with two track intent.

Reasonable people are necessary, and that's where organizations like the Sierra Club bow out...

Anonymous said...

The Sierra Club prairie chapter published a brief summary of the anti-nuclear activities of our local groups in the Peace River region, site of the proposed new nuclear reactor (I know because I wrote it) and have generally been very helpful with organizing speakers etc.

Mel Knight never cares much about accuracy, or about politeness for that matter. I remember him screaming at a room full of seniors at a forum a couple of years ago.

As for the idea that nuclear is clean and green, it's just marketing, that's all. The nuclear industry is trying to use the recent rise of concern about greenhouse gases and global warming to spin their industry into something palatable to the public and market themselves as green, a neat and very necessary trick considering the biggest problem for the industry has been its association with very messy and dangerous accidents, such as Chernobyl. And before you say that was in Russia and was a long time ago, I'd like to point out the growing list of recent accidents, radiation leaks, and poor management of nuclear facilities everywhere from Chalk River to the south of France, where an accident that spilled radioactive material into a lake shook up tourists and local residents during a prominent festival.

And it might be the nuclear industry's last chance to convince us all, with no new project sold or built in North America in something like 30 years. They're desperate. Hence the heavy push.

Even setting aside the huge and as yet, unsolved problem of nuclear waste, the cost of constructing a nuclear power plant is extreme, and projects have been subject to massive cost overruns and delays. And the relative benefits in terms of the reduction of greenhouse gases won't even exist until the project is up and running, at least a decade in the future. Assuming it is up and running; some new projects in places like Finland are still in limbo, half finished. Since the design for this reactor is new and untested, the same thing could easily happen this time.

Generally, due to its cost, the time it takes to build, the risk of accident, and the highly expensive problem of waste and later, decommissioning a plant, nuclear power is a bad economic risk. Don't believe me? Warren Buffet won't invest in it. Neither will most private investors, here and in the US. The nuclear industry has a bad rep with them, for good reason. It's a bad risk.

Nor will it help reduce greenhouse gas emissions if the thing is used to help power the oilsands, and therefore ensure that we burn more fossil fuels, which has been part of the plan from the beginning (Energy Alberta made a lot of noise when the project was first floated about how many oil companies they already had contracts with).

And then there's the problem of all that nuclear waste, of course. Canada has just signed on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) which commits us, at the US's urging, to "reprocess" waste. This is being consistently sold as "recycling" waste, which is of course inaccurate; “reprocessing” is just separation of the used fuel into various types of waste, it is not reuse. This "reprocessing" will likely contribute to nuclear proliferation, as it creates weapons grade materials.

The bottom line for me as a person who lives only a few km from the proposed nuclear site is that regular Albertans were never consulted about whether we WANT nuclear energy, versus quicker and less dangerous alternatives like wind and solar. Instead everyone from our local councillors to Patrick Moore to Bruce Power just showed up and started telling us why it was good for us, and that it was happening, like it or not. It's anti-democratic, and if nothing else, we should have the opportunity to decide for ourselves.