I’ve been following the nuclear debate online. I have not blogged anything about Japan’s nuclear plant crisis because there is not enough information coming out (as far as the plant’s condition is concern). Some people on both sides of the nuclear debate have wasted no time in using the crisis to express their nuclear sentiments. By “some” I mean a few people, not all of the pro or anti nuclear people. Some pro side were quick to say “nah it’s safe”. I think that is a little premature for an ongoing development. Some anti people were quick to say “see that’s why there should be no nuclear ever”.
For me, transparency should be mandatory in nuclear industry. So when Japan was covering up their minor nuclear mishaps not too long ago, I was really worried. Because that’s how things get out of hands. They should acknowledge the problem and take care of it head on, leaving no stone unturned. Covering up will just increase the problem exponentially. I am not saying the current crisis have anything to do with their previous non-transparency. Current unconfirmed report indicates tsunami might have swept their backup generator away.
When Harper fired Linda Keen of CNSC, I was equally concern and worried. Sure you can say there is 1 in a million chance that there will be a nuclear accident. But our nuclear industry are operated with very little tolerance for risk. And it should stay that way. Political distractions should play no role in nuclear safety. So Rick Mercer hits the bulls eye with his criticism of Gary Lunn and Harper’s handling of Chalk River’s NRU reactor.
Another troubling action by Harper is keeping the privatization of AECL in limbo for so long. So AECL is essentially prohibited from signing new contracts and making new commitments until they sell AECL off. And that have been going on for so long. There are countries who are interested in signing contract with AECL. But they won’t be able to, due to the freeze arising out of the prolonged government’s inaction. An enterprise that can’t conduct business for few days would lose a lot of money. AECL not being able to conduct business for months, possibly half a year to a year, will surely see its losses mounts. Next time Harper wants to proclaim that there are no incoming revenue at AECL, he should look down his feet and step off AECL’s fingers and let them move again. No wonder some industry insider is claiming that Harper is letting AECL or the nuclear industry “die by thousand cuts”. Harper’s officials claimed that AECL is a sink hole. That will just be a self fulfilling prophesy of increasing magnitude the longer he prevents AECL from conducting its business.
We need to establish an independent Scientific Research Agency. This agency will be independent and free from political interference. Part of AECL’s problem is the constant re-organization and selling off part by part to private organizations. New election, new party, new political appointee at the top, new re-organization. Medical isotope distribution sold off to private company Nordion under Mulroney. In my personal opinion, that took away a potentially lucrative income source for AECL. So it was instead relegated to just producing the isotopes with Nordion distributing them and profiting from them. AECL should at least have a decent share of the profit.
A new scientific institution should be independent and not have the restriction of a Crown Corporation. Which means they will not be restricted from seeking external funding. So private individual can donate for research towards cancer cure. Different funding streams could be setup so that people can target where they want their donations to go to. Such institutions could also coordinate various ongoing research and allows more efficient sharing and exchange of results from their studies. And provide better coordination and gathering of resources to jointly work toward similar research goal (whether it is looking for cures, clean energy sources or future technologies). Everything, especially funding and expenses, would be transparent as all government agencies should be. Independent researchers from different universities and institution under the umbrella of this agency will be preferable over the creation of a new big bureaucracy. A research laboratory with reactors, facilities and equipments will be maintained and available for scientist to use.
If we want to live in a progressive society, status quo or paralysis is not an option. Those two will only lead to stagnation and regression. We must foster continuous innovations for the betterment of our society.