Alberta oil sands and nuclear energy surge: outrageous proposals

The Alberta oil sands have been proclaimed as the greatest greenhouse gas producer in Canada. Now there are two outrageous proposals to quintuple the supply for US greed and consumption and to address the climate change issue by using nuclear power to fuel the oil sands production.

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Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn told Sun Media on December 21, 2006 . "It's not a question of if, it's a question of when in my mind," … "I think nuclear can play a very significant role in the oil sands. I'm very, very keen." ….."It's absolutely emission free. It's CO2 free," he said. "On this specific file, I've had discussions this week." (Sun Media)

It is clear that nuclear energy with its continued risk of accidents, with its unresolved waste disposal, and with its inextricable link to the development of nuclear arms is not a solution to the issue of climate change.

Early in the 1970s, German environmental activists recognized the potential danger of the nuclear industry exploiting the issue of climate change (8 country study on climate change, Harvard University)

In the 1991 Canadian Parliamentary report on Climate Change, parliamentarians enunciated what could be described as the “non-solution solution” principle. They stated that a proposed solution to a problem should not be worse than the problem it is intended to solve.

Subsequently, in 1992, Hans Blix the then president of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agent) not only ignored the essential elements of the “non-solution solution” principle, but also violated another important principle when he proclaimed to the UN General Assembly at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) that nuclear energy was the solution to climate change. The IAEA is supposed to be the international monitoring agency for the civil nuclear and arms industry not a promoter of nuclear energy. He violated the principle that a regulator should not a promoter be. At UNCED, he was awarded by the global Non Government Organizations (NGOs) the recognition for making “ the most outrageous proposal”. Concurrently with his proclamation of nuclear energy as the solution to climate change, an important document, “the Nobel Laureate Declaration” was being widely circulated at UNCED. In this Declaration the Nobel Laureates called for the phasing out of nuclear energy. In addition, under Chapter 9, Atmosphere, section of Agenda 21 at UNCED, every member state of the United Nations made a commitment to promote environmentally safe and sound alternative energy- solar, wind etc; and nuclear energy was not listed in the text.

Now over fourteen years after, the Framework Convention on Climate Change was negotiated and signed at UNCED and subsequently ratified by most member states of the United Nations, including the United States, global concern about climate change has finally been acknowledged as being caused by anthropogenic activities. The human-generated causes of climate change had been acknowledged for years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but denied as a myth by so-called scientists who were funded primarily by the fossil fuel industry. These scientists ignored that the precautionary principle was an integral part of the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Al Gore, who in an interview, in 1992 at UNCED, before he became Vice President, and thus before he held a position where he actually could direct policy, stated “that if you are asking me if we can do better the answer is yes” (personal communication). Yet, through the eight years within which he was Vice President, the US did virtually nothing to invoke the precautionary principle in the Framework Convention to counter the fossil fuel industry’s captive scientists. Now, he has become the guru of climate change. In his film, “inconvenient truth” he delineates effectively the disastrous impacts of climate change but offers little other than a running commentary at the end scrolling by with suggestions for individual change. He, however, has not ruled the outrageous proposal of nuclear energy as the solution to climate change.

Meanwhile there are two concurrent outrageous proposals (1) to “quintuple the oil sands production to service US greed and consumption and even to designate this as a security issue. [perhaps as a means of countering the US feigned concern for democracy which has been used to justify US invasion and occupation of oil-rich states; (2) to reduce the five-fold increase in greenhouse gas emissions through increasing the oil production in the oil sands by fueling the project with nuclear energy.

Outrageous proposals only perpetuate the cycle of error: if the cycle of error is to be broken, all subsidies for the fossil fuel industries and nuclear industry must be discontinued, funds must be transferred to the development of environmentally sound energy as agreed to at UNCED, and there must be a commitment to have a time-bound phase-out of the fossil fuel industry.

The December 21 2006 award for most outrageous proposal should go to Gary Lund.

Joan Russow attended the UNCED in Rio, l997 Rio+ 5 in New York, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Joburg. She did a content analysis of obligations incurred and commitments made at UNCED.


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