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Big City Papers Under-Report Sustainable Energy

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Sky Harvest’s proposed 140 Megawatt (MW) wind farm near Gardiner Dam gets a story on D1 of the Oct. 29th Leader Post, while Bruce Power’s 1,000 MW nuclear plant proposed somewhere along the North Saskatchewan river is reported as the front-page banner story on Nov. 28th. And it’s been like this for years.

An energy path using “distributed resources” like wind or solar or tidal, doesn’t degrade the earth while extracting a non-renewable fuel and creating a toxic waste stream. Rather, it simply transfers existing renewable energy (it’s all solar) into electricity. Meanwhile, nuclear energy extracts a carcinogenic heavy metal, uranium, making its’ radioactive byproducts (e.g. radon gas), which continue to be formed for billions of years, more bio-available to contaminate watersheds and food chains. Then, after being used as nuclear fuel, a waste stream of long-lived poisons (e.g. plutonium) is created that will remind future generations that we weren’t thinking about them. The energy choice is a no-brainer.

But for the big city papers and the big political parties this is not about sustainable energy that protects water and health; it’s about profitable mega-projects. We already know that the most important thing that trickles down from nuclear mega-projects isn’t wealth but radioactive pollutants. So why aren’t the big city papers asking some hard questions: say about Bruce Power’s claim that we’ll need a 1,000 MW of nuclear power by 2020; that a two-plant complex would cost from $8 to $10 billion, or that 20,000 indirect and direct jobs would be created by this? How hard is it to ask how much each job will cost, and how this compares to jobs from sustainable energy? Or who will pay for the cost-overruns that characterize this already highly subsidized industry? Or, whether Bruce Power’s cost projections include decommissioning and perennial spent fuel management?

How hard is it to investigate similar promotional claims by the nuclear industry in Saskatchewan in the late 1980s that proved to be inflated or erroneous? Journalists should be encouraged to probe rather than simply parrot such corporate claims, otherwise the line between “news” and “spin” gets very blurred. The not-so free corporate media has already lost much credibility, and we will need more in-depth reporting to help us make responsible decisions in our transition to a sustainable society.

Jim Harding is a retired professor of environmental and justice studies who resides in the Qu'Appelle Valley.