After Japan’s nuclear disaster, Ontario asks important question: what does it mean for us?

After Japan’s nuclear disaster, Ontario asks important question: what does it mean for us?

Pickering nuclear power plant (Image: Jason Richards)

The news from Japan today (the most reliable source is from the IAEA) is pretty alarming, causing many to ask what this all means for other places that rely heavily on nuclear power. Germany and Switzerland have both announced plans to scale back their nuclear plans in response to the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake. Will Ontario follow the pack? That really depends on which side of the Liberal government wins out. On the one hand, according to Adam Radwanski at the Globe and Mail, is the government believes there is little political danger on this issue. On the other are those who want to show how careful they are by proceeding slowly on new nuclear energy facilities.

The Liberals also now appear to see some political value in moving slowly, which allows them to make hay of Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s recent pledge to stop the “dithering and delays” he claims have held up the new build. The Tories, according to the provincial official, want to “cut corners” – a fairly strong accusation, given what’s in the news.

Meanwhile, the third-party NDP – whose continued suspicion of all things nuclear has tended to seem a little quaint – may now get more traction with the issue. The New Democrats have the luxury of not having to provide an especially credible explanation of what they would prefer instead, since they’re unlikely to form government in the foreseeable future. But there should be some fear to be mongered, if that’s their inclination.

Of course, if the Liberals intend to accuse Tories of cutting corners and putting Ontarians at greater risk of a nuclear meltdown, then it’s not just the NDP who would be fear-mongering there. Regardless, the McGuinty government has been committed to nuclear in one way or another since at least 2006, so it would be difficult in the extreme for them to make an about-face on this.

Then again, the Liberals led by Dalton McGuinty haven’t been setting any records in consistency lately. Given that hearings are going to start next week on the new reactors they province is building at Darlington, this issue is going to stay in the press. So we won’t be surprised if the Liberals announce some kind of “review” of nuclear power that puts this on hold until after election day.

There are only really two things we’re pretty sure of: the Feds’ quest to find a private buyer for CANDU-maker AECL just got a lot harder (or Ottawa has to sell a lot cheaper), and using the events in Japan to oppose condo towers in your neighbourhood looks bad.

• International Red Cross [Donate online]
• Japan’s nuclear crisis dampens Ontarians’ enthusiasm for new reactors [Globe and Mail]
• Ontario urged to rethink nuclear plans [Toronto Star]
• Nuclear fears revived as condo towers rise near Pickering plant [Toronto Star]