Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

Inquiry launched into Canadian nuclear advertising

An application was filed today for an inquiry by Canada’s Competition Bureau into the Canadian Nuclear Association’s (CNA) high profile advertising campaign touting the benefits of nuclear power. The applicants – including religious, public health, renewable energy and environmental groups from across Canada – allege that claims made in a series of high-profile television, radio and print ads promoting nuclear energy are misleading.

The CNA adverting campaign states, against a background of blue sky, that nuclear power is “clean”, “reliable” and “affordable,” and that nuclear power generation “does not create greenhouse gases,” “keeps the air clean” and is subject to “stable” fuel prices. The application asks the Competition Commissioner to investigate whether these representations are factually correct and whether individually and as a whole, they create a misleading impression of the environmental impacts and economic costs associated with nuclear power.

“The application calls on the Competition Bureau to clear the air and determine whether the Competition Act has been breached,” said Sierra Legal lawyer Hugh Wilkins. “Conservation and renewable energy initiatives should be ensured a level competitive playing field and the public must be allowed to assess the full environmental, health and economic risks and costs of the various energy options available.”

A recently published Pembina Institute report, Nuclear Power in Canada: An Examination of Risks, Impacts and Sustainability, was filed in support of the application. The report documents that electricity generation from nuclear in Canada has created massive volumes of radioactive and hazardous wastes that will require virtually perpetual care, involves the ongoing discharge of a wide range of radioactive and toxic pollutants to air and water, and emits greenhouse gases throughout the full technology lifecycle.

Regarding reliability and affordability claims, the report demonstrates that nuclear power generating facilities in Canada have a history of poor reliability and that facility construction and refurbishment projects in Canada have been subject to major cost overruns. Nuclear plant construction projects in Ontario, for example, have run 40 to 270 per cent over their initial projected capital costs and world uranium prices have increased by a factor of more than six since 2001.

“An energy source associated with water pollution that has been found to be a ‘toxic’ substance as defined under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act should not be described as ‘clean’,” said Dr.Mark Winfield, author of the Pembina Institute report, and one of the signatories to the complaint.

“When asked, people actually prefer renewable energy to radioactive nuclear power. Our concern is that the nuclear industry’s advertising budget and approach distorts objective decisions which have to be made right now about the future direction of Ontario’s electricity system,” says Julia Langer of WWF-Canada.

The application was filed by Sierra Legal on behalf of the Pembina Institute, WWF-Canada, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, Sky Generation Inc., Interchurch Uranium Committee Educational Cooperative, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and Families Against Radiation Exposure (FARE).

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