Greenpeace's Shawn-Patrick Stensil has an excellent Q&A on whether Canada is safe from a nuclear accident. Here's what he tells us about the CANDU.
Following the accident at the American Three Mile Island nuclear station in 1979, an all-party committee of the Ontario Legislature (the Select Committee on Hydro Affairs) investigated Ontario’s nuclear policies. In its 1980 report to the legislature, the committee concluded that:
“It is not right to say that a catastrophic accident (in a CANDU reactor) is impossible ... The worst possible accident could involve the spread of radioactive poisons over large areas, killing thousands immediately, killing others through increasing susceptibility to cancer, risking genetic defects that could affect future generations, and possibly contaminating, for further habitation, large land areas...
Accidents, mistakes and malfunctions do occur in [CANDU] nuclear plants: equipment fails; instrumentation gives improper readings; operators and maintainers make errors and fail to follow instructions; designs are inadequate; events that are considered `incredible' happen...no matter how careful we are, we must anticipate the unexpected.”Additionally, the spent fuel storage pools that must circulate cool water over hot waste for 10-15 years are essentially the same at CANDU facilities as at every other facility. We have no deep geologic repository for spent fuel. All spent fuel in North America is being stored on site at nuclear power plants.
Spent fuel will remain hazardous for 1000's of years past the time when the plant responsible for creating it has ceased production. No production means no income... obviously. Yet today, we have SWAT teams guarding nuke plants to ensure bad guys don't get their hands on spent fuel. Who will be paying for the SWAT team and keeping the SWAT team armed with advanced weaponry 100 years from now? 200 years from now? 250,000 years from now? Remember, the most optimistic lifespan of a nuke plant is 60 years, including refurbishment.
BTW, all of Canada's plants are about the same age as Fukushima's 1971 reactors. They're failing. Pickering's CANDU leaked 73,000 liters of contaminated water into Lake Ontario this week. NB's Pt Lepreau refurbishment is years behind schedule and costing millions and millions more than estimated. Bruce Power's refurbishment is 18 months behind schedule and 100's of millions over budget.
Pro-nuke spinmeisters and vested interests are flailing desperately. It's their death throes. AECL was already on the auction block at a fire sale price with precious few (2) qualified bidders. Right now, I don't think we could give it away.