Nuclear Secrecy Corrodes Public Trust

One of the hard lessons that the nuclear community learned in the 70’s and 80’s was that it must be open, transparent and honest with the public. Using this approach the nuclear industry managed to just survive the accidents, bribery scandals and instances of technical ineptitude during those years. The idea was summed up by the media trainers of the day as “Tell the truth even if it hurts”. It worked.

It appears that this lesson been totally forgotten by the current generation of Canadian nuclear managers.

Here’s a partial list of documents that as far as I know the public hasn’t been allowed to see.

  • The McKinsey report on new reactor purchases commissioned by for the Ontario government
  • The report by AECL to the New Brunswick government on the need for new reactors
  • The consultants report to the NB government commenting on the  foregoing AECL report
  • The report by the Alberta nuclear advisory committee set up by the province
  • Any output (?) from the similar Saskatchewan committee on nuclear power  
  • The National Bank report on the future of AECL  

The only feeble explanation I’ve heard is that the reports have to be kept quiet because they could contain propriety material. I’m sure these documents won’t contain instructions on how to weapons or details of anti-terrorist security systems at the present reactors. So what are they hiding – nothing much is my guess.

The so-called proprietary information that must be keep confidential according the industry is probably  their sales pitches: a reactor supplier says it can built one of its reactors for X dollars (not including cost overruns) that will produce electricity at Y dollars (if they can get it to work).  The italics are of course mine intended to reflect the cynicism I feel about the lies salesmen of all kinds tell to move their products. Oh sure, the nuclear types will blame all this secrecy on governments and no doubt the governments will insist that it’s the industry that wants confidentiality. It’s more likely that neither group wants to deal publically with the issues the reports raise but avoiding the issues is a huge mistake.

Fortunately, the usual suspects in the anti-nuclear movement are snoozing through all of this or else frittering away their time on pointless attacks on university research reactors. Even better, anti-nuclear politicians seem to have disappeared off the radar. Public support is the best it’s been in years. These factors are creating an excellent climate for the growth of nuclear power.

So what does the nuclear industry do in face of its great good fortune on finally having a positive climate for the first time in decades?  Well it seems industry executives are reverting to the “father knows best”, “the public is too stupid to understand us” and “don’t bother us, we know best how to spent $10-15 billion of your dollars” attitudes that have proved so detrimental in the past. Personally, I find it depressing that the industry seems intent on squandering the present goodwill by their contempt for the public. They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

It’s past time that the industry stops hiding behind this pointless secrecy before it erodes the public trust they now enjoy.  


3 Responses to “Nuclear Secrecy Corrodes Public Trust”

  1. Harbles Says:

    I just wondered if you were aware of the Ontario Geofish site?
    Seems like you may have a lot in common.

  2. Harold Asmis Says:

    We write the same stuff, neat. They keep it secret because they like to keep everything secret. It’s the very nature of the old boy’s drinking club!

  3. Steve Aplin Says:

    You’re totally right. There’s rarely been such a favourable public climate for nuclear power in Canada. Look at the shift in Canada’s position on nuclear exports to India. The greens are so busy swarming the oilsands and celebrating Obama that they left all the negative comments on our new India policy to the anti-proliferation people.

    The government is probably not releasing any reports on capital and electricity costs of nuke projects for fear of being held to a number and then accused of foisting another Darlington “fiasco” on Ontario.

    What an unnecessary fear. The best way to promote nuclear in Ontario is to point out that even with the gargantuan Darlington overrun (which we’re all paying with the Debt Retirement Charge), Ontario power is CHEAP. You want expensive power? Look at the gas-heavy U.S. northeast.

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