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Alberta Diary

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David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

Rust never sleeps ... and neither do Alberta's tar sands nuclear power boosters

| September 26, 2011

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alberta

Just when you thought it was safe to breath the isotope-laden Western Canadian air again, now that the wind from Japan has died down a little, comes word that the tireless lobbyists for a nuclear power plant near the Alberta tar sands are back at it.

A Calgary Herald report last Friday told the story of a "debate" about nuclear energy in the oil sands at a conference of petroleum industry toffs at a famously luxurious Banff hotel.

Actually, if you read the story you'll find the kind of thing that could only pass for "debate" in the pages of the Calgary Herald, long justly known for its undeclared mission as the Fearless Champion of the Overdog.

The debate in question, at any rate, consisted of the differences between an oil industry exec who wants a $6-billion-plus taxpayer-paid nuclear power-generation plant here in the Peace River Country right flippin' now, and another big shot who only thinks the nuke should be built really, really soon.

At least as far as any alert reader could tell from the story, no one in a nicely tailored summer suit was standing up and asking, "Are we crazy, or what?"

Using nuclear power -- either in the form of "controlled" explosions, or in the more conventional manner of electricity generated in a multi-billion-dollar reactor paid for by someone else -- has long been a dream of the tar sands oil extraction industry.

When something like the recent Japanese typhoon-meltdown-incompetence disaster-cum-scandal illustrates the risks of nuclear power a little too vividly, these advocates issue a few soothing news releases (don't worry, "our country's nuclear sites are always built on sturdy foundations") and keep their heads down for a spell. Pretty soon, though, we can again hear the buzz of low-grade mumbling about what a wonderful thing a nuclear plant in northwestern Alberta would be.

The event stumbled upon by the Herald's Banff stringer -- or whoever it was that authored this muddled report, which was mainly concerned with the irony of the fact the power briefly went out during the conference -- is merely a little more evidence that, like rust, nuclear power advocates never sleep.

But with the oil industry in the vanguard, can the "reinvented" government of Alberta be far behind?

Not likely.

As has been said in this place before, pressure to build one of these massively expensive, high-risk, environmentally unsustainable white elephants out here in the Peace River Country of northwestern North America is likely to continue with the enthusiastic backing of the Alberta government, whoever leads it.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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