Response to “Nuclear Radiation is Forever”

February 9, 2011

Article by Helen Caldicott, Dale Dewar, Ottawa Citizen
February 8, 2011

February 9, 2011

Ottawa Citizen
1101 Baxter Road, Box 5020
Ottawa, Ontario
K2C 3M4

Dear Editor,

On February 8th, The Ottawa Citizen published an Op-Ed by Helen Caldicott and Dale Dewar on the dangers of radiation, particularly to the residents of Port Hope, Ontario. Canada’s nuclear community welcomes an open and diverse debate regarding Canada’s nuclear industry.

It should be kept in mind that radiation is found naturally everywhere on Earth. In Canada, average annual exposure from natural sources is about 2 mSv. Exposure to natural radiation can vary significantly regionally: for example, in parts of Brazil, natural radiation exposure has been measured at 5 mSv/year, and in the Burgundy region of France, natural exposure ranges between 1.8 – 3.5 mSv/year. Even higher levels, between 13 – 70 mSv/year have been found in certain areas of India – exclusively from natural sources.

Caldicott and Dewar’s statements about Port Hope are unfounded and fail to recognize vital research on the industry’s proven safety record.  Over the past fifty years, there have been at least thirteen  epidemiological studies on cancer and other health risks in Port Hope. According to a 2009 report by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the results of these studies “overwhelmingly lead to the conclusion that the low levels of radiological and non-radiological exposure [in Port Hope] resulting from the radium and uranium industry, have not caused any adverse effects on human health.”  Though it is legitimate for Caldicott and Dewar to disagree with the conclusion of these studies, it is something else entirely for them to suggest that they do not exist.

Considering that radiation exposure from natural sources in Port Hope is approximately 2 mSv – in line with the Canadian average – it should not be surprising that residents suffer no greater radiation related health risks than Canadians elsewhere.  Furthermore, in Canada’s half century history of using nuclear energy, no member of the public has been harmed as a result of a radiation leak from a waste storage facility.

As for the question of the clean-up in Port Hope, readers may be interested in the opinions of other critics of the nuclear industry in Canada, such as Lawrence Solomon, Executive Director of Energy Probe. Far from being a supporter of nuclear power, he nonetheless concedes that his organization is “no longer confident that low levels of radiation, such as those that now remain in Port Hope, pose a danger.”

We encourage all Canadians to learn more about Canada’s nuclear industry, and we welcome an open and honest debate about the future of nuclear in Canada. We live in a country that is rich in resources and technology, and rather than advocating the elimination of one energy source altogether, we should work together and embrace the mix that includes reliable, safe and affordable nuclear power. There’s room for all of us to work together.

Denise Carpenter
President and CEO

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