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TEA Comments on Tragedy in Japan

March 13, 2011

The following statement was issued today by Franz Hartmann, Executive Director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance:

"On behalf of all TEA members and staff, I want to express our condolences to those affected by the terrible tragedy unfolding in Japan, especially those in Toronto who have friends and family affected by the earthquakes, tsunami and radiation threats from damaged nuclear power stations.

Our best wishes go out to all the brave women and men sacrificing their health while doing their best to contain the spread of radiation from damaged nuclear power plants. Their courage is admirable and we hope their efforts will be rewarded with success in stopping any further radiation leaks and damage.

TEA also renews its long-standing call to shut down nuclear reactors in Ontario and replace them with renewable power sources. The Japanese crisis illustrates the inherent danger of nuclear power, especially to people and the environment. The crisis also makes clear that nuclear power is unacceptably expensive, particularly when costs to human health and the environment are included.

Currently, there is a debate in Ontario about our energy future. Two political parties advocate refurbishing existing nuclear power stations and building new ones. One political party also wants to dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, current programs that promote renewable power. The tragedy in Japan makes it clear any further investment in nuclear carries with it unacceptable risks to human and environmental health as well as to our economy. In contrast, further investment in renewable power has virtually no risks to human and environmental health and creates many good green jobs that help the economy.

Recently, renewable power – especially wind power – has come under attack by some who claim that wind power harms human health and the environment. Indeed, the Province recently announced it will stop any new wind projects in the Great Lakes citing unsubstantiated environmental concerns. These concerns, however well intentioned, have never been scientifically proven. More importantly, any unknown risks that may exist need to be re-examined in light of the current crisis in Japan. We know that when nuclear power facilities malfunction and release radiation people must be evacuated, their health suffers, the environment is contaminated, and the economy suffers. None of these outcomes occur when, for example, wind turbines malfunction. They are just turned off.

Put simply, any yet-to-be determined risks of renewable power are miniscule in comparison to the known risks of nuclear power. For these reasons and many more, we urge Ontario's political leaders to help us avoid the type of tragedy now facing Japan by supporting renewable power and committing to the elimination of nuclear power in Ontario as soon as possible.  

Finally, we extend our thoughts and best wishes to the people of Japan and join them in hoping for a speedy and positive outcome to the terrible crisis they face.

Franz Hartmann, PhD
Executive Director
Toronto Environmental Alliance
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