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More on the Canadian Nuclear Association Television Ads

The following is a transcript from CBC News (no online reference available) that includes interviews with Murray Elston of the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) as well as Hugh Wilkins of the Sierra Legal Fund, one of the anti-nuclear groups taking issue with CNA's public service advertising campaign that we first mentioned yesterday.

The exchange is interesting, in that the reporter gives Wilkins a pretty hard time:
MATT GALLOWAY, ANNOUNCER: A major environmental group announced that it's taking on the Canadian nuclear industry today. Their complaint false advertising. The Sierra Legal Defence Fund wants the Federal Competition Bureau to start an inquiry into the Canadian Nuclear Association's ads. You might have seen the ads on TV. They claim that nuclear energy is clean, reliable and affordable. In a moment we'll from Murray Elston. He's the former Liberal cabinet minister. He now heads the Nuclear Association. First though Hugh Wilkins staff lawyer for Sierra Legal. He's with me in the studio to explain why exactly his group is taking this particular tactic. Hugh, hello.


GALLOWAY: Tell me about the basis of your complaint. What is the CNA doing wrong?

WILKINS: The complaint is being filed by a number of groups representing religious, environment, community and health interests. And the complaint is asking the Competition Bureau to investigate whether the advertisements, which the Canadian Nuclear Association has put forward, are false and misleading.

Last week the Pembina Institute, which is an independent think tank based in Alberta, released a landmark report on the Canadian Nuclear Generation of Canada and it found that its conclusions were somewhat different from the messages of the Canadian Nuclear Association is giving in their advertisements.

GALLOWAY: Okay well people who have seen the ads for clean, reliable and affordable. What are you taking issue with in there?

WILKINS: Well the applicants in this complaint are taking issue with - well firstly whether nuclear energy is clean. The Pembina Institute states that if you look at the full nuclear technology cycle some of the mining and milling of uranium to the conversion of uranium into nuclear fuel and all the transportation in between, there are significant hazardous and radioactive pollutants which are being emitted into water, into air and also there are significant greenhouse gas emissions.

GALLOWAY: So are you essentially saying - I mean a lot of people know about the downsides of nuclear energy. Are you essentially saying that the CNA is lying in these ads?

WILKINS: Well the conclusions that the Pembina Institute has come to are definitely different.

GALLOWAY: But what is the Sierra Legal Defence Fund saying in terms of these ads in particular? You're involved in this case. Are you saying that the CNA is lying?

WILKINS: Well we represent a number of applicants, as I said, from these different groups and what their interest is, is that the public has full inaccurate information regarding the different options which are available and the costs and the impacts and benefits of the different types of supplies of energy which aren't available.

GALLOWAY: I'm still trying just to get what specifically you think is going on here. Are you saying that they're presenting false information? Or are you saying that other people need to be able to have the same amount of time to advertise their source of electricity?

WILKINS: Well what we need to do is essentially clean the air and to see exactly what is going on, to clear the air to see what's going on. We need the Competition Bureau to see if there's been false or misleading information given, and as I say the Pembina Institute has very different conclusions from what the message is from the Canadian Nuclear Association.

GALLOWAY: Part of your complaint is saying that the coal-fired generating industry should get equal time or equal advertising opportunities.

WILKINS: Well no we haven't talked about coal. Some of the applicants are in the renewable energy business.

GALLOWAY: So coal shouldn't - is not part of that at all.

WILKINS: Well what we need are energy supplies which are sustainable and have a long-term vision which provide positive benefits to the environment, to the health and to the social well being of Canadians.

GALLOWAY: So what are you hoping then that this action will achieve?

WILKINS: Well the Competition Bureau has a broad range of investigatory powers. They will look into whether these statements are false and misleading and then if they find out that there has been reviewable conduct under the Competition Act there are sanctions which can be ordered. There can be a requirement that the offender does not make any more statements along these lines or they can also order monetary penalties of up to $200,000 for a company.

GALLOWAY: It's interesting because you talk about the report from the Pembina Institute in the environmental movement there are a lot of people who now support nuclear energy, in particular over coal. Do you think that you're out of step with other people within your movement?

WILKINS: Well the issue is not pro or anti-nuc. It's -

GALLOWAY: Well that's what it sounds like.
For more, see We Support Lee.

UPDATE: Wind Blog is kicking this around. Stop by and offer your comments. As always, please be respectful.

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Anonymous said…
This legal challenge is so obviously wrong that I'm thinking we need some poker strategy here... act weak, get the other side to raise the stakes, and only then reveal the strength of position. Hard to do in a diverse community of course, and perhaps(!) the anti-nucs are so sure of their righteousness that they need no encouragement to stick their heads in the noose.
Ruth Sponsler said…
Matt Galloway the CBC interviewer has a way with zingers!

I think he may have read Amory Lovins' first major book, Soft Energy Paths [1979], in which Lovins endorses _coal_ as a "transitional" fuel on the way to the "solar future."

This book was one of the "bibles" of the original anti-nuclear movement.
Jim Hopf said…
I personally find this whole thing outrageous, and think the industry should counter-sue.

Since when are people not allowed to present their point of view in a paid advertisement, as opposed to spending their own money to present the other side's points? For that matter, since when have advertisers ever been required to spend part of their paid add time voluntarily discussing negative aspects of their product. Seen any SUV adds that point out how bad their gas mileage is? As the reporter said, everyone is aware of nuclear's downsides. Its the other (positive) side that hasn't been heard (for some reason??). Companies can (and should) be able to discuss the positive aspects of their product in their own paid advertisements, as long as they don't make any false statements.

If they're trying to say that the ads are making false statements because nuclear isn't "clean", there are many responses that can be given to that. Nothing is perfectly clean, so whenever the term is used, it clearly refers to being relatively clean (i.e., much cleaner than most other sources). That nuclear's enviromnetal costs and risks are tiny compared to fossil fuels is beyond scientific dispute.

Studies show that both in terms of CO2 emissions and external (i.e., health & environmental) costs, nuclear is a tiny fraction of fossil fuels and is roughly similar to other renewable sources. External cost and net CO2 emission studies are at:

and at:

(for externE, go to the results tab and look at the table below)

Renewables don't have zero life cycle CO2 emissions either. And their enviromnetal costs are small, but aren't zero. Windmills kill birds and cover landscapes. Solar panels are made with (and buried containing) toxic materials. I'm not saying these problems are large or significant, but they are finite.

If these people think they can prevent ads from saying nuclear is clean because it is not perfectly so, than that same logic can be used against all renewable sources. Under the same argument, all "environmental groups" would no longer be able to say that renewables are "clean" or that they are are good for global warming. Is this what they want? Perhaps they should be careful what they wish for. Two can play at their game. I say countersue.

What this is really all about is that they don't want the pro-nuclear side to be heard. They've been treated to decades where the media/politicians only allowed their side to speak, and they liked it that way. Got used to it. Now their appalled that anyone would have the gall to present the other side of the argument, on the public airwaves no less, and their actually suing to have the other side silenced! Disgusting but not surprising. Of course they don't want free and fair debate. They're losing. Big time.
Robert Synnott said…
'clean' is always a dangerous claim to make, as it's a bit of an absolute. Even 'conventional' green power sources produce a fair bit of CO2; just laying concrete will do that. It would be reasonable, though, to claim that nuclear power was cleaner than the practical alternatives. They should have been a bit more careful about the wording.
Anonymous said…
Really, Robert? What country do you live in, where the commercials are worded so carefully? Do they talk about a "big sale", or about a "sale that's slightly bigger than the one last October but not quite as big as the one in the spring"? Come on, get real.
don kosloff said…
In the public arena, "clean" is a general term, typically used as a comparison term to something that is or was less clean. When a person "cleans the garage" he does not make it "clean enough to eat from the floor" or as clean as a "clean room" where some electronic components are assembled.
Randal Leavitt said…
I have always been discouraged by the poor publicity campaigns of the nuclear power industry. They should be shouting this clean and safe message everywhere. The good news has to get out. The icebergs have hit the hull - time to sound the alarm. Be big, be proud, and get in there and save the world even if they whimper while being saved. This is no time for hesitant mumbling.

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