Albertans fighting a nuclear power plant are using a high-profile expert to warn about the dangers of the technology while the company behind the proposal and the province remain quiet.
Gordon Edwards, one of Canada's top nuclear experts, is calling on people throughout Alberta to learn all they can about the environmental and economic consequences of nuclear energy.
He told audiences in Edmonton and Calgary recently that politicians and the private sector cannot be allowed to make such a decision without plenty of public input and scrutiny.
"The dangers are contamination of the watershed and contamination of the environment - which are irreversible," said Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
"Nuclear power is not business as usual. It carries very special risks and obligations which last far longer than any other industry."
Bruce Power announced in November that it plans to acquire Energy Alberta Corp., which has applied for a licence from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to build a nuclear electricity generating plant near Peace River in northwestern Alberta.
If successful, the proposal would be the first new nuclear power plant in Canada in almost 30 years.
Bruce Power is owned by a group of partners including TransCanada Corp. and Cameco Corp., and provides about 20 per cent of Ontario's electricity. France-based Areva has also made inquiries about building a nuclear plant in the region.
Edwards said the province and Bruce Power must also clearly explain how tonnes of dangerous nuclear waste from such a plant would be disposed.
In Ontario, more than 800,000 tonnes of radioactive waste from a nuclear plant are being stored near Port Hope because there is no place else to send the material, he said.
"Back in 1975 it was promised by the federal government that this waste would be removed from the community in a couple of years. Well, it is still there," he said.
Edwards raised similar concerns in the communities of Peace River and Whitecourt last fall. His recent visit to Alberta was sponsored by the Sierra Club of Canada.
Steve Cannon, a Bruce Power spokesman, said the corporation has not launched its own information campaign in Alberta because the deal with Energy Alberta is still not complete.
Cannon said the corporation will eventually open an office in northwestern Alberta and spread the word about its proposal once the deal closes.
In the meantime, Albertans should not be swept away by emotional arguments, he said.
"I think people are enlightened enough to see through scare tactics, I don't think people want that," Cannon said from Tiverton, Ont.
"When you weigh the pros and cons in an era of climate change and an era when security of supply for electricity is needed, I think nuclear power is going to come out quite well in that examination."
The Alberta government has tried to stay out of the nuclear debate despite community meetings against the proposal and protests by hundreds of people last fall at the legislature.
In early December Premier Ed Stelmach suggested the province would announce within a few weeks a strategy to consult the public about nuclear power.
Alberta Energy spokesman Jason Chance said the government is still working on a plan that is to be announced in the coming weeks.