Anna Tilman

From Fukushima to the Great Lakes Basin

The presenters of this paper are from the province of Ontario, situated in the Great Lakes Basin, a heavily populated region ringed with over 45 aging nuclear reactors.  Ontario bears the scars of the nuclear industry, from the legacy of uranium mining, tailing ponds, uranium refineries, fuel production plants, and nuclear power plants to the never-ending problem of their wastes.  Our power plants generate over 50 % of our electricity, and, as an answer to climate change, our government is proposing the construction of four more units on Lake Ontario, and is refurbishing existing ones to extend their life.

The tragic accident at Fukushima has much to teach us about the dangers of nuclear energy production, lessons not learned from the Chernobyl catastrophe, or other nuclear disasters that have preceded it. As educators and activists, we share responsibility to raise public awareness about the dangers of nuclear technology.  Through historical, ethical, and scientific frames, our paper will focus on how educators and activists can apply the lessons of Fukushima to their own backyards.  We propose a range of public awareness strategies on the dangers of nuclear power production, including the front and back end of the fuel chain, which nuclear proponents ignore in their campaigns to promote nuclear as a safe, inexpensive and necessary component of our clean energy future.  These strategies could include projects to commemorate workers in the nuclear industry, outreach to schools, communities, and media, and the development of op-eds, blog posts, research papers, and a website.  We look forward to the “Lessons of Fukushima” workshop as an opportunity to develop effective public education strategies alongside other historians, activists, citizens, and energy policy experts.

Co-author Lisa Rumiel, McMaster University