Today marks the 27th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. It's a day to reflect on all those who must still live with Chernobyl’s radioactive fallout. It’s also a day when we should ask ourselves what we’ve learned and how we can ensure another Chernobyl never happens again.
In Canada, some have learned Chernobyl’s lessons. After seeing the Chernobyl disaster repeated at Fukushima in Japan, Quebec pulled the plug on its only reactor Gentilly-2 last year.
In Ontario, however, our political leaders still have their heads in the sand. And it’s up to us to pull their heads out of the sand.
That’s what a group of Greenpeace volunteers were doing this morning.
They greeted Ministry of Energy staff on their way into work with banners saying “Chernobyl We Remember” and “Remember Chernobyl?”.
I saw how deeply in denial our government leaders are when I visited both Chernobyl and Fukushima two years ago.
My friend and colleague Aube documented my journey from Chernobyl to Fukushima. I was rather reluctant to be the focus of her documentary, but in retrospect I’m really glad she did it.
You see the stark similarity between the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters. Thousands have lost their homes, communities and livelihoods. Food and water are contaminated with radiation. And both the Chernobyl and Fukushima reactors still threaten to release more radiation into the environment.
You also see how the Canadian nuclear lobby and government agencies pretend a Chernobyl or Fukushima type accident could never happen here.
This is dangerous arrogance.
Tellingly, those same powerful nuclear companies that say a nuclear accident won’t happen here refuse to assume responsibility for compensating Canadians for their loses in the event of an accident.
In almost all countries with nuclear reactors – including Canada - there’s a special law which shields companies from compensating victims even if their negligence cause an accident.
We see the impact of this unfair law in Japan. Companies which profited from building the Fukushima reactors cannot be held accountable for contributing to the disaster. Fukushima’s victims are paying for the disaster while companies like GE, Hitachi and Toshiba get to walk away.
A clear lesson from Chernobyl and Fukushima is it’s time to make the entire nuclear industry face its moral and financial responsibilities. It’s time to think of people not profits.
You can help. Sign Greenpeace’s petition calling on the Harper government to make nuclear polluters pay.
Together we can ensure there’s no more Chernobyls.