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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Going Nuclear Demands That Albertans Take a Holistic and Integrated Approach

Conservation is becoming renewed foundation of progressive conservative political philosophy. Be it in ecological, economic or social terms, enlightened conservatives are embracing conservation. This is especially true amongst progressive conservatives when it come to addressing stewardship responsibilities and concerns for the environment.

The need for an integrated approach to modern public policy development is also becoming a vital new and systemic challenge. The old idea of “a balanced approach” was too often an excuse to seek a "no action stasis." The balanced approach too often pitted one weighty issue against another but failed to reconcile or resolve the respective issues at hand. A mediocre goal of achieving some sort of temporary equilibrium in the face of changing dynamics of today’s complex inter-dependent world is just not good enough. In fact it is down-right dangerous.

Old style balanced approaches are just like left versus right or Conservative versus Liberal tags. They are becoming meaningless because the approach is to mistakenly define reality in discrete compartments that are deemed to be mutually exclusive to each other. That old fashioned adversarial political model and policy development perspective is under siege as highly ineffectual and it is finally fading.

Now we have to look at the real world with a more comprehensive set of social, ecological and economic progress indicators that see success as a more inclusive, integrated and meaningful way. The limitations of outmoded GDP measures of success are well known. They simply fail to consider what genuine progress really is, how it is being achieved and at what total cost.

We need to use genuine progress indicators that look at policy initiatives and investments in public infrastructure that goes beyond the purely physical aspects of roads and bridges. We need to consider investment in infrastructure areas like our natural capital and social capital elements that also preserve and project as much as grow and expand. We need to plan our public investment in these "softer" infrastructure areas just as purposefully and as significantly as we do in our physical infrastructure approaches.

We must begin to look at the full cost life-span cost accounting model for all types of infrastructure projects. The present value model of evaluation is shallow insufficient and misleading and ignores to true long term demands and benefits of a project. Conservation and stewardship policy concerns will also demand newer comprehensive long-view costing metrics be applied to evaluating projects and their contribution to our genuine progress.

The emerging idea of nuclear energy in Alberta is a perfect place to start this new integrated, holistic, comprehensive long-view, full cost accounting approach. We need to study, understand and appreciate just how nuclear energy will serve to advance our genuine progress economically, socially and ecologically. We need to have the first kilowatt of power costed at a rate that considers the total and comprehensive long term amortized costs of the project.

Those long term cost must include the cost of dealing with the waste now. It is not fair to leave the nuclear waste issues for some future generation do handle while this generation enjoys all the "benefits." Before we even start to consider a nuclear future, we need to have an acceptable resolution of how to handle the waste from the resulting depleted plutonium. That plan has to be acceptable to Albertans who are able to provide an informed consent to the risk.

We need to have the risk issue thoroughly assessed and evaluated and part of the costing. We need to ensure that we have a complete, ready, realistic and executable disaster response plan in place now. We need a disaster mitigation strategy in place now that has to include reclamation of land, water and air contamination as well as habitat replacement for wildlife and humans in the event of a nuclear accident...regardless of how remote we are told it will be.

That sense of conservation and stewardship would be Alberta at its Progressive and Conservative best and serve us well as we face our fate of an uncertain future. If we are to have a nuclear future or continue along in a fossil fuel future - we best consider just how conservation and stewardship define and determine our progress in that brave new future.