Exporting Danger: A History of the Canadian Nuclear Energy Export Programme


236 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-920057-74-8






Reviewed by J.L. Granatstein

J.L. Granatstein is a history professor at York University and author of
War and Peacekeeping and For Better or For Worse.


There is a paradox at the heart of this book. Ron Finch clearly believes that he is lifting the bid on government secrets involved in the export of nuclear technology, but he has made no use of government files, preferring instead the easier route of using public sources. Where then is the secrecy? That miasma of conspiracy overhangs this book, an unforgiving examination of four decades of Canadian nuclear development.

That there are problems involved in trying to sell reactors abroad is apparent. The competition is fierce and Canadian salesmen have to vie with the Americans, British, and others. Often it seemed that only slightly less than peace-loving nations wanted to buy, with the result that India, Argentina, and South Korea sport Canadian reactors — and massive scandals followed. The Indians used our technology to produce a bomb, the Argentines were soon at war with Britain, and the South Korean sale was stained by corruption. The holes in Canada’s attempts to check proliferation of nuclear weapons and the huge sums grafted away demonstrated the fallacy of policy.

But it is worth remembering why Canada got into the business. The Candu reactors were good products that had a large, skilled workforce behind them. Was the industry — possibly the industry of the future — to pack it in? That tension doesn’t truly emerge from Finch’s book. He sees only the dark side. His prose, moreover, is extraordinarily ponderous, and the text betrays its origins as a thesis. Unaccountably Robert Bothwell’s Eldorado, the most recent and best researched book on the nuclear industry, fails to appear in his sources.


Finch, Ron, “Exporting Danger: A History of the Canadian Nuclear Energy Export Programme,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35445.