Civil society groups and MPs reject industry hype about Canada’s “glowing” nuclear future

April 25, 2023 at 8:52 am  Federal, Politics

OTTAWA – Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Liberal MP Jenica Atwin, Bloc Québécois MP Mario Simard and NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice joined with representatives from civil society today to express serious concerns about an expansion of nuclear energy and the development of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs).

In a non-partisan press conference at the National Press Theatre, the four Parliamentarians called for Ottawa to hit the pause button on federal funding to develop experimental SMRs until Parliament and independent scientific experts have critically reviewed these plans.

Civil society representatives said that SMRs are not a cost-effective or smart climate option. New nuclear is already far more expensive than proven renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and there is no guarantee these nuclear experiments will ever generate electricity safely and affordably. While waiting to find out if SMR designs will work, Canada is wasting time that must be spent urgently on genuine climate action.

“The nuclear industry, led by US and UK corporations and start-ups, has been lobbying and advertising heavily in Canada to convince us that new, smaller reactor designs will somehow address the climate crisis and overcome the exorbitant cost, toxic radioactive waste and nuclear accidents that have plagued the nuclear industry for decades,” said Dr. Susan O’Donnell, a professor and spokesperson for the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick. 

“In New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, communities are concerned about the push to develop SMRs that could be abandoned in place, ultimately transforming their communities into radioactively contaminated sites and nuclear waste dumps,” O’Donnell added.

Ginette Charbonneau, a physicist from the Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive in Quebec, said that civil society groups are calling on Canada to halt plans to extract plutonium from irradiated nuclear fuel.  She added that non-proliferation experts warn that Canada’s support for this risky technology undermines efforts to prevent more countries from developing nuclear weapons.

“This idea is being sold as ‘recycling’, but in fact it will make plutonium more available while creating even more problematic radioactive waste streams that will need to be kept out of the environment for millions of years,” said Charbonneau.

Civil society groups are calling for the government to ban plutonium reprocessing and to stop funding SMRs. They say Parliamentary and independent oversight is needed, including full federal impact assessments for all experimental new reactors.

Billed as Not-The-Nuclear-Lobby Week, these groups will be meeting in Ottawa with MPs, think-tanks and NGOs and holding public events to tell the other side of the nuclear energy story – the problems and risks that industry lobbyists will not speak about.

Since the SMR Roadmap was published in 2018, the Canadian government has thrown its support behind SMRs and related initiatives through:

●      nearly $100 million in grants to nuclear companies from the US and UK to develop their nuclear experiments in Canada with no evidence of prior independent scientific review

●      a $970 million low-interest loan to Ontario Power Generation to develop an American reactor design

●      exempting most SMRs from the Impact Assessment Act, thereby severely limiting input from Indigenous communities and civil society

●      supporting experimental processes for plutonium extraction from nuclear waste stored at the Bay of Fundy

●      a billion-dollar-per-year contract to SNC-Lavalin and two US corporations to run Chalk River Laboratories and other federal nuclear facilities with virtually no oversight and free rein to conduct nuclear waste and SMR experiments.

 

Not-The-Nuclear-Lobby Week is organized by groups including the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick, Northwatch, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Co-operative, Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan, Concerned Citizens of Manitoba and the Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive.

The week will continue with a debate this evening at the University of Ottawa, where Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and an expert on nuclear issues for almost 50 years, will face off against Dr. Chris Keefer, President of Canadians for Nuclear Energy, on the topic: Do We Need to Scale up Nuclear Power to Combat Climate Change?

QUOTES

“Claims that Canada needs new nuclear to avoid climate breakdown are simply false. The so-called ‘Small Modular Reactors’ are untested, hugely expensive and run the risk of increasing nuclear weapons proliferation. The truth is that the massive lobbying power of SNC-Lavalin that tried to avoid the legal case of bribery and corruption in Libya is at work to grease the wheels on SNC-Lavalin’s nuclear enterprises.”

– Elizabeth May, Leader of Green Party of Canada, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands

“To ensure a sustainable future, I believe that we must focus on improving our energy efficiency while investing in technologies that are operational today. Radioactive waste management is an unsolved concern, and the risks are ultimately unmanageable. The industry is projecting a mirage that they are indispensable while in fact, it is a distraction to effective, safe, and long-term solutions.”

– Jenica Atwin, MP for Fredericton (Liberal)

“It is an aberration to consider small modular reactors as a clean energy source to decarbonize the economy. These reactors are not cost-effective, and the price of their development is significantly higher than that of renewable energies. Power from small reactors would cost almost 10 times more than solar and wind. Knowing that in its 2023 budget the government provides $36.8 billion over 10 years for the energy sector, we can only be worried! The government must step back from the nuclear chimera and focus its efforts on real green projects.”

– Mario Simard, MP for Jonquière (Bloc Québécois)

“Nuclear energy is not a ‘miracle’ solution to the climate crisis. There are cleaner and less expensive forms of energy, and the government must invest in those. Eliminating greenhouse gases should not come at the expense of the environment by creating waste that’s even more dangerous.”

– Alexandre Boulerice, MP for Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie – NDP

“Small modular reactors are a dirty, dangerous distraction from fighting climate change, not a solution to it. We must stop chasing nuclear pipe dreams and stick to affordable, fast and proven technologies.”

– Dr. Gordon Edwards, President, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

– 30 –

Media contacts:

Eva Schacherl

[email protected]

Cell: 613-316-9450

 

Susan O’Donnell

[email protected]

Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick

Cell: 506-261-1727

 

Ginette Charbonneau

[email protected]

Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive

Cellulaire : 514-246-6439

 

 

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