Nuclear fantasies block climate action

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A network of groups across Canada has announced the launch of the SMR Education Task Force to share under-reported facts about small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) with members of Parliament and provincial legislatures.

We begin with the latest report from Canada Energy Regulator (CER). This federal document, called Canada’s Energy Future, projects that enough new nuclear reactors (SMRs) will be operational by 2050 to more than double Canada’s existing nuclear electricity generation.

Canada currently has 19 operating power reactors, built over 58 years. The new report claims that we will build more than 50 new reactors in much less time.

This fantasy has no basis in reality. It is inconsistent with independent analyses by energy researchers not tied to the nuclear industry. One such study in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists makes it clear that SMRs have at best a marginal role to play in a truly effective climate action plan. SMRs fail the tests of timeliness and affordability – they take too long and cost too much.

In addition to Ontario and Alberta, the CER report imagines deploying SMRs in Quebec and British Columbia. This is news to citizens in those provinces. BC ratepayers have rejected nuclear power in the past, and Quebec phased out of nuclear power in 2012. With every reactor comes long-lived radioactive waste — including the structure itself, which is a provincial responsibility to safeguard for thousands of years after shutdown.

Yesterday, the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) sent a letter to Canada’s Natural Resources Minister reminding him that more than 120 civil society, public interest, faith-based and Indigenous groups across Canada have signed a statement warning that SMRs are a dirty, dangerous distraction from urgent climate action.

These groups understand that responding to the climate emergency does not require gambling on untested nuclear reactors. They know that energy efficiency measures and renewable sources cost at least 3 to 7 times less than nuclear power per tonne of carbon emissions avoided.

The groups oppose using public funds earmarked for climate action to support the nuclear industry’s eager experimentation with novel reactor designs. We are challenging the government to release the research and data that support its nuclear-based strategy.

Nuclear promoters, with long-standing allies embedded in the federal and provincial governments, are making unsubstantiated promises about SMRs in an audacious attempt to grab as much public funding as possible to keep their dying industry alive.

Worldwide, nuclear’s share of global electricity has dropped over the last 25 years from 17% to less than 10%. The International Energy Agency forecasts that more than 90% of all new electricity installations worldwide over the next 5 years will be non-hydro renewables.

The industry’s money-grab will succeed only if our public representatives remain uninformed about the facts. That is why we are pleased to announce the SMR Education Task Force and look forward in the months ahead to share information about SMRs based on independent science and research.

For more information:

Gordon Edwards, PhD, President, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, [email protected], 514-839-7214

Susan O’Donnell, PhD, Spokesperson, Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick, [email protected], 506-261-1727

Jean-Pierre Finet, Analyste et porte-parole, Regroupement des organismes environnementaux en énergie (ROEÉ), [email protected], 514-515-1957

(Headline photo: Canadian Environmental Law Association)

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