1.21 Energy industry: No to nuclear

Can nuclear power meet our energy needs and be the solution to climate change? Not when one considers the cost, pollution, and threat to global security associated with nuclear power.

The Greens insist that energy choices should be economically rational. The best energy choices to respond to the climate crisis should be those that deliver the greatest reduction of GHG per dollar invested. By this criterion, nuclear energy is among the very worst options. Reactors cost billions of dollars, take more than a decade to build, operate unreliably after about the first dozen years of operation, and only produce one type of energy: electricity. Even if the industry were “green and clean” as claimed by the pro-nuclear propaganda efforts, it fails on the economics. Nevertheless, it is neither clean nor green.

Recent studies also note that once the current high-grade uranium deposits are depleted, carbon emissions will greatly increase as low-quality ores have to be refined. In addition, radioactive emissions that routinely leak from current facilities in Ontario have a half-life of over 5000 years. The spent fuel has over 200 cancer-causing elements. Plutonium, for example, has a half-life of 24 400 years, while other harmful substances persist for millions of years in our environment with no known safety treatment nor storage place.

Nuclear energy is inevitably linked to nuclear weapons proliferation. India made its first bomb from spent fuel from a Canadian research reactor. As well, depleted uranium waste is increasingly and routinely used to coat armor-piercing bullets and missiles in ‘conventional’ warfare, leaving a legacy of toxic metal and radioactive contamination as an on-going health and environmental threat to civilians post-conflict.

The least expensive energy alternative for Canada is investment in enhanced energy productivity through energy efficiency and conserving energy. With existing technology, fully implemented, Canada could easily reduce energy demand by 50%. The Greens support a full portfolio of sensible energy choices − 100% clean and green power.

Canada’s potential wind and tidal resources are amongst the best in the world. Yet, they have hardly been tapped. The Greens globally have said “no” to nuclear energy because it is neither safe, nor clean, nor economical. Federal climate change policies should encourage the most efficient, effective, and environmentally friendly measures to curb GHG emissions.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Work with provinces to phase out existing nuclear power, to stem the buildup of nuclear wastes, and to institute a Canada-wide moratorium on uranium mining and refining;

  • End all subsidies and supports to the nuclear industry except those required to maintain the safety of existing facilities, and assist in phasing out and decommissioning facilities and sequestering associated radioactive wastes;

  • Call for the federal government to stop subsidizing all phases of the nuclear industry and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and stop promoting CANDU reactors;

  • Demand that the operations of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and AECL are transparent and at arm’s-length from government and require the disclosure of the minutes of all meetings with AECL. Repeal amendments to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Act that require the CNSC to consider production quotas and safety at the same time;

  • Seek an amendment to the Nuclear Liability Act, increasing maximum insured liabilities from $1 billion to $13 billion (the amount for which U.S. reactors are insured) so that federal legislation will no longer limit the liability of the nuclear industry to a minuscule portion of potential costs of a nuclear accident.