On December 14, yet another costly power outage occurred at New Brunswick’s Point Lepreau nuclear power plant on the beautiful Bay of Fundy, forcing a costly and potentially dangerous emergency shutdown of the reactor. Once more, the Canadian Greens urge caution on the government's financing of new nuclear experiments, dubbed Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), that include two projects taking place at Point Lepreau: ARC-100 and Moltex.
The Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) has requested that Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault designate the ARC-100 SMR experiment for review under the Impact Assessment (IA) Act. The Greens are demanding that no new nuclear installation be exempt from a federal IA, yet most of the SMR designs currently listed with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will likely be exempt. The Minister must render his decision on the ARC-100 by January 2
"What is the economic feasibility of the project?” the region’s past Green Party of Canada candidate Ann McAlister asks. “And, given that the ARC SMR has a sodium coolant - meaning its wastes will become a new class of highly radioactive and corrosive waste - what is its impact on existing radioactive waste storage plans?"
A second experimental design, proposed by Moltex Energy. raises nuclear proliferation concerns because it proposes to extract plutonium from used nuclear fuel. Plutonium is used in nuclear weapons. While governments and industry mislabel this process as "recycling", it is known as “reprocessing.” That process was informally banned after India detonated a nuclear weapon in 1974 based on technology and materials from Canada. Due to this and other concerns, more than 120 non-profit groups have called for a moratorium on new nuclear development
Reprocessing requires liquefaction of the solid used fuel from the CANDU reactors used in Canadian nuclear plants. As a result, new nuclear waste streams of higher toxicity will be generated. Meanwhile, Canada and countries worldwide still have no safe way to store existing nuclear waste for the hundreds of thousands of years in which this waste will remain radioactive.
Other next-generation nuclear experiments are planned for Chalk River on the Ottawa River, and at Darlington just east of the GTA.
Uranium mines and their tailings lakes pollute our precious north for millennia to come, impacting First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities who have not been adequately consulted. Canadian Greens have called for an end to uranium mining since 1988.
Greens are urging the Canadian media and public to look into/investigate these new nuclear experiments, the companies behind these experiments (often nuclear weapons producers), and question why these proposed experiments are receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer handouts if they are not attractive for private corporate investment.
Greens say we must pursue Ecological Wisdom: live in harmony with nature. Instead of spending millions on unsafe, uncertain technology, a Green government will focus on retrofits, efficiencies, renewables, and smart grids. These technologies are cheaper, already exist, put profit in the hands of a more distributed workforce, and are lower impact. They will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time make our local energy infrastructures resilient and ready for the climate change era.
By Sarah Gabrielle Baron, B.A., B.Ed.
Nuclear Critic, Green Party of Canada