Government urged to halt push for new fleet of nuclear reactors
(Ottawa, November 5, 2018) Public interest groups across Canada are mobilizing against a federal “roadmap” promoting a new fleet of nuclear reactors, to be unveiled at a government-subsidized nuclear industry conference in Ottawa on November 7.
“The Government of Canada has no mandate from Canadians to subsidize these new nuclear reactor designs,” says Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. “New smaller nuclear reactors have been discussed for decades, but they’ve never advanced beyond the conceptual development stage, and we don’t think they should. They are unproven, dangerous and much more expensive than other low-carbon electricity sources like wind and solar.”
Edwards and his colleagues from groups across Canada say First Nations and the Canadian public must be consulted before any decisions are made on new funding for new nuclear reactors. Recently, when aboriginal communities in the Yellowknife area were invited to a meeting about bringing nuclear power to Canada’s North, representatives of Terrestrial Energy (a small nuclear reactor developer), were booed out of the room and told to “go home”.
Besides the lack of support from the public, and the high cost and risk associated with nuclear technology, public interest groups and NGOs are concerned by the nuclear waste that new reactors would generate and are calling for environmental assessment of the concept. If the government adopts a strategy of promoting and subsidizing small reactors for remote and northern communities, Canada’s North could end up littered with radioactive waste sites.
The groups’ concerns are summarized in a letter sent last week to the Ministers of Environment and Climate Change, Natural Resources and Science and Sport by more than 20 civil society groups from across Canada.
“The Government of Canada must make it a priority to deal with its eight-billion-dollar nuclear waste legacy,” said Ginette Charbonneau of the Quebec-based coalition Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive. “Some of these legacy wastes are highly radioactive and will be a serious hazard to the public for 100,000 years and more. We will pass a huge burden on to future generations if we don’t deal with this now. Responsible nuclear waste management is urgent and should happen before any subsidies for new nuclear development.”
Chalk River Laboratories at Chalk River, Ontario, upstream of Ottawa-Gatineau on the Ottawa River is the likely site of the first new small nuclear reactor. The Chalk River Laboratories and other federal nuclear sites are run on behalf of Canadian taxpayers by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) which is owned by a multinational consortium of private sector companies including SNC Lavalin and CH2M. According to CNL, “small modular nuclear reactors have increasingly been recognized for their potential as an appealing source of clean and safe energy.”
“We object to the term “clean” to describe nuclear energy” said Ole Hendrickson of Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area. “Nuclear energy is not clean and it should not be eligible for funds for sustainable development” Hendrickson added. The Concerned Citizens’ group will be submitting an Environmental Petition to the Auditor General of Canada seeking clarity on what kinds of energy are clean and what are not.
Robert Del Tredici, a professional photographer and founder of the Atomic Photographers Guild has photographed nuclear installations around the world. He opposes the push for a new fleet of nuclear reactors primarily because of the unsolved problem of what to do with the waste they generate. “Nuclear waste has the ‘reverse Midas touch” Del Tredici said, “everything it touches becomes itself nuclear waste”.
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Contact: Eva Schacherl, Media Liaison, Concerned Citizens ~ 613-316-9450
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