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  • Chris Keefer

Response to NDP statement on Nuclear Energy

Dear Richard Cannings,


We read with dismay your statement on Small Modular Reactors. We are a group of pro-nuclear environmentalists and labour activists who believe that Nuclear Energy must continue to play a vital role in climate mitigation and should be the backbone of a green recovery in response to the twin challenges of climate change and COVID.


The science is settled. In 2018 the IPCC made it clear that the world will need to dramatically increase our nuclear energy infrastructure to meet our climate goals. All four of the decarbonization pathways examined by the IPCC involve an increase in nuclear power by 98-501% by 2050. Canada is well positioned to be a leader in this field as a pioneer in nuclear energy with our invention of the CANDU reactor, our skilled nuclear workforce and our experienced regulatory agencies.


You claim that the “negative environmental effects of nuclear energy are well documented.” All energy sources come with environmental impacts, however, the secret to the case for nuclear energy’s environmental benefits is in its energy density.


Nuclear fuel contains a million times more energy than its fossil fuel counterparts. As a result nuclear requires only a tiny fraction of the mining, processing and infrastructure compared to every other source of energy including renewables. This energy density also means that the amount of waste created is very small. All of the spent nuclear fuel produced in Canada would fit inside 3 hockey rinks piled up to the boards and has been securely stored without harm to people of the environment.


Nuclear Energy in Canada has also been incredibly effective at displacing fossil fuels from the electricity grid. Just look at Ontario. Nuclear energy provided 90% of the power needed to replace coal in Ontario which has been called the single greatest greenhouse gas reductions measure in North America. This was accomplished by starting up 6 CANDU reactors at the Bruce and Pickering generating stations. Smog days dropped from 53 in 2005 to zero in 2014 at the end of the coal phaseout dramatically improving public health.


It’s time to spread this success story with high emitting provinces like Alberta and Nova Scotia. Small modular reactors in particular will have a vital role to play in decarbonizing grids in less populated provinces and replacing air polluting diesel generation in rural and remote communities as well as sectors like mining.


Beyond ultra low emissions electricity our reactors have played a vital role in fighting the pandemic. Cobalt 60, a medical isotope made in CANDU reactors, has sterilized 24 billion surgical gloves and 40% of the world's single use surgical instruments in 2020.


Finally nuclear energy provides high paying jobs in science, technology, engineering and the skilled trades to over 60,000 Canadians. From our state of the art uranium mining to the skilled trades people working in our supply chain and nuclear generating stations our nuclear sector is 95% made in Canada.


Canada finds itself at a crossroads as it emerges from the economic devastation of COVID into the ongoing slow motion crisis of climate change. We have a highly effective made in Canada solution with a demonstrated track record of rapid and deep decarbonisation. It's time to embrace Nuclear energy and SMRs as a vital part of our climate change response.


Sincerely,

Canadians for Nuclear Energy