The Government of Canada has revised the Canada Green Bond Framework to include nuclear energy projects, striking down the baseless exclusion of nuclear technology that previously lumped the technology alongside the "sin stocks" of tobacco, firearms, and gambling. Canadians for Nuclear Energy (C4NE) commends the federal government for this positive step toward a sustainable energy future.
Nuclear projects newly eligible for funding under the Green Bond Framework include:
investments in new reactors;
refurbishment of existing facilities;
research and development; and,
some investments in Canada's nuclear supply chain
Historically, bonds have been an essential tool for funding large infrastructure projects, including many of the nuclear and hydroelectric projects that provide Canadians with affordable, low-carbon electricity. Until recently, however, the Green Bond Framework contained prejudicial exclusions of nuclear energy, despite the technology's proven ability to displace fossil fuels at scale by providing round-the-clock zero carbon electricity, and the unmatched domestic benefit that comes from our 96% made-in-Canada nuclear supply chain. With every dollar spent on nuclear projects remaining within the country and circulating through our economy, virtually no public investment yields such a high return—economically, energetically, and in climate change mitigation—as nuclear investments.
Canadians for Nuclear Energy was a leading voice for the inclusion of nuclear energy in the Canada Green Bond Framework, launching an official petition that gathered over 10,500 signatures.
A changing perception of nuclear energy's environmental benefits has led several jurisdictions to add nuclear to their Green financing frameworks. After scientific analyses debunked outdated anti-nuclear narratives, the European Union included nuclear in their sustainable finance taxonomy in July 2022. Shortly thereafter South Korea followed suit and, on March 14th, the UK joined in declaring nuclear as sustainable.
As a rationale for its inclusion of nuclear energy in the revised Green Bond Framework, the Canadian government stated that:
Since the introduction of Canada's Green Bond Framework, the European Union's Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities expressly included some nuclear activities as "green" until 2040-2045. The Sustainable Finance Action Council's Taxonomy Roadmap also considers certain nuclear expenditures to be green. Moreover, Bruce Power, Canada's largest nuclear electricity producer and Ontario Power Generation, have issued green bonds to fund their nuclear energy activities, which were well received by investors.
Is nuclear energy really green? United Nations analyses show that nuclear power has the lowest carbon footprint of any electricity source throughout its entire lifecycle. In a mineral-hungry energy transition, nuclear also has the benefit of having the lowest mining footprint. Unlike weather-dependent power sources like wind and solar, nuclear provides reliable baseload power which decisively replaces fossil fuels. In fact, nuclear power contributed 90% of the power needed to phase out coal in Ontario, North America's single greatest greenhouse gas reduction.
But what about the waste? Nuclear energy produces a minimal volume of waste, which has been easily isolated from the environment with a perfect safety record. Canada’s entire 70 year inventory of spent nuclear fuel would occupy a single hockey rink stacked the height of one hydro pole. Members of Canadians for Nuclear have personally stood next to the dry casks that can store this waste for hundreds of years and received a radiation dose far lower than they would would flying in an airplane.
Unshielded and fresh out of the reactor, nuclear waste is indeed deadly. However nuclear waste decays rapidly, losing 99.9% of its radioactivity within 40 years and returning to natural uranium ore's level of radioactivity within 500 years. Unlike heavy metal pollution, nuclear waste is not “forever waste.” Today's long term solutions include recycling waste to unlock the 90% of unused energy that remains in spent fuel or returning it deep underground in a geologic repository.
The choices for growing the grid are limited as we have already exhausted our best hydroelectricity potential, and wind and solar simply can't power factories running 24 hours a day. If we don’t take rapid action to increase our nuclear power generation our low carbon grid is in peril, as we sleepwalk our way into an increasing reliance on natural gas.
Canada is well-equipped to deploy new nuclear quickly and economically, thanks to an active supply chain, skilled workforce, project managers, and proven CANDU reactor design. The ongoing nuclear refurbishment megaprojects at Bruce and Darlington stations, proceeding on budget and ahead of schedule, attest to our capabilities.
With nuclear energy now eligible for funding under the federal Green Bond Framework, a sustainable energy future that secures Canadian prosperity is within closer reach.