A new coalition focusing on nuclear-free renewable energy in New Brunswick seeks to raise public awareness and advocate with legislators.
The Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) brings together groups and individuals from Fredericton, Woodstock, Saint John and Rothesay. It formed this spring to highlight alternatives to small modular nuclear reactors (SMNRs) being promoted by the federal government with three provincial governments and industry.
“This new coalition will give people a chance to have a more balanced look” at New Brunswick’s energy future, said David Thompson, a CRED-NB representative in Saint John. The public is hearing about promised benefits of SMNRs from proponents in government, industry and media, he noted.
“There are better choices to deal with climate change (and) people need to hear about them,” he emphasized in a recent telephone interview. While SMNRs will take at least 10 years to build and operate, “we can’t wait that long” to address climate change. “Canadians want action on climate change now,” said Thompson.
The coalition offers vital public information about dangers and high costs of SMNRs. It is also committed to highlighting safer, more economical renewable energy alternatives, he added.
During its launch week, CRED-NB was a signatory to a letter signed by 100 groups across Canada asking the federal government to develop comprehensive policies and strategies for the long-term management of radioactive waste. The protocols are needed to protect the environment and current and future generations of Canadians.
That letter, available here, was sent to Seamus O’Regan, the federal Minister of Natural Resources, with copies to all the national political party leaders as well as all the MLAs in New Brunswick. In addition to the Coalition, eight individual groups in New Brunswick also signed the letter.
Late last year, governments of New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan signed an agreement supporting development of SMNRs with taxpayers’ money. In response, concerned groups in New Brunswick sponsored a visit in March this year by Canadian scientist and nuclear energy consultant, Gordon Edwards.
Based in Montreal, Edwards is president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. He spoke twice in Saint John with the theme, “Small Modular Nuclear Reactors: not small, not green, not clean, not affordable.” When his Fredericton presentation was cancelled because of public health concerns, it was converted to a webinar and published as a video, available here.
He urged governments and communities to address climate change by avoiding nuclear expansion and pursuing renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. CRED-NB then began meeting online and via teleconferences, with Edwards as an expert adviser.
The Coalition’s website highlights its mission to advocate for responsible energy development using four guidelines:
- Reduce the demand for energy in New Brunswick by eliminating energy waste and maximizing energy efficiency.
- Increase the development of renewable energy and eliminate the development of dirty energy in New Brunswick.
- Increase the percentage of electricity generated in New Brunswick by renewable energy.
- Support solidarity actions with communities experiencing the impact of our energy choices, in New Brunswick, across Canada and globally.
The website includes letters by Coalition members to political representatives, as well as articles focusing on both renewable and dirty energy. Although proponents of SMNRs say they will provide clean energy, the Coalition offers evidence to describe all nuclear energy as dirty.
Giving an overview of energy sources in the province, the website also offers articles on reducing energy demand. A “fast facts” resource about SMNRs is also available in question and answer form.
NB Power partnered with two nuclear energy companies to develop technologies for SMNRs. Moltex Energy is from the United Kingdom while ARC Nuclear is based in Maryland, US. Both have offices in Saint John and each received $5 million from the New Brunswick government and NB Power to develop prototypes of SMNRs. The province is supporting the companies’ requests for $30 million in federal strategic innovation funds.
Edwards and CRED-NB raise concerns about the federal government’s elimination of any form of environmental assessments in order to accelerate the building of SMNRs. They also warn of plans to mass produce and sell SMNRs developed in Canada to countries which may inadequately monitor them, posing risks for accidents and misuse by unstable regimes.
The Coalition points to dangers along the entire nuclear cycle, beginning with mining and transport of radioactive uranium used as nuclear fuel. It also notes serious problems associated with reprocessing of spent fuel and storage of radioactive waste. Overall, CRED-NB deems nuclear energy unsafe and unnecessary.
To date, group members of CRED-NB include both the Fredericton and Saint John chapters of the Council of Canadians; Concerned Citizens of Saint John; Leap4wards; PEACE-NB; Rural Action and Voices for the Environment (RAVEN) and the Sustainable Energy Group, Carleton County.
Roma De Robertis is a member of CRED-NB in Saint John.