Liberal party leader Kevin Vickers is actively promoting untruths about nuclear energy as he begins his election campaign. In his opinion column in the Telegraph Journal on August 18, Vickers made numerous false claims about the so-called “Small Modular Nuclear Reactors” (SMNRs) proposed for New Brunswick.
For decades, nuclear advocates have kept their industry alive by spinning tales of the unlimited energy and economic prosperity that nuclear power will bring. These myths are required to secure government grants along with political support to keep this dying industry functioning in Canada and elsewhere in the world.
It is interesting to note the multiple countries where the offices of nuclear firms are located. For example, Moltex recently set up a branch office in Saint John when the New Brunswick government and NB Power provided them with $5 million to do so. Moltex also has offices in the UK and in the US.
Leveraging millions from one country’s nuclear program to off-set millions from another country’s nuclear program is a wonderful way for a company to claim it is investing its own money in schemes to raise the billions of dollars required for its promised research and development work.
A nuclear company’s “promises” to continue research and development are always contingent on the ongoing injection of more federal and provincial dollars. Canadian taxpayers have been feeding this bottomless money pit for the nuclear industry’s research and development for more than 70 years.
Taking nuclear reactors to the next step in their dream-world involves supporting the myth of harnessing unlimited atomic energy to deliver power for the continued exploitation of all the corporate-controlled resources across our province.
This is the ultimate capitalist dream: to control nature and consume everything today without regard for future generations.
So now Kevin Vickers is the latest nuclear reactor champion and saviour in New Brunswick. Is this a coincidence or a carefully orchestrated effort to secure even more federal Liberal government millions for the industry?
It should be noted that our current premier is also a strong advocate for the nuclear industry in New Brunswick. The Progressive Conservative government support seems to be about securing a federally-funded nuclear reactor (or two) at Point Lepreau on the shores of the beautiful Bay of Fundy in order to extend the life of the existing NB Power Lepreau reactor and its operations for as long as possible.
Vickers and his corporate media masters (Irving-owned Brunswick News) are now selling their myths to New Brunswickers in the hope of gaining power and control over the province after the September 14 election.
For all the dreams promoted in Vickers’ Telegraph Journal piece, there is no evidence supporting his claims of economic prosperity created by investing in nuclear reactors.
To the contrary, far more evidence is available that delaying climate action will worsen the climate and economic crisis everyone in New Brunswick is facing today.
The new nuclear reactors will not be operational for 15 years or more, if they will work at all. Claiming that the province can wait for the possibility that one of these experimental reactors might actually work is playing an expensive and deadly game with our children’s future and the future of the earth.
Claiming that the proposed nuclear reactors are “green” is another myth promoted in Vickers’ commentary. The construction alone of these reactors will consume untold amounts of concrete, steel and other materials to ensure the secure containment of the reactor process, its radioactive materials and waste products.
Every piece of equipment, the facilities and the reactor site itself will become radioactive and dangerous to living things, requiring safe storage for thousands of years after the reactor has ended its productive life.
Extending the life of these reactors is a full-time career for many because shutting down these reactors is just as expensive and long-lasting as operating them. The nuclear reactor industry is anything but green.
Vickers claims that nuclear reactors can “revive our economy” with thousands of jobs, a claim often made by any industry seeking government investments and backing. It is so easy to say that an industry will deliver thousands of dream jobs but there is no evidence supporting this claim.
Of course, if governments give out the billions of public dollars required to actually build another reactor, there will be some employment but that would happen in any environment where public funds are being used to develop new industrial initiatives.
But Vickers really shows he can parrot the nuclear industry mantra when he claims “solar and wind are intermittent.” Well, yes, the sun thankfully shines some days and not others, and the wind sometimes is less strong on some days in different parts of the province…
… And the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station is down for many days at a time, often, for repairs, and is down weeks every year for scheduled maintenance, and was down for more than three years for its refurbishment. Unlike a solar panel or windmill, a nuclear generator cannot be re-started quickly; it takes many days to get the reaction started again once it has been stopped.
Ignoring the innovations occurring in effective energy storage capabilities is a convenient way to dismiss renewable energy alternatives to nuclear energy. The development and effective management of smart micro-grids connecting individual and community energy production sites makes it possible to operate an effective province-wide energy supply network in New Brunswick. These energy solutions are available today. We do not need to wait 15 years.
Country after country around the world is walking away from nuclear reactors due to their high costs, cost over-runs, lengthy construction time, expensive security and safety requirements and dangerous waste products requiring long term management and maintenance. These reactors are anything but “clean, safe and low-cost.”
Another myth Vickers promotes in his opinion piece is that the proposed New Brunswick SMNRs “produce minimal waste and can even reduce the volume of existing nuclear waste.”
The new radioactive waste produced by the proposed new reactors is even more highly toxic and therefore even more risky to manage and secure. Are these the type of experiments New Brunswickers desire on the shores of the Bay of Fundy?
The corporate sales job pushed on New Brunswickers by the nuclear industry and its political allies is now becoming an election issue.
Hopefully voters will ask their candidates to state their position on the development of new nuclear reactors on shores of the Bay of Fundy.
They should also ask for their position on investing in local and regional renewable energy solutions that are proven and working today.
But probably the most important question to ask political candidates is: What will we tell our children and future generations about the responsibility and legacy of these radioactive wastes that have to be maintained and secured for thousands of years into the future?
Brian Beaton is a writer and the calendar coordinator for the NB Media Co-op.