The NB Media Co-op in New Brunswick, an independent online and print not-for-profit news outlet, publishes the stories and voices of concerned citizens writing about radioactive waste and the nuclear industry in New Brunswick. It is important for these voices and stories to be included in the federal government review of the radioactive waste policy.
I want to recognize, respect and celebrate the people who took the time over the years to share their stories, experience and knowledge about this important topic by including their articles in this review of Canada’s radioactive waste policy.
In its more than 11 years of existence, the NB Media Co-op has published more than 100 news articles, commentaries and videos about the nuclear industry’s complicated history in New Brunswick. Together these sources of information provide a detailed and important history of the nuclear industry in our province.
The Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (PLNGS) on the Bay of Fundy is the only operating nuclear power plant outside of Ontario. According to the provincial auditor general, the money borrowed to build, refurbish and operate Point Lepreau is responsible for $3.6 billion of NB Power’s $4.9 billion debt.
The provincial government’s decision in 2008 to refurbish Point Lepreau was a political decision, made despite the recommendation of the province’s Energy Utility Board (EUB) . After comprehensive studies and hearing community and individual feedback, the EUB determined refurbishment would not be in the public interest and would not be economically feasible. The refurbishment happened because NB Power (which is the nuclear industry in New Brunswick) lobbied the provincial government for it, supported by the federal government and AECL that offered generous subsidies to prevent the shutdown of the Point Lepreau reactor.
The EUB made its recommendation to not refurbish the nuclear reactor after many concerned New Brunswickers and activist groups made interventions against the refurbishment. Later that year, many of those groups and New Brunswickers participated at the 2008 New Brunswick Social Forum in Fredericton, where 200 people rooted in a variety of social movements from across the province gathered under the hopeful banner, “Another New Brunswick and World are Possible.”
According to the NB Media Co-op: “The people who came together at this forum — workers, students, anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, peace activists, Indigenous rights activists, feminists, gay rights activists, labour unionists, environmentalists, social workers and artists — recognized they had one common problem: the media in New Brunswick. Following the adage, ‘Don’t Hate the Media, Be the Media,’ we did just that, and the NB Media Co-op was born months later and officially incorporated shortly after.”
Today, we are facing another onslaught of nuclear industry corporate power in New Brunswick. Foreign-owned startups flogging “small modular nuclear reactors” are flocking to Canada to receive their government hand-outs. Canada has become the equivalent of a tax haven for the desperate and dying nuclear industry. Nuclear start-ups can get an easy “pass” by completing a “vendor design review” (VDR) by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The CNSC has never failed to approve a company on their VDR submission.
Both the federal and provincial governments are financially supporting two of these foreign nuclear start-ups in New Brunswick. According to NB Power, over 100 potential SMNR start-ups were included in their review of possible developers of their proposed, unproven nuclear reactors. Many of these stories and experiences are well documented in the critical stories available on the NB Media Co-op website.
Our province has a news media monopoly, Brunswick News, operated by the Irving family of businesses, a foreign-owned and managed corporation heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry. As a result, our corporate media narrative too often excludes the issues and concerns about the environment, climate change or energy unless it benefits the Irving family of businesses.
For many reasons, the corporate media across Canada is now dominated by reporters and news outlets sharing press releases written by expensive marketing agents employed by the nuclear industry. Easy to access industry speaking points and expensive web sites are the limit of “research” conducted by many reporters who are required to prepare daily articles and do not have time for investigative research. This type of “research” is too often also shared by government officials and politicians easily swayed by fancy presentations, expensive promises and very slick sales / lobbying efforts.
The federal government funding program of corporate media sources (introduced by the Liberal government in 2019) influence and limit critical, well-researched articles about the very complex and secretive nuclear industry.
Organizations and individuals who challenge the industry and government nuclear narrative are dismissed or ignored by most mainstream media sources. The concerns and issues raised by nuclear industry critics are too often added as filler or minor notes at the end of the stories after the nuclear industry and their government puppets have their say.
The alternative narrative documented in the NB Media Co-op is the long history of controversies surrounding the nuclear industry and government’s nuclear agencies. It often includes their lack of any plan to address the more than 70 years of deadly radioactive waste generated by the industry, including almost 40 years in New Brunswick at Point Lepreau. The nuclear energy that we pay for in New Brunswick has left a trail of misery from mining sites in northern Saskatchewan and Ontario to fuel processing and refining sites in southern Ontario and beyond, along with the hundreds of tons of deadly spent fuel at Point Lepreau stored in aging concrete silos.
A recent article by Linda Pentz Gunter of Beyond Nuclear, called “Unqualified,” highlights how online trolls and the nuclear industry attempt to control the nuclear narrative to its own advantage, protecting the status quo of government bail-outs and interventions.
The NB Media Co-op provides a medium for people from New Brunswick and their allies to produce, publish and share their research, their experiences, their news and stories from across the province. My hope of including these NB Media Co-op stories in this submission is that the authors and their important contributions will be further be recognized and respected by the members of this federal government review team.
The NB Media Co-op states: “We chose the not-for-profit co-operative model as we believe it is the most democratic model for producing and disseminating media. Free from the constraints of the profit motive, advertisers and state funding, the NB Media Co-op can tell stories without fear of censorship and from the perspectives of those often ignored, marginalized or misrepresented in corporate media.”
It is important for each of the NB Media Co-op articles and commentaries about the nuclear industry in New Brunswick to be included as resource material in the federal government’s review of radioactive waste policy. The voices of individual New Brunswickers who are willing to produce their stories and share their research and knowledge is important to understanding the situation of the radioactive waste produced and managed at Point Lepreau. The history of the Lepreau reactor in New Brunswick is very controversial, creating conflicts in communities and families across the province. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) which NB Power helps fund ($4 million in 2020) is creating similar conflicts in communities where they want to transport Point Lepreau’s high-level radioactive waste for permanent disposal.
The NB Media Co-op is an important counter source of articles and stories too often overlooked by people in Ottawa and other major cities across the country. But the people in New Brunswick know about the NB Media Co-op and its stories. Corporate interests and our provincial governments attempt to ignore and dismiss the stories as they work hard to protect their private interests. The NB Media Co-op is one source of information making a difference by providing New Brunswickers with the ability to share their stories and information.
I look forward to seeing how the federal Radioactive Waste Policy Review team will include these NB Media Co-op stories from New Brunswick in their report and in the development of policies that will have an impact on everyone in our province.
New Brunswickers informed through the stories in the NB Media Co-op are fighting to ensure that the radioactive waste products are safely and securely stored; that Indigenous voices are heard and respected; that the decommissioning of the CANDU reactor happens as soon as possible; and that a renewable energy centre will be operational in the future at Point Lepreau, rather than continuing the nuclear nightmare currently affecting the beautiful Bay of Fundy.
Thank you for including these contributions in the federal Radioactive Waste Policy Review. I look forward to your “what we heard” report and a comprehensive and inclusive federal radioactive waste policy that will support and protect New Brunswickers and all Canadians from the very corrupt, corporate-controlled nuclear industry.
Brian Beaton is a writer and the calendar coordinator for the NB Media Co-op.
Note: a version of this article was submitted as an intervention to Canada’s national radioactive waste policy review recently conducted by Natural Resources Canada.