While COVID-19 has undoubtedly been the focus of news for the past year, the on-going crisis of climate change is still with us. Living next door to the largest nuclear power plant in the world, we have to recognize nuclear’s role not only in providing energy but also in fighting climate change.
Canadians for Nuclear Energy, a new grassroots non-profit made up of climate, health and labour advocates along with climate scientists and prominent figures from around the world, views nuclear energy as a keystone technology for climate mitigation and also as a backbone of a green recovery in the aftermath of COVID-19.
“We believe that nuclear energy is a keystone decarbonization technology which enables us to fight climate change and air pollution while strengthening the Canadian economy with a 95% made in Canada supply chain and tens of thousands of high quality jobs,” says group President, Dr. Chris Keefer. “Nuclear’s role in fighting climate change should not be controversial.”
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made it clear that the world needs to dramatically increase nuclear energy to meet climate commitments. All four of the decarbonization pathways examined by the IPCC see a prominent role for nuclear power and three of them call for an increase of between 150 – 501 per cent.
In a recent, Open Letter, the group lays out the advantages of nuclear power including:
- Nuclear power emits no CO2 or air pollution. Its entire lifecycle carbon emissions are as low as wind and one quarter that of solar all without requiring battery or fossil fuel back up.
- Nuclear has a proven track record of displacing fossil fuels. In Ontario, nuclear energy provided 90% of the power needed to phase out coal. Air quality improved dramatically, with smog days dropping from 53 in 2005 to zero in 2014. The Ontario Power Authority has called this the single greatest greenhouse gas reduction measure in North America.
- Beyond the health benefits of zero air pollution electricity, Ontario’s nuclear fleet has played a vital role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic producing enough Cobalt-60, a medical isotope specifically made in CANDU reactors, to sterilize 20 billion surgical gloves, masks or COVID swabs in 2020.
- Nuclear is the only energy source that fully isolates its waste from the environment and, while spent nuclear fuel has been safely stored for over 60 years, the industry continues to look for a permanent storage solution.
Canadians for Nuclear Energy group says however, that “Now is the time to spread Ontario’s nuclear success story to high emitting provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. Small modular reactors (SMR) 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 in sectors like mining. The SMR roadmap is an exciting step in that direction.”
The group also recently submitted a House of Commons petition, with almost 6,000 signatures, to the Federal Government urging it to not only uphold its commitment under the Paris Agreement but to do so through expansion of CANDU reactor technology and small modular reactors (SMR).
The open letter has also been signed by “the godfather of climate science” Dr James Hansen as well as a number of other notable international and Canadian figures including indigenous, science, energy, medical and organized labour voices.
To read the entire Open Letter, CLICK HERE