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Nuclear Power

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Issue:


Nuclear Power is currently used to provide approximately 14% of Canada's electricity requirements, and 24% (1) of worldwide electricity supply. Many analysts predict the role of nuclear power in the world will increase over the next century for these reasons:
  • Nuclear fuel is relatively abundant, as opposed to oil and natural gas.
  • Nuclear power produces reatively little GHG emmisions, with life cycle GHG emissions from nuclear power being less than one tenth of coal fired production, and one quarter of soloar power production, on a life cycle basis. (2)
  • Nuclear power generation is relatively inexpensive, excluding the risks associated with radioactive waste and nuclear accident.
Green Parties worldwide have been traditionally anti-nuclear for the following reasons:
  • Radioactive waste: all nuclear power facilites produce radioactive waste? which generally impossible to dispose of safely.
  • Nuclear Weapons Proliferation:most nuclear power technologies can also be used to produce nuclear weapons and make nuclear non-proliferation treaties? difficult to enforce.
  • Nuclear Accidents: the risk of nuclear accidents (3), particularly linked with the risk terrorist activity remains a substantial externality to the nuclear industry itself. No nuclear power utility in the world has ever been fully insured for the risk of a nuclear accident, due to the limited nuclear liability? legislation in all nuclear power generating countries. Nuclear accident liability makes the "full cost accounting" nuclear energy difficult.

(1)http://www.uic.com.au/index.htm(external link)
(2)http://www.uic.com.au/ueg.htm(external link)
(3)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_accidents(external link)

Position:


The Green Party of Canada (GPC) does not believe that Nuclear Power can be a part of a sustainable energy future for Canada. Nuclear Power is unsustainable in nature as it produces waste that remains radioactive and therefore hazardous to human and environmental health for thousands of years.

This is coupled with the fact that Nuclear Reactors produce the raw materials necessary to create Nuclear Weapons. The GPC supports Nuclear Non-Proliferation and believes that the phase-out of Nuclear Power is a necessary step towards this ultimate goal.

That being said, the GPC recognizes that Nuclear Power cannot be phased out overnight as it currently provides for a significant portion of Canada's energy needs.

Instead, the GPC advocates a gradual phase-out of Nuclear Power in Canada over a period of no longer than 15 years, with the goal of making Canada Nuclear-free by 2020.


Meeting this goal will require a major shift in federal energy policy in Canada but it will also present an opportunity to harness the ingenuity of Canadians to help create a sustainable energy future for Canada and in so doing create a Green Energy Industry that will employ thousands of Canadians for years to come.

The GPC sees the phasing out of Nuclear Power as essential to the creation of a more sustainable future for Canada and in support of this,

the GPC will:

  • Scale-back subsidies for nuclear power, while increasing funding for the development of green energy sources
  • Phase-out funding for all non-medical nuclear research and shift that funding towards energy efficiency and green energy research
  • Reduce the amount of Uranium mined in Canada to zero over the same 15-year period as the phase-out of Nuclear Power and ban the export of Uranium within 5 years time
  • Assist the Provinces and Territories in finding non-nuclear solutions to providing for their future energy needs

To replace the contribution of Nuclear Power to Canada's energy grid,

The GPC will:

  • Create federal tax incentives which benefit utilities for reducing demand and providing Green Power to their customers
  • Invest in Energy Efficiency and Canada's Youth by training high school, university and college students to conduct household and workplace energy efficiency audits in co-operation with local utilities, municipalities, and non-governmental organizations
  • Offer greater federal incentives and rebates to encourage individuals and businesses to:
    • make energy efficiency retrofits and purchases
    • produce their own green energy
  • Provide matching funding for corporations who offer energy efficiency incentives to their employees
  • Encourage the transfer of electricity between the hydro energy rich Provinces of Manitoba and Quebec and their Ontario and New Brunswick neighbours
  • Empower the Office of Energy Efficiency to work with the Provinces, Territories and Canada's First Nations to promote initiatives and programs in support of:
    • Energy Efficiency
    • Energy Conservation
    • Industrial Co-generation
    • Green Energy production and promotion

To effectively manage Canada's Nuclear Waste problem,

The GPC will:
  • Limit the need to manage greater quantities of this waste in the future by phasing-out Nuclear Power by 2020
  • Work with Canadians to determine a safe and secure method of long term storage of this waste; one which takes into account human and environmental health and provides future generations the possibility of accessing this waste if a better solution is developed
  • Ensure the safe and monitored storage of nuclear waste in the temporary facilities already in use at Canada's nuclear power stations

To help address the issue of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation,

The GPC will:
  • Stop Atomic Energy Canada from exporting CANDU nuclear technology
  • Limit all Canadian nuclear co-operation to technical assistance for nations who already operate CANDU reactors and who are not persuing nuclear weapons programs
  • Work with the member countries of the CANDU owners group to ensure that nuclear material is not being used for military purposes and that nuclear material is safely and securely stored
  • Support the efforts of other nations (especially the developing world) to develop non-nuclear solutions to provide for their future energy needs

A well-articulated and thoroughly-researched strategy for phasing out Nuclear Power can be found at:
http://www.cnp.ca/resources/phasing-out-nuclear.pdf(external link)

For more information on the problems with CANDU reactors and Canada's Nuclear Power program in general please see:
http://www.probeinternational.org/probeint/Mekong/candu/9902.html(external link)

Argument:


Canadians should not have to resign themselves to supporting Nuclear Power simply because it is seen as being environmentally benign in the short term in comparison to traditional fossil fuel based sources of energy.

The notion of Nuclear Power as an environmentally friendly source of energy is also highly suspect when the tonnes of radioactive tailings that are produced as a result of the Uranium mining process, not to mention the fact that much of the material in the nuclear reactor itself must be handled as nuclear waste as it is contaminated with radiation. Spent fuel rod bundles are not the only nuclear wastes that must be managed.

Why a 15 year phase-out time?

This period of time represents a long enough amount of time to make the switch from nuclear power and it also takes into account the spiralling costs that will be incurred maintaining Canada's aging Nuclear Power plants. It is estimated that it will cost between $15-20 Billion to keep these nuclear plants in operation for the next 15 years and many more Billions of dollars to completely over-haul or construct new reactors if Nuclear Power is to be used after that point.

Again, see: http://www.cnp.ca/resources/phasing-out-nuclear.pdf(external link)

Also, the phase-out of Nuclear Power does not mean that Canadians will be stuck with fossil fuels supplying the majority of their energy needs on an indefinite basis. We must get away from the traditional notion that a mix of coal, oil, and nuclear power is needed to provide a constant and reliable supply of power when alternatives exist.

By promoting:
energy efficiency, energy conservation, industrial co-generation, alternative energy sources (wind, solar, biomass, micro hydro and tidal), increasing the inter-provincal export of electricity, and by using the existing abundance of hydro power Canada can maintain a stable energy supply while phasing-out Nuclear and greatly reducing our reliance on other non-renewable energy sources.

Costing:
Most of the money required to fund the incentives and research outlined above will come from the shifting of resources and funding from the subsidization of Nuclear Power and Fossil Fuels to that of Green Power and Energy Efficiency.

If Nuclear Power is to be phased out within 15 years, it is simply not enough to level the playing field for green energy sources and energy efficiency technologies. They must be actively supported by the federal government over the long-term, because it is this long-term support that will galvinize the private sector to fund the creation of a world-class Green Energy Industry in Canada.

The jobs that will be created will be the growth of this new industry will provide the federal government with tax revenue that can be re-invested in this industry and used to fund the incentives and government programs that will allow Canada to fundamentally change its energy system within a relatively short period of time.

Canada can become a world leader in green energy or it can continue to lag behind while Europe, Asia, and even the United States surge ahead.

Why the export of CANDU nuclear technology must be stopped:

Canadian Nuclear technology has already allowed India to produce Nuclear Weapons and the risk of other countries persuing nuclear weapons programs with the aid of Canadian technology is too great to allow for the continued exportation of this technology.

Why Phase-out Uranium Mining?

It makes sense to phase-out the mining of Uranium in tandum with the phase-out of Nuclear Power production in Canada as the Uranium will no longer be required domestically. The proposed five year phase-out period for Uranium exports will allow other nations that rely on Canadian Uranium to fuel their reactors enough time to make alternative arrangements.

This phase-out of Uranium mining and exportation will hopefully also encourage other nations to follow Canada's lead and phase-out Nuclear Power all together.

We realize that not all nations will follow Canada's lead but it would be irresponsible for the Canadian government to promote the expansion of Nuclear Power aborad while phasing it out at home.

Canada should help other nations (especially those in the developing world) to build their own sustainable energy futures, without dooming them to repeat the mistakes of Canada and other Industrialized nations.

  • it is important to note that phasing out uranium mining will contravene current NAFTA agreements and may expose the government to legal action by stakeholders with uranium industry interests. This stakeholder group includes but is not limited to mining companies, enrichment and processing companies, reactor manufacturers, power companies, waste management and consulting companies.


Counter Argument:


Attemping to phase-out Nuclear Power within 15 years is not feasible as the proposed means of doing this rely too heavily on demand management and large energy efficiency improvements which will be difficult to achieve in such a tight time frame.

Nuclear Power should remain a part of Canada's energy mix for the foreseeable future as it is a source of inexpensively produced power that is much cleaner than either coal, oil or natural gas. In fact, due to the relatively tiny level of CO2 emissions produced by nuclear power, increased usage of nuclear power would Canada to meet its emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Nuclear Waste is highly-concentrated and as such it can be much more easily managed when compared to the waste produced by fossil fuel plants whcih is emitted directly into the atmospher and is dispersed over a wide area. Nuclear Waste can also be safely stored in existing containment facilities with little to no negative effect on the environment and humna health until a more permanent solution can be developed.


Links

Bill C-27 An Act respecting the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste
http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/1/parlbus/chambus/house/bills/government/C-27/C-27_1/C-27_cover-E.html(external link)

Phasing Out Nuclear Power in Canada: Towards Sustainable Electricity Futures
http://www.cnp.ca/resources/phasing-out-nuclear.pdf(external link)

Canadian Nuclear FAQ
http://www.nuclearfaq.ca/ (external link)

Atomic Energy Control Act
http://www.ec.gc.ca/EnviroRegs/Eng/SearchDetail.cfm?intAct=1021(external link)

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
http://www.aecl.ca/(external link)

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/(external link)

Canadian Policy Research Network(external link)
Citizens’ Dialogue on the Long-term Management of Used Nuclear Fuel

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