Experimental nuclear reactors DO need an impact assessment: CRED-NB files request with federal environment minister

The Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) has sent a formal request to federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault to order an impact assessment for a project which could have profound and lasting impacts on the Bay of Fundy and the coastal communities and marine life it supports.

For more information about why an impact assessment is required, including letters of support from Indigenous groups and civil society groups in New Brunswick and across Canada, read the formal CRED-NB request to federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, HERE. (French version HERE.)

To send a letter to Minister Guilbeault supporting the CRED-NB request, use our action tool, HERE. We’re working in collaboration with the Ontario Clean Air Alliance to gather support across Canada.

The nuclear industry plans to build experimental nuclear reactors, so-called “small modular nuclear reactors” (SMRs) in New Brunswick, with the aim that one day they can be used in different towns and remote communities across Canada.

Pressure from the nuclear industry lobby changed our federal environmental assessment law in 2019, exempting many nuclear projects like SMRs from undergoing a full environmental impact assessment (IA). 

CRED-NB is challenging the exemption for the “SMR Demonstration Project” planned for Point Lepreau on the Bay of Fundy, asking the federal government to step in and order the project undergo a full IA under the Impact Assessment Act.

“As a first of its kind experimental nuclear project, on the traditional territory of the Peskotomuhkati Nation, which opposes the project, with ramifications for the rights of the Wolastoqey and Mi’gmaq Nations, and located in a beautiful, coastal rural region with locally important fishing, tourism and wild blueberry industries, the SMR Demonstration Project ought to attract the most rigorous form of public engagement and planning,” said Gail Wylie, CRED-NB chair.

“The exemption not only erodes public involvement and oversight of the project but also means that there will be no full reckoning of the alternatives to the energy project and its impacts to social, economic, Indigenous and environmental values,” added Ann McAllister, spokesperson for CRED-NB.

Opponents argue that the SMRs do not need an IA, since they have to get a licence from the nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. This profoundly misses the mark! A nuclear licence is a regulatory proceeding – it does not account for the “big picture” or whether the project has a social licence to operate. 

“There is a pressing need to designate this project for an IA. Impact assessment promotes a ‘look before you leap’ approach to decision-making so that independent reviews of risk and harm, alternatives to the project, the purpose of the project and impacts on social, economic, Indigenous and environmental values can be duly evaluated,” said Kerrie Blaise, legal counsel for the Canadian Environmental Law Association. CELA was among the groups endorsing the designation request to the Minister sent today.

CRED-NB is asking people across Canada to support the campaign. This is not just a New Brunswick issue. If successful, these SMRs could be deployed in hundreds of communities across the country. Their wastes will be added to our existing stockpiles for which no solution currently exists.

Author: CRED-NB

Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick