Letter to banks: nuclear power is a terrible investment

78 Public Interest groups are calling on Canada’s biggest banks to drop investments in nuclear power, including so-called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) from their fossil-free and ESG* investment portfolios. The letters, with the list of 78 signatories, were sent to the bank CEOs last week.

The letter to each bank is below, followed by the text of the letter with the 78 signatories, and finally the media release sent across Canada.

We encourage everyone to download and read the letter and send it to your bank manager. For a copy of the letters in French, click HERE.


To all banks:

Re: Ethical Investment Decisions for the Climate

We are 78 organizations across Canada committed to avoiding climate catastrophe. We wish to recognize your bank having signed on to the Net Zero Banking Alliance, and the steps you are taking to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions in your operations and strategy. Canada’s commitment is to cut emissions by 40 – 45% by 2030. 

We write to you as someone in a position to speak for your organization’s practices. You are aware that public opinion has moved toward supporting companies that make sound, ethical investment decisions. 

As you seek to transition your lending and investment portfolios away from greenhouse gas emitting industries we are asking you to take a more critical look at the nuclear industry’s unsuitability for inclusion in your responsible investment offerings. The rationale for excluding nuclear from these portfolios is well explained in a recent declarationby four prominent former nuclear officials from France, Germany, England and America. [1]

Several nuclear companies (including start-ups) are seeking private financing for the design and development of small modular nuclear reactors (SMNRs) in Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, and possibly other provinces and territories.

While the nuclear industry is lobbying hard for future generations of reactors to play a role in Canada’s  energy transition, more than 120 civil society, public interest, faith-based and Indigenous organizations have signed a public statement [2] explaining why SMNRs are a “dirty, dangerous distraction” from addressing the climate crisis. Many Indigenous leaders across Canada have also called for an end to the development of new nuclear reactors (e.g. Chiefs of Ontario [3], Assembly of First Nations [4]. Anishinabek Nation [5], Wolastoq Grand Council [6]) 

Investing in more nuclear reactors is a bad and unethical business decision which will be perceived negatively by the public across Canada. Pursuing nuclear developments will hinder Canada’s ability to deeply reduce emissions in the time frame required by the Paris Accord, by diverting critical resources away from more beneficial modalities of electrical energy generation.  

The SMNRs proposed for Canada are a very risky investment. There are no operating commercial SMNRs in North America as they have yet to be developed, and at least one early report [7] indicates that proponents of prototypes are not providing adequate safety information. Some designs are based on existing types of large commercial reactors, but most are novel, using fuel types [8] and coolants [9] new to Canada. 

Nuclear development is consistently plagued by major construction delays [10]. The Canadian nuclear industry’s claim that SMNRs can be deployed within a decade is unbelievable. 

Price projections for future nuclear energy already far exceed those for existing wind, solar and hydroelectricity [11], and this is before inevitable cost overruns, routinely experienced with nuclear developments around the world [12].  

Taken together, cost and timeliness argue against the usefulness of new nuclear power reactors in achieving Canada’s emissions reduction targets. 

There is also growing public awareness of the unsolved problems of nuclear waste, the links between radioactive materials and adverse health outcomes including cancer, and the links between the spread of nuclear technology and nuclear weapons proliferation.

Investments would be more profitably allocated to widespread deployment of available renewable technologies, and to proven efforts to enhance the efficiency of the energy used in buildings, industrial infrastructure and transportation. According to the International Energy Agency, renewables are set to account for almost 95 % of the increase in global power capacity through 2026 [13]. Support also must go to the development of smart grid infrastructure whereby renewable energy itself, with suitable storage, can satisfy baseload power needs [14]. 

Given your bank’s status as a major financial player concerned with risk and stranded assets, we are alerting you that SMNRs have no role in “green” investments.  

We therefore respectfully request that your bank immediately terminate any existing plans to provide financing for SMNRs and commit to excluding nuclear development from its responsible investment portfolios

You have tremendous power to effect real and lasting change in the world, and to help avert climate catastrophe – by diverting investment away from fossil fuels and nuclear power and towards just and sustainable renewable energy options. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. It will be made public on the websites of many of our organizations. We invite you to respond to Ann McAllister, of the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB, info@crednb.ca) and we look forward to your response.

Yours Sincerely, 

78 Canadian organizations as listed below

Action Climat Outaouais (ACO)
Action Environnement Basses-Laurentides
Action North Hatley
artistes pour la paix
Association des Saint-Marcoid
Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA)
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods
Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR)/Regroupement pour la surveillance du nucléaire
Citizens’ Network on Waste Management
Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet
Citoyens au Courant 
Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan
Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB)
Comité de vigilance environnementale de l’Est de Montréal (CVEEM)
Comité Santé, Sécurité et Environnement d’Unifor Québec
Committee for Future Generations 
Concerned Citizens of Manitoba
Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
Council of Canadians – Fredericton Chapter
Council of Canadians – Guelph Chapter
Council of Canadians – Kitchener and Waterloo Chapter
Council of Canadians – Kitchissippi Ottawa Valley Chapter
Council of Canadians – Peterborough and Kawarthas Chapter
Council of Canadians – Quinte Chapter
Council of Canadians – Saint John Chapter
County Sustainability Group
CRE Estrie
David Suzuki Foundation
Environment North
Extinction Rebellion New Brunswick
Friends of the Earth Canada
Grand Riverkeeper Labrador (GRK) 
Grandmothers Act to Save the Planet (GASP)
Groupe Vigilance Hydrocarbure de St-Antoine-sur-Richelieu
Imaginons la Péninsule acadienne autrement 
Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Cooperative
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Canada (IPPNWC)
Justice, Mission & Outreach Committees of Eastern Regions, United Church of Canada
Le regroupement des citoyens de Saraguay
Manitoba Eco-Network
Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition
Minganie sans uranium 
MiningWatch Canada
Mouvement Vert Mauricie
National Council of Women of Canada
New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA)
Noor Cultural Centre
North Bay Peace Alliance
Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association
Ontario Clean Air Alliance
Oxford Coalition for Social Justice
Peterborough Pollinators
Pontiac Environment Protection
Project Ploughshares Saskatoon
Protect our Waterways No Nuclear Waste
Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive
Regroupement des organismes environnementaux en énergie (ROEÉ)
Regroupement vigilance hydrocarbures Québec (RVHQ)
Réseau québécois des groupes écologistes (RQGE)
Rural Action and Voices for the Environment (RAVEN)
Saskatchewan Environmental Society
Science for Peace
Seniors For Climate Action Now! (SCAN!)
Sept-Iles Sans Uranium
Sierra Club Canada Foundation 
St. John’s United Church, Dalhousie, NB
Sustainable Energy Group
The United Church of Canada / L’Église Unie du Canada
Unitarian Universalist Church of North Hatley
We the Nuclear Free North


February 22, 2020

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                                                 

 For Immediate Release


78 Public Interest groups are calling on Canada’s biggest banks to drop investments in nuclear power, including so-called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) from their fossil-free and ESG* investment portfolios.

The banks are all members of the Net Zero Banking Alliance, committing them to “transition … GHG emissions from their lending and investment portfolios to align with pathways to net-zero by 2050 or sooner”.

In a letter sent to the banks this week, groups from across the country contend investments in SMRs will divert critical funds away from the already proven, safe and economical alternative energy sources essential for Canada to meet our pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 40 to 45% by 2030. 

“Nuclear investments pose huge risks for both private and public investors” says Prof. M.V. Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the University of British Columbia. “None of the Small Modular Reactors proposed for construction in Canada have ever been built, and their specific accident risks are yet to be studied adequately. They are still at the theoretical design stage and constructing them in significant numbers will take a lot longer than 2030”.

“Canadians should look closely at their investment portfolios” says Ann McAllister of the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick. “People may not realize that their mutual funds, pensions, stocks, bonds and TFSAs can support nuclear companies, including SMR start ups masquerading as “green” investments”. 

Economist Jack Gibbons, Chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance notes “We have cleaner, safer, faster and much lower cost options to keep our lights on. The smart money is on renewable options. They will be providing almost 95% of the world’s new electricity supply over the next 5 years at dramatically lower costs than SMRs.

Jean-Pierre Finet, energy analyst for the Regroupement des organismes environnementaux en énergie (ROEÉ) in Quebec said “Considering the enormous potential for improved energy efficiency and low-cost renewable energy production, there is absolutely no reason to consider nuclear power in our energy portfolios.

In their letter, the groups stress the power of banks and private investors to help avert climate catastrophe by investing in the best and fastest possible options for emissions reductions. Nuclear does not meet that requirement and in fact, will hinder it, because of the opportunity cost. Bank CEOs have been asked to respond to the letter.

*ESG refers to Environment, Social, Governance criteria increasingly used as standards to guide Responsible Investing                                                      – 30 –

Media contacts: 

English language

Ann McAllister, Spokesperson, Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (506) 898-1821, annmcallister72@gmail.com

Jack Gibbons, Chair, Ontario Clean Air Alliance, (416) 260 2080 ext 2, jack@cleanairalliance.org

Dr. Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility  (514) 839-7214 ccnr@web.ca

En français :

Ginette Charbonneau, Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive, Québec (514) 246-6439 ginettech@hotmail.ca

Jean-Pierre Finet, Regroupement des organismes environnementaux en énergie, Québec  (514) 515-1957 jpierrefinet@gmail.com

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