Updates

ARC-100 SMR: Does the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada do anything other than recommending not to do impact assessments?

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) recommended to Minister Guilbeault to NOT grant CRED-NB’s request for a federal impact assessment of the ARC-100 nuclear reactor project for Point Lepreau. Our request included a letter of support from the group Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.

After the Minister’s rejection, the Renfrew County group did an analysis of the IAAC record. They asked: Does the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada do much anything other than recommending not to do impact assessments? The answer: looks like no, not much. The 360 staff in the Agency conduct only eight assessments per year. Read the full story on their website, HERE.

Federal environment minister rejects impact assessment for small modular nuclear reactor on the Bay of Fundy

December 23, 2022

Federal environment minister rejects impact assessment for small modular nuclear reactor on the Bay of Fundy

SAINT JOHN, NEW BRUNSWICK – In a deeply disappointing decision for the environment and public oversight, Steven Guilbeault, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, has ruled against a full federal Impact Assessment (IA) for a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) proposed by New Brunswick Power at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick. 

This decision comes in response to a request submitted by the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) on July 4, 2022, calling for an IA for this first-of-its-kind nuclear project in Canada.  Letters of support for CRED-NB’s request were submitted by the Wolastoq Grand Council, and Indigenous organizations representing the Peskotomuhkati Nation and the Mi’gmaq First Nations in New Brunswick and over 300 public interest groups and individuals.

In rejecting the need for an IA for the proposed SMR project, the Minister found it would be “unwarranted” as the concerns raised by Indigenous peoples and members of the public would be considered as part of the licensing process by the nuclear regulator and within New Brunswick’s Clean Environment Act.

“The Minister’s choice not to designate the SMR for an assessment goes against their commitments to sound, science-based decision-making and public participation,” noted Ann McAllister of CRED-NB, reacting to the news of the Minister’s decision. “This lack of a precautionary approach is especially dismaying given that sodium-cooled nuclear technology – of which this SMR is one – has a known history of accidents and has never been successfully commercialized, despite repeated attempts over the decades.”  

“The mechanism we had to uphold environmental justice has been denied,” reacted Kerrie Blaise, an environmental lawyer who assisted CRED-NB with the IA request. “The many unknowns and the potential for not only severe but irreversible impacts to the health of communities and the environment will not be subject to a rigorous public and cumulative effects assessment that an IA provides. This is quite simply something that cannot be achieved by the nuclear regulator in their license-specific assessment.” 

“By refusing an IA for the SMR project at Point Lepreau, the Minister suggested the concerns about the project raised by CRED-NB would be dealt with by a provincial Environmental Impact Assessment,” said Dr. Susan O’Donnell, Adjunct Professor at the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University, and CRED-NB member.  “The provincial process is not as comprehensive as the federal IA. However in its submission, the Government of New Brunswick stated that a provincial EIA would address all the concerns raised in the CRED-NB request, and that the premier has confirmed that a provincial EIA review, including public consultation, will be required before the project can proceed. We look forward to that comprehensive provincial review in the new year.”

Pressure from the nuclear industry lobby changed federal environmental assessment law in 2019, exempting SMRs below a certain threshold from undergoing a full environmental IA. The only way for this project to have undergone an IA, was at the direction of the Minister. The Minister’s decision sets an unfortunate precedent, weakening our impact assessment laws and ability for broad public participation. 

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Media Contacts

CRED-NB Members:

Sam Arnold 
samarnold3@gmail.com 

Ann McAllister 
annmcallister72@gmail.com
506-898-1821

CRED supports call for public hearings into future of Point Lepreau nuclear plant

On Friday, Dec. 15, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick did the right thing: they called for public hearings into the future of the Point Lepreau nuclear plant. Read the media release HERE.

Following the latest outage at the Point Lepreau nuclear plant on the Bay of Fundy on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 14, NB Power issued several vague news releases. Business as usual, another day, another unscheduled shutdown.

NB Power puts its news releases HERE, including any updates on the Lepreau situation that they deign to share with us, the public. When will they switch it on again? Will they tell us what happened or keep us guessing?

CRED-NB fully supports the CCNB call. We look forward to an open and transparent hearing process where all the facts are laid bare. What is this intermittent power reactor costing us and how much is it going to cost us to keep it limping along until its licence runs out in 2032? The licence will be subject to a CRTC review in 2027 but that’s too far away. Let’s get the facts out in 2023.

Canada’s new policy on radioactive waste must ban reprocessing

For immediate release 

December 15, 2022 

Canada’s new policy on radioactive waste must ban plutonium reprocessing 

Ottawa – Today, a national alliance of civil society organizations launched a campaign to formally demand that Canada includes a ban on plutonium reprocessing in its radioactive waste policy. 

Canada will release its policy on managing radioactive waste in early 2023. A draft policy for public comment released in February 2022 says that “deployment of reprocessing technology… is subject to policy approval by the Government of Canada” but does not take a clear position opposing this technology. 

Reprocessing is a means of extracting plutonium from nuclear fuel waste. Reprocessing is highly contaminating, practiced in only a few countries, and linked to nuclear weapons proliferation. 

Dozens of public interest groups and Indigenous communities participated in the federal radioactive waste policy consultations, and more than 7,000 Canadians submitted letters including a demand that the policy bans reprocessing. In March 2022, Nuclear Waste Watch’s Radioactive Waste Review Group released An Alternative Policy for Canada on Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning that forbids plutonium reprocessing. 

Commercial plutonium reprocessing has never been carried out in Canada. The limited reprocessing at the federal government’s Chalk River Laboratory to supply nuclear weapons material for the American military ended in the 1960s but left a legacy of nuclear contamination in Canada. 

Canada has had an informal ban on reprocessing since the 1970s, following India’s testing of its first nuclear weapon made using plutonium from a “peaceful” nuclear reactor, a gift from Canada. 

However, the informal ban was breached in 2021 when the federal government granted $50.5 million to a New Brunswick company, Moltex Energy, to develop its technology to reprocess fuel waste from existing CANDU reactors with the intent of exporting the technology globally. The government also granted more than $1.2 billion to Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to expand their nuclear research centre at Chalk River to include a laboratory for research that could include plutonium reprocessing. 

Yet a 2016 CNL report found no business case for reprocessing CANDU fuel, in part “due to its low fissile content,” and the associated costs and risks. The CNL report also stated that reprocessing would “increase proliferation risk.”

That finding about reprocessing and nuclear weapons proliferation is replicated in a major report released in November 2022 by a U.S. National Academy of Sciences expert panel. The panel reached consensus that the proposed Moltex reprocessing technology does not provide “significant proliferation resistance.” 

“By reversing its ban on plutonium reprocessing and supporting the development of new reprocessing technology intended for export, Canada seems to be blundering into another dangerous proliferation miscalculation,” says Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition on Nuclear Responsibility. Edwards cited the three letters written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by U.S. nonproliferation experts warning of the dangers of developing reprocessing technology in Canada. 

“Reprocessing intensely radioactive spent fuel presents more opportunities for release of radionuclides than leaving spent fuel in thick metal or concrete casks,” says Brennain Lloyd, spokesperson for Northwatch. “Reprocessing does not reduce the need for radioactive waste storage or long-term management. After reprocessing, the remaining material will be in several different waste forms, and the total volume of nuclear waste will have been increased by a factor of 20 or more.” 

“Are the policy-makers reading the research or only the nuclear industry’s sales and promotional materials?” asks Dr. Susan O’Donnell, spokesperson for the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick. “There is no legitimate reason to support technologies that create the potential for new countries to separate plutonium and develop nuclear weapons. The government should stop supporting this dangerous technology.” 

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For more information: 

The Ban Plutonium Reprocessing campaign website: reprocessing.ca 

Nuclear Waste Watch: nuclearwastewatch@gmail.com 

Gordon Edwards, PhD, President, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility
Phone: 514-489-5118 Email: ccnr@web.ca 

Brennain Lloyd, spokesperson, Northwatch 
Phone: 705-493-9650 Email: brennain@northwatch.org 

Susan O’Donnell, PhD, spokesperson, Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick
Phone: 506-261-1727 Email: info@crednb.ca 

Conservation Council of New Brunswick adopts resolution opposing nuclear power as future energy source

At its AGM at the end of November, the province’s flagship environmental organization, the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, adopted a motion opposing nuclear power as a future energy source and promoting instead investment in real climate solutions. The resolution was proposed by Dr. Janice Harvey, a CRED-NB core member. Read or download the CCNB resolution, HERE.

Belledune Port SMR announcement: Public relations stunt to promote a “dirty, dangerous distraction from climate action”

For immediate release – November 28, 2022

Belledune Port SMR announcement: Public relations stunt to promote a “dirty, dangerous distraction from climate action”

Today the Belledune Port Authority in New Brunswick announced plans to use an ARC-100 reactor to generate heat and power for industrial users at the port. NB Power is planning to apply for a site licence to develop the ARC-100 reactor at Point Lepreau on the Bay of Fundy.

The Belledune Port’s announcement today is a public relations stunt to make it appear that there is business interest in so-called “small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs),” an attempt to attract the government and private investment that the nuclear industry desperately needs to survive.

SMRs like the ARC-100 will need massive amounts of public funding to develop. The proponents have not released any costs, but the government of Saskatchewan has estimated it will cost $5 billion to develop an SMR. To date there have been almost no private investors for SMRs because they are such a bad investment.

The Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) has endorsed a public statementsigned by more than 120 public interest groups across Canada calling an SMR a “dirty, dangerous distraction from climate action.”

The ARC-100 – a small modular nuclear reactor is a “first of its kind,” according to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The reactor design includes using liquid sodium as a coolant, a material that reacts violently on contact with air or water. Sodium-cooled nuclear reactors have never been successfully commercialized. 

Proponents claim the ARC-100 is “proven technology,” exaggerated claims based on the performance of a research reactor that operated under laboratory conditions for almost 30 years, relying on a highly enriched type of fuel that would never be allowed for use in a commercial plant.

In other countries, attempts to commercialize sodium cooled reactors have resulted in major environmental cleanups that were more costly than the original reactor builds.

The first commercial sodium-cooled reactor in the US (the Fermi-1 plant, just outside Detroit) suffered a partial meltdown and was quickly scrapped. The book “We Almost Lost Detroit” describes in detail what went wrong. In other countries, sodium fires and erratic performances led to the abandonment of sodium-cooled reactors in France (the Superphénix), in Japan (the Monju breeder), in Germany (the Kalkar plant), and in Scotland (the Dounreay reactor).

All of these shut-down sodium-cooled reactors have proven to be far more expensive to decommission than they were to build. The costs of radioactive decontamination are extraordinarily high in every single case.  Although the laboratory reactor (the EBR-2) was shut down permanently in 1994, scientists are still – 27 years later – trying to extract the sodium metal from the highly radioactive used metallic fuel so that that high-level radioactive waste material can be safely disposed of without causing underground explosions due to sodium-water or sodium-air reactions, as happened in the case of the Dounreay reactor.

Environmental lawyer Kerrie Blaise says: “The nuclear industry is promoting a nuclear fantasy to attract political support while purging past failures – like cost overruns and project delays – from public debate. Before Canada invests any public dollars in this yet-to-be-developed technology, they must fully evaluate the costs of nuclear spending and liabilities associated with the construction, oversight, and waste of this novel technology.”

The federal Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) has begun reviewing a formal designation request from CRED-NB to subject the ARC-100 for a full federal Impact Assessment (IA). A final decision from the Minister of Environment, Steven Guilbeault, is anticipated by January 2, 2023.

Despite the potential for significant environmental impacts, the ARC-100 SMR is currently exempt from IA. This exemption (due to successful nuclear industry lobbying) means there would be no comprehensive examination of the project’s risks, costs and benefits, and downstream impacts before a decision is made to site one in New Brunswick. 

“As early as June of next year, NB Power wants a licence from the nuclear regulator to proceed with site prep for the ARC nuclear reactor. There are many challenges, however, a licence can’t address that an impact assessment can,” noted Ann McAllister, spokesperson for CRED-NB “For instance, what is the economic feasibility of the project? And, given that the ARC SMR has a sodium coolant – meaning its wastes will become a new class of highly radioactive and corrosive waste – what is its impact on existing radioactive waste storage plans? These are just a few of the critical issues the nuclear regulator won’t be weighing in on in deciding whether or not to grant a site prep licence.”

Building SMRs such as the ARC-100 on the Bay of Fundy at Point Lepreau is strongly opposed by both the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group and the Wolastoq Grand Council. Both organizations, as well as the Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. representing the Mi’gmaw First Nations in New Brunswick, support the designation request by CRED-NB to subject the ARC-100 for a full federal Impact Assessment (IA).

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For more information:

Ann McAllister, spokesperson
Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB)
Phone: 506-898-1821
Email: annmcallister72@gmail.com

Kerrie Blaise, environmental lawyer
Phone: 705-978-4034
Email: kerrie@blaiselegal.com

No legitimate reason to support the controversial nuclear technology planned for New Brunswick

NB Power plans to develop new nuclear reactors at Point Lepreau that will use a controversial technology with implications for global security. Provincial and federal government support for this technology–called reprocessing–should end. Separation of plutonium massively increases risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. Read the commentary by Susan O’Donnell (CRED-NB core member) and University of British Columbia professor M.V. Ramana, published in the NB Media Co-op HERE.

Energy technologies considered for New Brunswick are not clean, timely or affordable

Wind, solar and existing hydro are cheaper, cleaner, and ready to go, reducing our carbon emissions in a few years, not in a decade or two. Costly unproven projects like SMRs and hydrogen commit our money to rising costs and delayed payback. CRED core members Sam Arnold (NBASGA) and Ann McAllister (Council of Canadians Saint John Chapter) wrote a critique of New Brunswick’s current energy development plans and lay out an alternative. Commentary published by the NB Media Co-op, HERE.