Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May introduces newly elected Green MP Paul Manly during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, May 10, 2019.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
The good news? Canada is a world leader when it comes to combatting climate change.We’ve got the solution. We know how to create abundant, safe and carbon-free energy. We’ve done it for decades. We’re a global superpower.The bad news? We are going to hear endlessly about the dangers of climate change in the coming federal election, but based on the platforms and rhetoric of most of the major parties, we’re not going to hear much about the only sensible solution, the nuclear power option.Yes, the Liberals, Greens and New Democrats will scowl and howl about climate change, but their program of bringing in carbon taxes and subsidizing green and solar power won’t have any more impact than did Angela Merkel’s passionate but expensive and ineffective $580-billion embrace of solar and wind in Germany.If Germany had spent those many billions on nuclear this past decade, instead of on solar and wind, it would have created enough low carbon energy to replace all the fossil fuels and biomass used in its electricity sector and to replace all of the petroleum it uses for cars and light trucks, U.S. environmental expert Michael Shellenberger has said, citing a report from Environmental Progress.The International Energy Agency (IEA) is pushing hard for more nuclear to combat climate change. “Nuclear power and hydropower form the backbone of low-carbon electricity generation,” it reports. “Together, they provide three-quarters of global low carbon generation.”The IEA is calling for countries to maintain existing reactors, invest in new ones and support new designs. Otherwise it says we face hundreds of billions in additional costs fighting climate change over the next 20 years.As U.S. nuclear plant operator and educator Mark Schneider tells me in an interview: “If you’re not talking nuclear, you’re not serious about climate change.”So you might think that green groups and politicians would also push hard for more nuclear, right?Wrong.In fact, the Green Party vows to phase out our nuclear industry.The party appears to be trapped in a decades-old critique of nuclear energy that ties it to atomic bombs and the Chernobyl disaster, essentially linking our safe and sound Candu reactor program to wonky reactors built by incompetent Communist bureaucrats before computers were invented.In its platform the Green Party says: “Green Party MPs will work with provinces to phase out existing nuclear power, to stem the buildup of nuclear wastes, and to institute a Canada-wide moratorium on uranium mining and refining.”The Green Party leaders may not like fossil fuels, but they are in love with fossilized thinking.The nuclear industry of 2019 has zero inclination to build the old kind of reactors, Schneider says. Indeed, we already have Generation 3 reactors which have never had a major problem because they have vastly improved safety systems.The newest Generation 4 nuclear reactors are designed to be melt-down proof. Some models also use radioactive waste from old nuclear plants as their fuel source.In Canada, nuclear power supplies 63 per cent of the electricity in Ontario. Around the world, 47 reactors from our Candu program are safely operating, just as they have for decades.Yet I could not find one mention of nuclear power in the NDP’s Climate Plan. The Liberals have thankfully supported Canada’s promising research into Gen 4 nuclear technology, but unless they change rhetorical strategies, you won’t hear the Liberals push nuclear in coming months, just carbon taxes, solar and wind.Indeed, the one party leading the political pack when it comes to realistically tackling Climate Change is Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives. The new Conservative plan on climate change supports the nuclear option. “Nuclear energy has the capacity to provide clean, affordable and safe base-load power in Canada and around the world,” it states. “We can champion a new era of safer, scalable and virtually waste-free technology.” China, Russia and South Korea are moving fast to develop and export Gen 4 nuclear technology, but Canada can still compete, says Vancouver financier Bernie Lyons, an expert in nuclear policy. “We could do a hell of a lot for the rest of the world,” Lyons says, adding that the Third World would benefit tremendously from nuclear energy. For example, the desalinization of salt water requires a huge amount of energy but Gen 4 reactors could power that transformative tech. So good for Scheer and the Conservatives on the climate change file. Their many loud critics continue to say the Conservative plan is shallow and lacking in detail, but Scheer got it right on the one detail that counts: the support of abundant, safe and low carbon nuclear power.