Why does Ottawa’s ‘Green Bond’ program exclude nuclear, one of the cleanest of all energy sources?
The federal budget, recognizing the urgent need to fight climate change, includes new, positive incentives for the development of clean energy.
But the nuclear energy leadership, labour, and management alike, raise serious questions as to the budget’s failure to remove the sector’s exclusion of the right to apply for funding under the government’s $5 billion Green Bond Framework (GBF).
As background, let’s look at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s enthusiastic commitments at the global Paris meeting in 2015.
Trudeau committed the government, as Harper had done before him, to reducing Canada’s gas emissions by 30 per cent from their 2005 levels by the year 2030, and to ussue a pan-Canadian Framework on climate change within 90 days of the end of the conference.
It was not until August 2017, however, that the pan-Canadian Framework was released by Canada for provincial and territorial consideration. After consultations, it was adopted and signed by the provinces and territories — except Saskatchewan and Manitoba — on Dec. 6, 2017.
Last month the federal government released a separate framework called the Green Bond Framework (GBF). “Green Bonds” are essentially government interest-bearing loans, available to applicants able to satisfy the government that monies loaned will be devoted to support objectives within the government’s announced policies.
The contentious and so far unexplained feature of this Canadian GBF is its exclusion of “nuclear energy” from potential recipients of funds.
Bob Walker, national director of the Canadian Worker’s Nuclear Council, in opposing the nuclear energy omission, has correctly written: “Nuclear energy is clean, safe, and affordable. Last year the UN’s Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) determined that nuclear energy has one of the lowest life-cycle carbon footprints of any generation’s technology. Nuclear energy was central to the most successful carbon-emission reduction initiative on the continent, closing Ontario’s coal plants and shifting to emissions-free nuclear power.”
John Gorman, president and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association, said that locking out the nuclear sector, while extending capital cost allowance to other noncarbon emitting technologies, was done without any consultation with the nuclear sector.
He added: “Canada has lost another incredible opportunity to demonstrate global leadership here by excluding the nuclear industry in the Green Bond Framework. It’s very disappointing.”
Canada’s Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Stephen Guilbeault, claimed by some to be a long time anti-nuclear activist, has not helped in explaining this nuclear energy funding-potential elimination.
Chris Keefer, president of Canadians for Nuclear Energy, following unhelpful communications with Guilbeault’s Ministry, stated: “ … to exclude an evidence-based climate solution like nuclear energy is pretty extraordinary.”
My experience, both in public service in the ministries of labour and trade and technology and as a private sector labour law practitioner, has involved considerable access to the nuclear energy industry — as has my more recent work as former chair of the Radiation Safety Institute of Canada.
I have been extremely impressed by that sector’s operations, both in uranium mining and in the highly complex construction and operation of nuclear reactors. In the most recently published figures, about 96% of electricity in Ontario is produced from zero-emitting sources — 60 per cent from nuclear, 26 per cent from hydroelectricity, four per cent from wind, and two per cent from solar.
At present, nuclear mining, refining, and fuel fabrication are all limited, in whole or in part to Ontario, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan. There is surely a critical need for national expansion in all of these operations. As well, the persons hired in new as well as expanding existing operations, require the very best in safety training.
As our fossil fuels mining and related operations are gradually diminished, in accordance with government policy, why would the government deny to one of the principal clean operating successors — nuclear power — access to possible private and/or public investment from this $5 billion fund?
So where does Trudeau stand? He was questioned on Monday in Victoria on the nuclear energy concerns. His reply: “Nuclear energy is still on the table. We’re there to invest in a range of pathways so that we can make sure that we’re not just protecting the planet but creating a sure and growing economy for years to come.”
My concern? There’s a lot that’s been on that table for a very long time.
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