Category Archives: Environment

Environment International Nuclear Policy

All may not be Lost on Global Heating

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

The UN’s 69th General Assembly opened today in New York. On the agenda is “stemming the existential threat of climate change,” along with a litany of other crises from Ebola to ISIS.

I commented six months ago that only a “Poland moment” – the arrival of real, widespread fear for our way of life – might get climate change recognized as an “existential threat.” Let alone get it “stemmed.” I doubt that we are there yet.

But as catastrophic as the outlook seems on carbon emissions, I am not completely pessimistic. Governments do face up to, and act to mitigate, grave threats, even at times when doing so is costly and defies electoral arithmetic. The record of improving air and water quality in developed areas of the globe since the 1960s attests to this. So do many other international efforts to improve human health and security.

While it takes time, our governments have shown they can act to address environmental challenges. Source:
While it takes time, our governments have shown they can act to address environmental challenges. Source: Environment Canada.

How hopeful can we dare to be that a child born today will not witness hundreds of millions of people being displaced by rising seas and desertification due to climate change? Or at least, that he or she will live to see a substantial turnaround of this process?

Here are what I see as the negatives that support a pessimistic view:

  • Lack of action by major national governments so far – except for grasping at fake “solutions” that are politically expedient (such as farm subsidies dressed up as “biofuels”), are subsidy-based and therefore inefficient and unsustainable (much wind and solar). All of which create new vested interests faster than they decarbonize our lifestyles. Slightly less bad is watching government jump into solutions that may work out, but are too far down the road to be useful in the near-term climate battle (such as technology development funds).
  • A global policymaking environment of crises upon crises – to take just a few examples: for Europeans, the Eurozone economic crisis followed by Ukraine; for Arabs, the Arab Spring followed by Egypt and Syria; for Americans, financial crisis followed by politico-fiscal paralysis, military withdrawals, and now a new war.
  • The long financial crisis and sluggish world economy – putting a continuing drag on governments’ fiscal capacity, and also slowing the rate at which infrastructure can be rebuilt on lower-carbon technologies.

On the other hand, here are some major positives, raising hope that something can be done:

  • Real concern at the top – the UN Secretary-General, the US President, and many other top political, business and intellectual leaders appear to recognize the threat posed by climate change.
  • Steps forward by smaller players – large companies, industry associations and sub-national governments have been willing to be early movers, and some of those moves seem to have worked well.
  • Leadership in the high-growth regions – while dense emerging markets like China and India may remain far behind the West in many aspects of environmental quality, their high rates of infrastructure investment give them once-in-a-century opportunities to build lower-carbon systems in electric power, transportation and urban design. In fits and starts, they are seizing it.

The ecosphere will benefit if high-growth countries make good choices (as China does when it invests in fifty or seventy nuclear power plants instead of coal-fired units), and stable economies such as ours continue to rely on nuclear.

Weighing the scales, my own view is that the odds that we can still act to mitigate climate change are better than bleak.


Nuclear is the No. 3 Contributor to Climate Change Mitigation: The Economist

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Ahead of the September 23 UN meeting of world leaders to discuss climate change, The Economist magazine decided to do something they claim has never been attempted before.

The magazine has compiled a list of the top 20 climate change mitigation measures put in place globally.

Not surprising, nuclear power ranked third overall and was credited for reducing 2.2 billion tonnes of C02 annually, behind the Montreal Protocol and hydro power. Nuclear’s climate change mitigation was estimated to be four times greater than all non-hydro renewable energy sources combined.

To slash or to trim

“According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, nuclear power avoided the production of 2.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2010—that is, emissions would have been 2.2 billion tonnes higher if the same amount of electricity had been produced by non-nuclear plants,” The Economist reported.

It added that the high rate at which new wind and solar capacity is being built will eat into this lead of nuclear and hydro “but it will take some time to overturn it.”

You can read the full Economist article here.

CNA2014 Environment

Don’t Miss Gwyneth Cravens at CNA2014

By Romeo St-Martin
Digital Media Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Gwyneth Cravens is an American writer, environmentalist, and recent co-star of Pandora’s Promise.

To date, she has published five novels and has written for The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

She grew up in 1950s New Mexico having atom-bomb nightmares.

She became a sometime anti-nuclear activist, who supported initiatives to prevent the Shoreham nuclear power plant from being completed on Long Island, where she lives.

About 10 years ago, Cravens changed her views on nuclear power after discussions with Dr. D. Richard (“Rip”) Anderson, a chemist, oceanographer, and international expert in nuclear risk assessment.

“I began to think about the risks of our energy sources more clearly and to examine my own prejudices that had led me to oppose the only large-scale source that we can expand in this country – nuclear power,” she said.

“I had certain impressions and prejudices, some of them fostered by activists at Greenpeace, and I just assumed that nuclear power had to be the deadliest form of energy production. That was my assumption, that was my prejudice and I began to learn differently.

“One of the problems in supporting these prejudices is getting information from sources that are not science-based. That are not reliable. That are ideologically-based.”

The Wall street Journal called her latest book, The Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, “as good a book as we’re likely to get on a subject mired in political incorrectness, general unfathomability and essentially limitless gut fears.”

Released in October 2007, it argues for nuclear power as a safe energy source and an essential preventive of global warming.

“If we don’t have more nuclear power we are going to have more greenhouse gases. That’s just how it is,” said Cravens.

Gwyneth Cravens will be speaking at CNA2014 this month.


Climate Change: Time to Act

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

According to a poll published last week by Canada 2020 and the University of Montreal, 71% of Canadians think climate change should be a top priority of the federal government.

And 84% believe the federal government should take primary responsibility for addressing global warming.

On climate change, the discussions on “whether or not” and “why” are over.  Now the discussion is about how to respond, and how quickly.  That’s going to involve everyone.

While there is a useful ongoing dialog on climate going on this week in Warsaw, it’s plain to most of us that the disease is progressing much more quickly than the cure.

Few players will merely wait until national governments lead us.

Companies, junior levels of government, and other organizations of all stripes – community to industry to international — are stepping up.  This reflects a wider pattern of smaller players driving some of the most progressive and imaginative policy movements.

The UN Global Compact has just released guidelines to help companies engage transparently and accountably in climate policy:

This week at the Canadian Nuclear Association, we launched two important and complementary initiatives:

  • First meeting of our GHG Working Group.  The Working Group will spend coming months developing an industry position on GHGs.
  • Kickoff of a major independent study of the life-cycle emissions from power generation.  The study, by the engineering group Hatch, will compare lifespan emissions from nuclear, natural gas, and wind.

Our purpose is to contribute sound, well-thought-out ideas to federal and provincial dialogs on controlling GHGs.

In a related initiative, we are also beginning to consult CNA members and environmental experts about a sustainability code of practice.

Momentum is building, not just in Warsaw, but around the world.

Not in decades has the world’s population faced a common struggle like this one.  The threat is against all of us.  Organizations big and small are engaging actively, and with strong public support.


How the Nuclear Industry Works for Better Wildlife Habitat

By Heather Kleb
Vice President
Canadian Nuclear Association

I appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development last week to talk about a side of the nuclear industry that many people don’t know about. We’re doing our part not only to protect, but also to improve wildlife habitat.

I welcomed the opportunity to provide three good examples: AECL’s work with chimney swifts, OPG’s attention to northern redbelly dace at its Darlington generating station, and Cameco’s initiative to further our knowledge about the boreal woodland caribou in northern Saskatchewan.

Chimney swift
Chimney swift

AECL came across the chimney swifts’ housing issue as it was planning to decommission a stack that hadn’t been used in 25 years. Swifts like stacks, but as companies innovate and heating systems change, stacks are disappearing. This habitat loss is threatening the species.

AECL sought out a chimney swift specialist at Trent University and launched a research program to find out more about the species, and what could be done if the stacks were torn down. The knowledge they gained will not only help them understand the species, it will also provide solid information for making decisions about the maintenance, or decommissioning of the stacks. They will also gain valuable information on how to build replacement habitat.

Northern redbelly dace
Northern redbelly dace

OPG, meanwhile, has been working to make life better for the northern redbelly dace, a fish the size of a minnow whose preferred waters are calm and clean. Those aren’t qualities you’d normally associate with a construction waste landfill. Recognizing the opportunity to enhance the environment, OPG developed the pond in a way that gave the dace a new home.

Woodland caribou
Woodland caribou

And then there’s Cameco’s work to help us to understand woodland caribou, which moved onto the threatened species list a decade ago. The federal government’s recovery strategy, published last year, brought to light some significant gaps in what we know about the species. Cameco stepped up and developed a woodland caribou monitoring program in northern Saskatchewan, and sponsored a larger provincial research initiative.

These three projects demonstrate our industry’s commitment to environmental protection, our experience in environmental restoration and our willingness to enter into partnerships in carrying out such projects. They also demonstrate how we need to find new opportunities for partnerships and projects to offset environmental effects.