Despite Liberal claims, nuclear power will not save the environment

MEPs in the European Parliament hold up anti-nuclear posters. Photo: European Parliament/Flickr

Want a shiny new nuclear reactor in your community? Justin Trudeau has a deal for you.

In the lead-up to the 2015 election, he said the economy and environment "go together like paddles and canoes. Unless you have both, you won't get to where you are going." Such vacuous statements helped him win a majority government. 

Did Liberal voters think "real change" would mean maintaining fossil fuel subsidies, buying the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and promoting new nuclear reactors?

When the Liberals renamed the cabinet committee on "Environment, Climate Change and Energy" to "Environment and Clean Growth" on August 28, 2018, Trudeau's office said this "reflects the government's commitment to addressing climate change through growing the economy." But putting "clean" in front of "growth" is a con job -- like putting "sustainable" in front of "development."

Behind closed doors in the "clean growth" cabinet committee, the minister of natural resources will discuss next year's "Clean Energy Ministerial" -- a gathering of energy ministers from the world's richest nations, hosted by Canada. 

One of Canada's objectives for this meeting, together with the U.S., is to advance plans for the "next generation" of nuclear reactors. In preparation, a federal nuclear reactor "road map" will be released next month at a Canadian Nuclear Society conference in Ottawa subsidized by the Trudeau government.

For the one-percenters, "clean growth" includes nuclear power. The military industrial complex needs nuclear power and nuclear weapons just as much as it needs fossil fuels.

Government officials and lobbyists who call nuclear power "clean energy" cannot provide a shred of evidence that a new generation of reactors will help Canada and other nations achieve the Paris Agreement greenhouse gas reduction targets. 

The real point of this exercise is to perpetuate the military industrial complex. 

The nuclear industry is desperately casting about for ways to attract young scientists and engineers. It promotes fantasies of reactor technologies that will provide carbon-free electricity, eliminate existing nuclear waste stockpiles, desalinate ocean water, power remote Indigenous communities, and enable travel to Mars.

But these technologies have been around for decades. They are enormously expensive. They require huge government subsidies, waste taxpayer dollars and generate budget deficits characteristic of the U.S. military industrial complex.

Climate justice incompatible with economic growth

Addressing climate change through economic growth is an ecocidal fantasy. To claim that humans can appropriate more and more of the planet's resources, and still protect the environment and halt climate change is ludicrous.  

This is business as usual -- continuation of the "great acceleration" created by post-Second World War governments who transformed the war machine into the "peacetime" military industrial complex.

Politicians and corporate executives -- the one-percenters -- have no intention of putting the brakes on this machine. 

They need to fuel the nuclear sub fleets in the U.S. and U.K., and the armoured vehicles that Canada makes and sells to Saudi Arabia. They will try to extract every last gram of uranium and drop of oil. Nuclear and fossil fuels are both the means and end of war. 

Ultimately, the military industrial complex is waging war against the planet, against ourselves and against all living creatures. The Earth is in great peril.

Revolution is brewing. Activists, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike are rejecting these corporate-driven technological fantasies. Energy is changing. The capitalist system will not survive. But what will replace it?

Ole Hendrickson is a retired forest ecologist and a founding member of the Ottawa River Institute, a non-profit charitable organization based in the Ottawa Valley.

Photo: European Parliament/Flickr

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