‘It is an obstacle’: Elizabeth May discusses nuclear power in STU webinar

    Portrait of Elizabeth May, member of parliament for Saanich-Gulf island and leader of the Green party of Canada. For her guest lecture 'The climate Crisis and why Nuclear Power is not the solution.' (Submitted: STU Sustainability)

    Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, delivered a lecture on Feb. 27 on the inviability of nuclear power to address climate change in a webinar organized by the environment and society program. 

    Nuclear power is not carbon-zero, but it produces considerably fewer emissions than gas-powered generators, which is why it has been proposed as a solution to climate change, according to Deutsche Welle

    Many federal politicians support nuclear power, like Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s former minister of natural resources, who said in 2020 that he had no model “where we can get to net-zero emissions by 2050 without nuclear.”

    May disagrees. 

    “Nuclear energy has never lived up to its promises,” she said. 

    “Not only is nuclear power not necessary in reaching a decarbonized economy … it is an obstacle to decarbonization.”  

    According to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, there are five nuclear power plants in three provinces: New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec, the latter of which has been recently shut down. 

    The Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station is New Brunswick’s only nuclear power plant.

    The Higgs government invested $20 million in 2021 to help Saint John-based company ARC Clean Energy pay for its small modular reactors (SMRs), which revived the conversation of nuclear power in New Brunswick.

    May said the most important issue of nuclear power is political interests that prioritize profit over decarbonization. 

    She spoke on SNC-Lavalin, a company that provides services to the mining, gas, oil and nuclear industries. May accused it of being behind SMRs during the Harper government, which she adds is problematic due to their past bribery charges.

    “Let’s not forget we’re dealing with criminals here – they’re called SNC-Lavalin,” she said. 

    “It is a powerful for-profit corporation that Stephen Harper let buy the assets that were Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd [for $15 million], on which Canadians had spent billions of dollars.”

    In addition, May said nuclear power would never be cost-competitive with other forms of electricity generation like renewable sources. 

    May also points out that nuclear waste cannot be properly recycled, especially waste such as plutonium. 

    May finished her lecture by promoting renewable energy and restoring the lands around deep-oil wells and nuclear sites.

    “We have the smarts to save ourselves, and we have to call out the merchants of death and the liars,” she said.