Guest commentary by Chief Terry Richardson, Pabineau (Oinpegitjoig) First Nation.
This commentary first appeared in The Hill Times on September 18, 2023. It is shared with the author’s permission.
We are facing a problem worldwide that we urgently need to solve.
Our reliance on fossil fuels is leading to a catastrophe for the Earth, yet continuous power generation is essential to maintain our way of life. We need a solution that can meet our energy needs while not causing more undue harm to Mother Earth.
Indigenous people are stewards of the land, and have always been in touch with the lands. We understand the importance of considering the long-term impact of our decisions – not just how they will affect this generation, but also our next seven generations. If we want these generations to be able to access energy, we need to make smart, informed decisions now.
The importance of reliable, clean energy for the good of the land and its people has drawn me to nuclear as an essential part of the solution. As we move forward, I believe that nuclear energy can address the energy concerns of not just the province of New Brunswick but the entire country and the world. This is a source that will solve our energy needs for many years to come.
Renewables like wind, solar, and hydro can and should be part of the solution as well, but they cannot meet our needs on their own. What do you do when the sun doesn’t shine, the wind doesn’t blow and the water doesn’t flow? We still need a sound baseline power source.
Nuclear is the best complement to renewables that we have. Around a third of New Brunswick’s power already comes from nuclear – we already know it works. Its power generation isn’t dependant on weather conditions, and because it doesn’t emit greenhouse gasses, it doesn’t contribute to climate change. Nuclear is the proven, reliable source we need.
Nuclear energy does come with an asterisk – waste. While nuclear produces relatively small amounts of waste, some of it remains radioactive for thousands of years. While we know how to manage and store it securely, it’s still something we are leaving in the care of future generations for a long time.
But now, we have a company in New Brunswick developing another way to handle nuclear waste. Moltex Energy can recycle that waste and use it to produce more energy. In doing so, the process can not only reduce waste volumes, but also its radioactivity.
As well, this nuclear waste recycling process allows us to do more with the resources we already have. We would not burn the bark off a log and throw away the rest of the wood when building a fire, but with conventional nuclear reactors, we are doing just that with their fuel. Nuclear fuel recycling allows us to make the best possible use of the valuable resources Mother Earth has given us, maximizing the energy we are able to produce from them.
I realize that at first glance, nuclear energy and First Nations can appear to be strange bedfellows. But in reality, nuclear’s focus on the future and on building something to benefit future generations aligns with traditional First Nation values and wisdom. If we want to create a prosperous future for our children, grandchildren, and the next seven generations, then I believe that nuclear energy development and innovation must be a priority. Also, if we want to leave a better world for those who come after us – one where people enjoy abundant energy, as well as a healthier planet – we need to start now.