top of page

Nuclear Advocacy Meets Labour

Dr. Chris Keefer, Ross Galbraith, Madi Hilly

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Dylan Moon  0:00  

Welcome back to Decouple. I'm Dylan Moon executive producer. We haven't got our normal programming this week because Dr. Keefer is on the road meeting with members of parliament and cabinet ministers in Canada. So enjoy a recording of a panel that Dr. Keefer was part of, along with other labour involved nuclear advocates Maddy hilly and Ross Galbraith be sure to stay tuned till the end to hear Dr. Kiefer's response to an interesting question on the future of SMR Rs.


Chris Keefer  0:27  

You know, I'm getting emotional, you know, both Rick Wyman's talk this morning. And what Ross was just talking about with his wife, and that that struggle around women's rights at the plant in the workplace.


I sincerely mean this, it's an honor to be amongst you. Labor, the strength of labor, I think it's all fair to say has diminished somewhat, since those heady post war days. But what Labour has accomplished in terms of creating a more just society, we cannot take that for granted. And it's a big part of why Libra has been, you know, as an outsider, why Labour has been a huge focus of mine, in terms of my vision of creating a civil society organization to promote nuclear energy. You know, y'all are the champions of this clean air, clean energy, medical isotopes, past, present, and future. And it's an honor, sincerely to be amongst you all.


So, starting on that, I think it's really important to recognize that we all stand on the shoulders of giants. And you know, Ross, just saying there, you know, I feel like whatever you whatever you just said was very complimentary. But you know, right back at you, Ross, we truly do stand on the shoulders of giants. And, you know, so much of the path that has been blazed in terms of saving nuclear plants. These are, these are not old, old, old arguments. There were a few kind of heterodox environmental thinkers. You mentioned, James Lovelock, a huge inspiration to me. You know, other other things that came along, but what's what we're seeing more recently is that this is coalescing into an actual movement, you know, and it's a bizarre phenomenon, you know, nuclear advocates, what the hell is that? So let me try to explain, you know, who the hell is, and why I do that now as a as a major focus of my life. So first off, I'm a father, I'm a father of a four year old. And he's the reason that I came to do this kind of work, but what did I do beforehand? So I'm a medical doctor, I'm an emergency physician, at practice in Toronto. And, you know, I've been I was on a picket line, when I was nine years old. You know, just, I've, whatever, for whatever reason, I was dragged out there and it was kind of fun, stopping cars and gently banging on Windows. But, you know, I've been a social activist my whole life, I've had a real sense of, of, you know, a service ethic. In my medical career that's looked like things like starting the first seasonal agricultural worker, clinic for Jamaican and Mexican migrant workers. My first years of practice were down in Branford near Simcoe County, there's a population of, you know, Mexican, and Jamaicans who are basically indentured to their bosses, and will be sent home if they pissed the Rosses off, or they get sick, and therefore had a really hard time accessing health care. So I was involved in in setting up a clinic to meet their needs. So you know, those are some of the issues I was involved with. I was a consulting physician at the Canadian Center for victims of torture. I was a health columnist in Canada's largest circulating indigenous newspaper. Did I ever think that I would find myself again, as a nuclear advocate? No. And if you talked to my 16 year old self, they would have wanted to put a hit on on me, because of what they thought about nuclear energy. You know, so much of the opinions that we have, are not based upon a careful scrutiny of the evidence out there, right. We form our opinions based upon tribal identity, shall we say, I used to drive past the Pickering nuclear station holding my breath, out of fear of being contaminated when I saw that Pickering nuclear Information Center. I'm not kidding. I mean, embarrassingly, that wasn't just when I was 16. That was into my university career, maybe even once I'd studied medicine and really should have known a lot better. And, you know, appearing before you guys, I guess we're two or three weeks after what I'm calling Pickering day, September 29. When our government did the right and common sense thing to extend and, and I'm quite confident we're gonna get that refurbishment is going to be a struggle. There's a lot more work to be done. But you know, I'm a dreamer. I've been called arrogant. I'll take I'll take it. You need a certain amount of arrogance to believe in something that seems impossible. And something that I take great pride in, is standing on the shoulders of giants carrying this legacy forwards, and, you know, my organization, we got into nuclear advocacy. And that started out looking like a couple folding tables on Nathan Phillips Square and some homemade pamphlets and just talking to whoever the hell would talk to us. And it was, you know, some of those folks were like the bible thumper up on his own little milk and milk carton, or whatever you call it right?


Very rapidly, we thought, again, how can we be most effective? What is the what is the key issue? How can we make the argument for nuclear compelling, and we realized that we were about to lose the picker nuclear station. And when you tie pronuclear arguments into the loss of, you know, what people like me call industrial cathedral, something that provides so much for our communities, in terms of, you know, the good union jobs, also for clean air, for medical isotopes. You know, I'm raising a four year old in this context, and I want him to be a part of a great, you know, functional society. And those are, that's the kind of society that's built, frankly, by labor. And nuclear is the kind of technology that that is a dream for labor. In that sense. I think there's the highest union density of any sector, right in in nuclear, it provides the kind of jobs that we fantasize over, when we talk about a just transition. And most of that just transition talk. It's fucking PR. It's a bunch of actors wearing a unblemished, you know, safety helmet that's never had a big on it, and a little fluorescent vest posing in front of a wind turbine or a solar panel. You know, and those those, there's, you know, Bob Walker told me this, there's no parking lot in front of a wind farm or a solar farm. Those jobs are as intermittent as the energy that they produce, right? They're transient, they're hard to localize to unionize. They're precarious, are not tied to community. Nuclear is the just transition. I'm going to leave it there because I don't want to be too long winded. I know. Mike was talking about keeping this conversational, but just again, just to reiterate a real honor to be amongst you all, your hard act to follow Ross, I didn't know everything that you've done. But hats off. Hats off to you.


Madison Hilly  7:23  

All right. As I said before, my name is MADI hilly, and I'm currently based in Chicago. So my path to nuclear was a little different, or very different from either of these two guys. I was a college student in 2017, really concerned about climate change, and decided that I wanted to dedicate my career to some sort of advocacy, energy advocacy. And in my, you know, I went to a really good school in the United States, I was studying Political Science and Environmental Sciences. And in all my time there, I had come into contact with nuclear power just once, and it was to watch a documentary about Fukushima Daiichi, and why we would no longer be talking about nuclear and a class about clean energy. And lucky for me, I stumbled upon the environmental case for nuclear power in early 2017. And thought, Wow, no one must know this. Otherwise, we'd be talking about it. And we would just have a lot of nuclear plants being built everywhere. And I stumbled into this massive politically charged issue, but with kind of a fresh perspective. And I was lucky, I found one of the only environmental NGOs in the world that was pro nuclear. And so from 2017, right out of college, until 2020, I traveled around the world, trying to save nuclear plants from premature closure. So in Taiwan, in Philippines, in Germany, and Belgium and France, I, I was traveling around the world, talking to journalists, to policymakers to just members of the public making the environmental case for nuclear power, and why we should keep our current reactors running. And a question that I got almost everywhere I went was, if nuclear power is so great, why is America shutting down its nuclear reactors? And that was a really hard question to answer. So finally, in 2020, I was a little sick of it and decided, yeah, it's time for me to get my own house in order. And so I left that environmental nonprofit and started the campaign for a green nuclear deal. And I wanted to continue to do the existing work of saving nuclear power plants and talking to the public about nuclear, but I was ready to move on to Something different, which is how do we transition from managed decline, just trying to keep what we have on as long as possible to actually articulating what a vision of nuclear growth would look like specifically nuclear growth that could scale up to meet the needs of climate change. And as soon as I started this advocacy effort, it was announced that two plants were going to be closed decades early in Illinois. So it's back on my old stuff, and had to launch this campaign to save these two plants. In Illinois, 90% of our clean energy comes from nuclear power, we have an amazing, massive ecosystem of unions tied to these six plants. And it was really the first campaign that I got to got to lead got to have control over. And I was blown away by the response from the unions, everywhere else in the US that we had gone. The unions were negotiating severance packages, as soon as the plant closures were announced, and I understand. But in Illinois, it was a massive mobilization of workers. It was incredible. And instantly, I knew I had to I had to talk to them, I had to, to support them and ask for their support in return. And it really changed my mind about what was important in advocacy. You know, as Chris said, I had been talking about emissions. But I was going into communities seeing teachers talk about what the loss of tax revenue would mean for their schools, workers whose fathers and even grandfathers had worked at these power plants that were facing the loss of their jobs, and who had hoped that their kids wouldn't be able to get good solid jobs at their local nuclear plant. It. It was extremely humanizing. And luckily, it was a tough battle. 13 months when we were told it was it was no big deal, we were going to save the plants, it would take three months, it took 13 months, the vote was held on the day that the Viron nuclear plant was scheduled to shut down for good. And the legislation to protect the plants passed by a single vote in the State Senate.


And that was exhausting. But I also, you know, reflected on that experience and thought we have massive amounts of coal plants scheduled for closure across our state by 2030. And the workers fighting for the nuclear plants were not in much different position than the workers that find their livelihoods tied to these coal plants. You know, it's it's tax revenue for their communities. It's good jobs local in the communities. These are communities and workers that have reliably powered our state for decades that are now told that they have to learn to code or accept transient low paying non union jobs. And that really radicalized me on my you know, how I felt about nuclear. Not only is it important for emissions, but it's really important in delivering a low carbon future that has great jobs that has economic prosperity. And I remember sometime in 2020, late 2020, early 2021, I was seeing all of this for the first time and people were like, Hey, there's this ER doctor in Canada, who you're sounding a lot of like, maybe you should talk to him. And so Chris, and I had our first call and it was, yeah, the rest is history. As you can see, I I come up to Toronto a lot now to spend some time with the Decouple guys. But that's, that's my story, and I'll put myself off there.


Mike Belmore  14:23  

So I want to be contrarian and start this panel by throwing out a contrarian question, which is, does activism actually matter? Right, so are the decisions around government policy and public and private investments in nuclear energy, actually something that get influenced by activism, or are they more or less determined by you know, backroom, politics, and powerful elites of industry and government, or just the market fundamentals of the relative price? sort of gas or wind or solar, those sorts of things, right? Because I know a lot of people you know who work in the industry who have a very fatalistic view of things. It's going to, you know, whether nuclear happens or not, in their view is kind of out of our hands, as activists, because there are these larger forces that will determine that no matter what we write, and so I'm going to, I'm going to challenge the nuclear activist and say, this nuclear advocacy, does activism actually matter?


Ross Galbraith  15:34  

Yes. Yes, absolutely. It's like inoculating. So think about this, right. 15 years ago, I had a chance to visit the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire. There are two there's two containment buildings there. One is operating. The other one was 90%, complete, maybe 95%. Complete. Use it for spare parts. Now. That's a well what happens like why didn't they finish it? And you knew killer sentiment took over in New Hampshire, they had a state election, no more new killer. So here you have a nuclear power plant almost completed. That's it done? Gone. Turn it off. I mean, so when we are advocates for nucular, we're acting like inoculations. Right, you know, against the anti nuclear sentiment that's out there, right, because they're activists too, right. And, and, you know, unless there's a certain level of public social licence, it's very hard to build nuclear facilities. So we are kind of like the countervailing balance, we're going to balance Anti-nuclear voices that are out there. And so it's absolutely essential to get things built, but also to keep things from being shut down, or just to create the environment where we can build something.


Madison Hilly  16:43  

I mean, there's even a worse example, unfortunately, in Ohio, where a nuclear plant, the Zimmer power plant was being constructed. And same thing anti nuclear forces moved in, and it was a coal plant, it became a coal plant. They just retrofitted with coal capacity. So I, you know, like I said, before, we won in Illinois by a single vote in the Senate, and we heard from the unions, we heard from the policymakers and their staffers that our work absolutely mattered, putting the pressure on, making it politically unpalatable to close down nuclear plants actually forced that into the legislation. And so some of the pushback that we get, especially now that we're in an energy crisis, is you know, Diablo Canyon had to be saved, because they're, you know, that's just the material and physical reality of the grid, the grid would collapse without it. But if we hadn't laid the groundwork, there, California politicians would not be considering a 20 year life extension of Diablo Canyon, it would be a piece by piece one year until they turned it off. So I think that's absolutely true that it's it's hard to even grant life extensions, let alone talking about building if the public is not on board. And let's face it, politicians are cowardly. And they're going to follow what they think is going to get them elected. So I think activism and actually engaging with the public in an open and honest way does really matter.


Chris Keefer  18:25  

Yeah, I do want to really reiterate what you just said, Byron and Dresden received by a single vote. I was on the outside watching that struggle occurring. I know, the blood, sweat and tears, the exhaustion, that Maddie was under. And I mean, that is extraordinary to large nuclear power plants. I think it was like 20% of Illinois electricity. bonkers, right? And if it had been shut down at that point, what that would have meant not just for the folks working there. But you know, ratepayers have saved a huge amount of money because the contracts that were organized are for pretty damn cheap electricity and the price of natural gas has gone through the roof. There's an economist I don't really like very much. His name is Milton Friedman. He's kind of the Chicago Boys Shock Doctrine. You know, the Pinochet is favorite economist. But you know, people I disagree with occasionally say things that I think are quite prescient and quite intelligent, and I'm going to butcher the quote slightly, probably, but he says, you know, only a crisis, actual or perceived results in real change. And the change that occurs depends on the ideas that are lying around. I've laid down for you. This report, which we're super proud of. There's one on each table. This is the the safe Pickering report. Obviously, you know, there was a regulator approved plan to refurbish Pickering in 2009. As you're saying, Mike, I mean, things have changed. This victory on Pickering wasn't just because this report existed. Obviously gas got very expensive gas not cool anymore from a climate perspective. Since we got rid of coal, you know, demand rather than sort of plateauing or dropping after the financial crisis now, SC Iraq with electrification. I mean, those are all important factors. But when the ISO came to the Ford government and said, oops are bad, you know, you're going to be facing brownouts and blackouts in 2025 2026. When you take the equivalent of Adam back one and two, the equivalent of Niagara falls off the grid, what are you gonna do about it? They were confronted with some choices. And one choice was to sleepwalk into more natural gas plants, right? And what did that mean? That meant a massive trade deficit shoveling piles of money across the border to the fracking fields of Pennsylvania, and skeleton crews at gas plants, or the other men investing right here in Ontario, in a sector that brings enormous economic benefit. And I'm going to talk about this later. Because there's a kind of uncomfortable situation in Ontario right now, where we're, we're in, there's been this kind of blue blue Alliance, of course, not the public sector unions, but some of the skilled private skilled trades, private sector unions, allied with the Ford government. And it presents a really interesting opportunity. Because, again, I don't want to go on too long winded here. But I do want to say not just speaking to the past victories, but to future victories. It's very much my theory, that organized labor, particularly skilled trades have an enormous amount of muscle to flex and can shift government policy. And that was a lot about, you know, what we argued for in this report. So again, you know, the ideas lying around are so important on Diablo Canyon Gavin Newsom held up a study done by 74 scientists talking about why it was important politicians need something they can refer to, you know, and really the template for that decision in terms of urgent life extension and refurbishment is there I know other people were talking about it, but it's a really, really important document. And I really want to recognize, maybe stand up for us for a second, don't too bad stand up, get on your feet. So our little, you know, band of ragtag folks, you know, we generated a lot of, you know, great ideas, we have great experts in our group, former, you know, ISO control room operators, some can do engineers, etc. Some, a bunch of doctors, actually five doctors, but we can only do so much in terms of actually getting something of this quality out there into the hands of policymakers. And so that requires, you know, paid staff and Dylan was absolutely extraordinary in this, this would not have happened. And I'm not sure that the life extension and refurbishment would have been as easy for the government to announce or to come to. Without that I am blathering. I've got so much more to say. But there's going to be more opportunities, Mike. So I'm going to cut myself off.


Mike Belmore  22:46  

And actually, I'll just second because I've had a little bit of a chance to get to know Don and, and I know Chris much better. But I also know, you know, you can be the face of something. And that's a really important role, but without somebody in the background, producing these reports and collating all this stuff and making it slick and digestible. It's still Thanks though, because, you know, again, we're kind of recognizing some some advocates here. But behind everybody, there are other people who are doing some really fabulous work. And I think that's, that's really important. So Chris, kind of foreshadowed the next thing that that we thought we might talk about, which is, you know, my, my provocative question was roundly rejected. Activism does matter. Advocacy does matter. What we doing here is not a waste of time. But what is the role because we're, we're in a house of labor here. What is the role specifically of unions and nuclear workers? And frankly, the broader labor movement in nuclear active nuclear activism and nuclear advocacy. So, my big question for the union staff and just itching I'm just itching to answer


Ross Galbraith  24:21  

this right. Well, listen, we work there. Right, we work there we work with these plants. People want to know is this safe, right? I just mentioned to somebody, you know, way back in the day, you know, there's an any new person who clears dangerous, it's gonna blow up. It's unhealthy. yatta yatta yatta. Right. You know, nothing is more powerful than a worker who says I work in that plant. I've been through every single corner of it. And I'm raising my family a mile down the road. I live here in Mesa Bay right next to the oil pro nuclear plant. I wouldn't live anywhere else in the world to talk to the you know, so. The other thing I'll say about this is we're seen as people that are on the inside I that we know what's going on. I mean, you know, engineers and companies and design companies can talk about the technology to like cows come home, right? And for a lot of people, it'll just feel like gobbly gook, right? It'll family. When you get too technical. It's like you're trying to deceive me, you're trying to trick me. But that's simple message. I'm raising my family right there. When I do that, if it put my family at risk that cuts through everything, right. The other thing I'll say about the unions is the interesting thing we faced in New Brunswick was it's a Crown Corporation, a Crown Corporation that would get kicked around by either the government in power or the opposition. And then they would flip every three or four years. And so they were really reluctant to take a public position. Now, it's refreshing here to see you know, some of the nuclear nucular operators are willing to talk about nuclear and the benefits and brings me power was in stealth mode, they did not want to be on the wrong side of whatever the eventual decision was going to be. So they were saying nothing. And so really, ie W had to take the bull by the horns, there was no one else that was going to do this. And then when we started to gain some traction, you know, I could talk to the MD power people, because maybe something came up and I needed some numbers about something I had always backchannels It's just like being you know, Switzerland, right, you know, an honest broker, you know, in diplomacy. And I can call somebody up on and say, what's the deal on this? Or what's this gonna cost? Or, you know, what's that look like? Right, and they would, you know, feed me this information, or sometimes, I would get a call from the Public Affairs Department. And they'll go, like, we can't talk about this. But once you give this journalist a call, I know you can talk about it, because we have a lot of mutual interests, like we have a lot of common interests, but they just couldn't do it. But we could, I mean, I knew what my job was, my job was to work for my members. Right. And part of that was telling the public why nuclear was important. So, you know, I think that we have a lot of credibility, you know, unions and workers are seen as credible. My final, I'm gonna turn it over in a second, but I was the talking head. But at a certain point, I also needed others, right, because, you know, the journalist might say, okay, Galbraith, you're paid to say this, right? Okay. Talk to this person, their utility maintainer, appointlet Pro, for talking to this person, they're an operator, right? And, you know, so you know, having people that are willing to step up. And sometimes, you know, if you're a leader, you're out there in Bolton's other people, like I said, Look, I can do that. And so finding those champions that are on the ground floor that can really draw on those messages. Yeah, and


Mike Belmore  27:34  

that's actually a nice pivot to you know, that that video that we had of the rally for Dresden with us an you know, it was a little bit of a narrow shot that video, but it looked like there were a whole hell of a lot of folks there. And not all of us get the chance to be in those back rooms with politicians, or, you know, with industry folks, or not all of us are going to get the chance to talk to a journalist. But I was really, you know, and I think that this is a place where, from what I've seen in a lot of the US fights around saving plants, where I think our sisters and brothers to the south are maybe a little bit further ahead of us, because they've got the bodies in the streets like that video was impressive to me, we'll put bodies in streets for all kinds of things. But in Canada, I've yet to see us put those kinds of bodies in the streets to save 4500 jobs and picker, right, or 1000s of jobs all over the sector. And so Maddie, like what was the importance of not just having, you know, senior elected union officials, but like rank and file members and and shop for activists involved?


Madison Hilly  28:53  

Yeah, so I think even Illinois, like that level of union participation was so unique to the state compared to all of the other states that we had weren't to save nuclear plants in. And you know, as activist, we've got this kind of crazy, like, we don't take no for an answer energy. Like Chris said, we're pouring our blood, sweat and tears, we've got the morale, but we don't have the resources. And we just don't have the numbers. You know, the the pro nuclear movement has grown, but it started as a very small number of us, you know, just getting out into the streets. So, and unfortunately, I think that activism, and, you know, grassroots advocacy hadn't really overlapped with Union and the labor movement. And just, my involvement with labor was totally coincidental where I realized my grandparents lived really close to three of our six nuclear plants, and all of the people that I had grown up with visiting in the summers when I would stay with my grandparents worked at the nuclear plant. So it was just natural that I would turn to them. And suddenly, you know, we have a 200 person motorcycle rally going around the nuclear plants in solidarity, we had busloads of workers from around the state coming to Springfield to back our rallies. And so I think a lot of times when you're told that your plant is going away, that your livelihoods are at risk, you're really missing that morale. And I think that's an important way that activism and unions can work together, that you have the bodies that can go in the streets, you have the resources to print amazing material to circulate, you have the network, and we have that can do will fight spirit. And I so I think that going forward, activist need to reach out to labor and labor need to be supportive of activists.


Chris Keefer  31:08  

So when I set out to do the bizarre thing of building a civil society, pro nuclear organization, independent from industry, you know, I had to sort of hypothesize that theory of change, how do we create a movement that that's powerful that can can force policy change? What does that look like? Well, you're right, it looks like bodies on the streets looks like bodies, in general, you need people, you need something to kind of act like a magnet to draw on the rest of society. As I said, we have a lot of unexamined beliefs that just come out of our political tribe. And we make a lot of our decisions based upon influencers, frankly, and what Ross was just saying that worker, a pointless process, I live a mile from here, that has a huge, huge value to it. It's not that we shouldn't be curious and you know, plow through the, you know, the evidence out there and the primary literature and reports if you're nerdy enough to do that, but that that has a huge value. So, you know, when I started developing that theory of change, you know, you argue with the people who yell back at you the loudest, so I spent a lot of time on the Green Party of Canada Facebook group, I spent a lot of time talking to environmentalists, it wasn't entirely a waste of time, because I saw it as a whetstone with which to kind of sharpen my knife. And, you know, if you're if you're going to be a nuclear advocate boiboi There's a lot of objections that come up. And it was important to a see if those objections, you know, held the the kernel of truth in them and be, well, what's the talking points to refute them because they're cultural memes. And we need to change that mean. So after about a year of that, I quickly realized that this was a dead end. It's in the DNA of these movements. And thankfully, Greta finally said, nuclear is better than coal, Germany shouldn't be phasing out coal. But we need the numbers. And I said to myself, well, there's 76,000 People working directly in this sector, and they've got a stake in it, and they understand it. They know it's not dangerous. They know all that it contributes to climate, to clean air to medical isotopes to the economy, etc. How do I in my small way, try and activate that base to be more politically active? And so you know, from day one, I've been trying to reach out and successfully reached out to Bob to Michelle, to folks at SPIA, to power worker union, etc. And, you know, the strength of some of our campaigns, one of them was a House of Commons petition. Right? I don't reinvent the wheel, I look at what anti nuclear activists are doing, frankly, they've been doing it a lot longer than myself. And I say it's interesting. How can I hijack that, but my own messaging, and you know, so I learned about this house of commons petition mechanism where 500 signatures plus, you know, a sponsoring MP gets your petition read on the floor of the House of Commons and mandates a government response. That's an incredible hack that the anti nukes figured out. And so we created a House of Commons petition around the green bond framework, the fact that nuclear is excluded alongside the sin stocks, gambling, Tobacco, Firearms, I don't think pornography was in there. But I mean, it was inflammatory, that nuclear and nuclear workers are being lumped alongside these industries, which are, you know, the sin stocks, we got over 10,000 signatures on those petitions. And I would bet you that the vast majority of those signatures came from people working within the nuclear sector, which means that we mobilize more than 10% of the nuclear sector to take political action. I'm not trying to say that you guys aren't doing some of this stuff on your own. But in terms of that theory of change, how do we create a movement and I don't see, you know, nuclear workers as part of Big Bad industry? Again, I look up to you guys, as heroes of adjust transition as climate Heroes is air, air, air pollution, heroes, etc. You know, again, that coal phase, which was 90% powered by nuclear has saved often on estimate at least 600 lives a year and 10s of 1000s of hospitalizations. Like look around the room at yourselves and give yourselves a pat on the back. You know, that's more lives than I've saved. My career is in emergency doctor. Anyway, I'm getting long winded. But hopefully that's an illustration, I think of how we can work together, I would do want to reiterate what Maddie was saying,


Actually, I'm gonna expand just a little bit longer. So, you know, how can labor you know, advocate or or I don't say be involved, it's not, you know, we're working on this all together. But there was a beautiful synergy that happened between see Fornia and labor, you know, a boilermaker. Jonathan Wait, happened to hear one of my talks and advocacy at CNA two years ago, that led to a great relationship working together, that led to some pretty significant funding, which is what enabled us to write this report. But also Boilermakers were one of the first private sector unions to endorse the Ford government. And, you know, they were thanks for that. And, you know, a meeting was offered. And because of the relationship that we developed, they said, We want to take that report and put it in front of, you know, the Minister of Energy and the premier, and we want you to come to that first meeting that we have with this government. And that's, that's how the report got into their hands. So there's a beautiful synergy. And again, you know, I'm not up here to beg. But in terms of the impact, you know, there's the, there's the kind of in front of the cameras guy, but all the stuff that's happening in the background that does require resources. And just as you know, you might pay your car insurance, or you might set a chunk of money aside for charity every year, I really do think that the union movement should be sort of factoring that that into their books, because again, this is exhausting work, we do it at a passion, we're a bunch of Bulldogs that never let go. But I think, you know, we've really proved our value. And I'm going to stop in just a second Mike, I promise. But you know, I used to practice palliative care. And you spend a lot of time with people who have two, three months left to live. And it's very philosophical. It's very existential, you know, what, what were your great accomplishments? What were your great regrets? What do you want to get sorted out in the last few months of your life? And I always try to live my life that way, you know, trying to make decisions like in terms of investment time with my kid, or do I have to do this right. In the end, it's all about relationships. And sometimes I asked myself, particularly before Pickering looked likely, I was like, Is this all just kind of an ego trip? Is this all just, you know, I don't know, distraction? Does this really matter? And, you know, when I realized that I'd done my small part to help save 7500 jobs. That felt pretty fucking good. You know, and on my deathbed, if I'm asked, you know, was that worth it? Yeah, I feel like I can genuinely say it was I know, this is sounding a little bit dramatic. And maybe it is, but you know, there's an examined life for you. And those are my thoughts, I'll cut it off here.


Mike Belmore  37:40  

Are you anymore,


Chris Keefer  37:42  

I surrender. Oh, there's more. There's more coconut in there, but I surrender my time.


Mike Belmore  37:49  

So what I'm gonna do, actually, in the interest of time, and I thought I might have to do this, because I'm very familiar with our panelists. Is I'm going to, I'm gonna kind of merge what was gonna be two questions into one. And I think they're kind of related anyway. So it's fine. But you know, I, I know, all the folks on the stage a little bit, I think they would all at the very least, describe their political orientation is progressive. I know you all think yourself as environmentalists, right? That a huge driver for what you do is caring about the environment. And yet, you know, in terms of the what I am increasingly liking to call the legacy environmental movement, right, the old school kind of Greenpeace, news type environmentalists, which still absolutely dominate the space in terms of progressive political parties, right? Whether it's the provincial federal NDP, here in Canada, whether it's a lot of Democrats in the US, right, whether it's the Greens who are a very powerful force in Western Europe. You know, all of these things that we might align ourselves with, whether it's environmental struggles and organizations that exist or political parties are against our industry, or against the industry that we believe is important for saving this planet is important for creating and maintaining good jobs, and healthy vibrant communities and a tax base and a healthy economy and all that kind of stuff. And I'm wondering, you know, again, given that I think you guys all consider yourself progressives, politically, you all consider yourself environmentalists. How do you reconcile the fact that a lot of public called progressive forces are against this industry. A lot of the vast majority of the environmental movement is against it. And is that something you see changing? And how? So throw it again under rocks.


Ross Galbraith  40:23  

So I'm going to say that I'm gonna, I'm gonna switch gears a little bit. I have a friend from British Columbia, his name is Chuck Keeling. And he, okay. Some of you may know, I used to be involved with the horse racing industry. My dad trained racehorses his whole life. Anyway, that's another industry. It's an industry that's having some tough times, right. Anyway, Chuck was in DC, and he was trying to advocate for slot machines at racetracks. Right, so talk about sin stocks, right. And, you know, Chuck's motto was make friends every day, he would go and meet with church groups who are like, totally opposed to any type of gambling. And he just wants to tell them about the industry and how it employed, you know, people that, you know, probably couldn't work in other industries that were training and grooming horses and the drivers and the breeders and the farmers that grew that, hey, you know, and oats and the impact in the agricultural sector. And so he would go into like the lion's den, like, you know, a bunch of church, people that did not want to hear about gambling. And he would go in and just say, it's more than that, though, here's how it supports these good things that we probably have some common interest in, right. And they might disagree with him, and they're not going to support gambling at racetracks. But he said, When I would leave the room, I just want to thank them for their time, really appreciate it. He said, My model was make friends every day. And I've adopted that Chris said earlier, it's about relationships, right. So even when I meet somebody who's like, totally opposed to new killer, right, or other things I'm interested in, I just try to not be, you know, adversarial, I try to, you know, use some of the interspace, you know, mediation techniques or conflict resolution techniques where, you know, listen to them, you know, maybe repeat back what they're saying to show that you've heard their concern, but without agreeing with them necessarily. And then try to prevent, present an alternative point of view. And so if I can plant some seeds, what I've found is sometimes, you know, those people will come back, and they'll want to know more, right? And so it's a relationship might take a long time, right? I'm not an adversarial person, but I do try to exert a lot of influence. And sometimes the way to do that is just building those relationships, planting those seeds, saying, Well, that's an interesting opinion. And I have a different one. And, you know, we can agree to disagree. A lot of people have kind of come around, and I, you know, I'm active in various levels of social media, but I'm not like strictly a labor guy. I'm not strictly a nuclear guy, no variety of interests, I mean, human being right. And some of the people that aren't from our sector, you know, they know that I kind of what I do, and they'll reach out, they'll say, tell me about nuclear. I want to know more about that. And I'll go have a cup of coffee with them right now. You know, like I said, New Brunswick, I said earlier, it's like, there's one degree of separation, right? So what more challenging if you're looking at the national international perspective, but, you know, I have had people reach out to me just because they know I'm involved in the sector. And I'm, you know, seeing those maybe an honest broker, and they just want to know, you know, where I'm coming from, right, I'm not going to jump down their throat and say that they're wrong, or that they're bad. I'm just like, I want to tell you about this. I think there's a lot of good, we have good stories to tell. Let's tell our good stories.


Madison Hilly  43:29  

Yeah, so this, this question reminds me of a saying, that comes from my friend from Kansas, which is, there is no winning in politics. So that's why we have college football. You know, when I, when I just want to win and have my allegiance to my team, I'm rooting for the Badgers. But in politics, I think it's exactly what Ross just said, you know, make new friends every day. I truly believe that. You know, there are I think it's important, particularly when it comes to the left or you know, progressive politics, distinguishing people who you're just never going to win over for whatever reason, they're, you know, and they are, have anti human values are cared more about the environment than people, you know, but there are genuinely people who have just been misguided, maybe drawing on that those legacy ideologies that you can lead with your values show that you care about the environment. And you know, we've converted a lot of people that way. It's also important not to leave people out of the movement, because they may not share every value that you hold. So when the pronuclear movement was just starting, it was a lot of climate concern and environmentally concerned people. And I had people in our coalition saying, well, we don't want anyone who doesn't believe in climate change. No one who doesn't think that climate is the most simple An issue can be in the tent. And I just said absolutely not, I can't be a part of a movement that would exclude someone who is works in a nuclear plant raises their family next to a nuclear plant cares about producing reliable, affordable power for their community, and maybe doesn't care about climate or doesn't. Yeah, doesn't have much interest in fighting that battle. And so you can, really by just saying, I am pro nuclear, for whatever reason you are in the tent, as far as I'm concerned. And I think if you just take it one issue at a time, there's no reason to have that strong allegiance to any tribal party, it really is an issue by issue basis.


Mike Belmore  45:49  

So Chris, I'm gonna ask you to be brief. I'm usually succinct, because I do want to engage with folks here.


Speaker 1  45:56  

Yeah, for sure. So I mean, I really lament the state of progressive politics. Those are my origins, my roots and my core values. And again, the reason I'm here speaking with you, folks, and again, that early speech by Rick Wiseman, Wyman, that was so goddamn inspiring. And I wish that we had, you know, the party of Tommy Douglas, you know, has been voted as you know, Canada's greatest, Canada's greatest Canadian. You know, and it is, it's very strange. You know, I was at the forefront of one of the people in the forefront of the bill 124 struggle as it impacted nurses last October. I feel conflicted, because, you know, of the work on Pickering, that's brought me into close contact with a government that, you know, has not been friendly to people I work with on a daily basis who are quitting their jobs in droves because of horrible working conditions and wage suppression, etc. So as Maddie was saying, it's it is interesting. I do think that and call me a dreamer. But I do think that, you know, this is a real pan partisan issue, for instance, saving Pickering. I mean, for the conservatives. You know, it's about Ontario being open for business, we're in the midst of decoupling from China, kind of in the west and reshoring. You know, there is that alliance forming with skilled trades and the people who actually build shit, as Frank subaqua said on the wire, you know, that that means that this element of labor, again, is becoming powerful for for the Liberals on Pickering. This was a continuation of Kathleen wins legacy of having continued the plant from 2018 to 2024. For the NDP, I mean, this is publicly owned power, and the most unionized sector really in Canada. For the greens, you know, you have the climate and the air pollution benefits. So I think this can really be a pan partisan issue, which is exciting for me. Because, you know, we really do need to move forward as a society as a democracy, speaking to everyone, and I really do hope that the deaf ears of you know, the, the greens and some degree, the NDP are opening up. And that's why it was so powerful and important. You know, the tour that Michelle organized to bring, you know, the rest of labor who's unfamiliar, or maybe even a bit hostile to nuclear, and, you know, our left wing party, the NDP, to come into our nuclear plant, see for themselves as as pretty, pretty good. Pretty good for you for Yeah.


Mike Belmore  48:36  

Okay, so I just want to ask you to bear with me for a little bit on time here, because your stomachs are probably growling, and we are running a little bit behind. But does anybody have any questions they want to ask or anything that they want to sing? And God wants to encourage?


Audience Member  48:55  

question just about, you know, Ross, you told the story earlier that I think it was really important, because oftentimes, I'm talking about nuclear waste, we recognize the technical issue is not the issue. It's a socio political level, not one with Bernard Lord. And, you know, do we make this agreement to really push it to the feds? And that ended up coming back on us. And I guess the question I have for all of you is coming from the workers, part of this nuclear workers Council is what are your thoughts on SMR? Because I get more questions about that at trade shows than any other topic. And I am far from convinced it's good for workers, every proponent I talk to show how great it is and how no workers would even have to be there. So I'm just curious, are SMR is a costume bargain? Like is this the way to keep workers in nuclear production?


Ross Galbraith  49:47  

So New Brunswick, you know, I mentioned earlier, you know, we've got a site there. It originally was supposed to be two units. There's one and there's two companies that want to build to the Moltex we Use burner and the RT 100. They want to build their first of their kind there to demonstrate it right. And, you know, I've had meetings with those folks from the very beginning. And I think that going forward, we're going to need so much electricity to decarbonize our society. I mean, we're talking like the equivalent of 36, muskrat falls, right? Or sight seas or something like 26,000 acres of solar, like all this stuff, in addition to tripling or quadrupling are our new killer, right. So I think, you know, the other thing, too, is, you know, large, like in New Brunswick, we've got room for like, one can do six, couldn't our grid can't support and just the population base, can't have too large units, it's not going to work that my friends who work in the transmission, the power system operators are like that stock gonna fly right? Here, Ontario, where, you know, half the population lives within like 100 kilometers here, it's absolutely necessary. You know, what about in the north, like, our quality of life depends on access to energy, our quality of life depends on our access to energy. So we think about the people that, you know, 90% of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the US border. But what about the other 10% that populates the northern areas of this country? Right, now they survive with diesel fuel for their electricity. Right. And so we are, you know, what about heavy industry that we need to decarbonize, that's not burning natural gas, you know, for, you know, smelting or chemicals or fertilizer production, right. I think the idea that the future, we're gonna need so much electricity, that we're going to have lots of room for large plants, like the CANDU units, you know, the EC six and other ones like that. But there's also room for SMRs. I think we're gonna need everything. And we're going to need renewables to right like, like, earlier, we kind of talked about the kind of tribalism, right, so there'll be people that'll say, We need all renewables. And I can explain about what happened in Texas. I can explain it, but what happened elsewhere? And I say we need a base load to back that up and the best base load is nucular, right. But if I say, I'm not going to be able to convert those people and say, hey, just it's got to be 100% nucular, it's, I say, it's going to be everything. Like, I don't want to alienate those people that want renewables, because I think in the future, we're going to need all that and all the nuclear even get and more of everything, I think, at the end of the day, we're going to end up with more nucular when the cost of war ends have a kind units comes down and that kind of thing. But um, so my answer is, you know, one can do six, we have 1000 members there, or 20, or one hundreds, which would be 1000. People. You know, I think that the future is, if we don't have more nuclear, we're ended up with things like gas or solar, or, you know, a windmill wind turbines, which don't employ any people. Right. So I think the future will definitely have small modular reactors. And I think there's still lots of room for large units like we have today,


Chris Keefer  53:06  

to jump in for for just a quick second.


Speaker 1  53:13  

No, I think the question asked about SMR is, is really important. And I wanted to comment on the kind of all of the above ism that I hear a lot. I'm all of the best guy. And, you know, I've been told many times, you know, you can't say anything bad about wind and solar, that's just going to ruin your nuclear advocacy. And I really want to push back against that. It's not to say that I want to be inflammatory, or a bro from the true perspective of that word of being rude and arrogant to people. But it's personal for me, right? In Ontario. By 2040, we will have spent $60 billion on subsidies through the Green Energy Act on wind and solar. You know, we have limited time, we have limited resources, we can't afford to make the wrong decisions, right. The refurbishment of Pickering. We're not sure what exactly that's going to cost maybe 10 billion, maybe 12 billion. It almost didn't happen because of a failure a miss a massive misallocation of resources. Right? So we can't afford to say, you know, all the above, we just want to be friends with everybody. That's that's not I think, the route to success, because we already are dealing with such energy illiteracy, and frankly, deception in terms of the promises that are being made by the big environmentalist, and by the wind and solar industry. And if we don't challenge some of that, again, in a polite, respectful way, then there is no role for nuclear if wind and solar can do it all. And if we're just saying we can back you up. That's not an inspiring story. There's so much to be proud of here. And so I have charted that water. I think Maddie has been in a similar boat there. And I think, you know, there's a there is a all of the above, there's a role for different kinds of advocates taking the position they'll take, but I think it's so important that the discourse is not policed. And I think one of the reasons that this report is powerful is that it does really Lay out the reality of the Green Energy Act. And it shows you know the cost of what we did. You know, imagine we put 60 billion into nuclear where we'd be now where we'd be on our way to doubling our grid, or tripling our grid to electrify the rest of society heat pumps transportation, just very briefly on SMRs. Clearly, there are smaller grids that will require them. I think Darlington is a site that's unique in North America, it's got an environment of an approved environmental assessment, it's licensed for 4800 megawatts, Ontario's facing an absolute crunch. You know, we are a tier one nuclear nation, we're really, really a tier one nuclear province. Of course, it makes sense for us to pioneer the first of a kind, small modular reactor in the West. But we've got three more sites there on the site license for 1400 megawatts, we can build one quarter of that, or we can really use that site. And, you know, the benefit, the rationale around SMR is, in my mind, it comes out of about a decade old thinking, which was, you know, we've got to rein back our ambitions, you know, electricity demands not really going up, we will never have societal support for nuclear that might translate into financial support into access to cheap capital. And that's all rapidly changing with this energy crisis. And, you know, as other speakers have said, the economic development benefits of candy are massive, right? Beyond the you know, what's the levelized cost of electricity, it's hard to calculate then an economic multiplier factor in for every dollar in 1.4 dollars out. I mean, that is absolutely massive. And above all, I'm speaking to, you know, the Human Factors side of nuclear supply chain and a skilled workforce Trump design and can do is a goddamn great design, we know that we it's never operated better than it is now. And it does so much more than just, you know, the clean power and the lack of air pollution that gives us you know, makes us a major player in medical isotopes. Right. So, you know, we are so teed up with this refurbishment, we're you know, it's not just in the in the blueprints and the blue boards, you know, making exciting new stuff. It's exciting, don't get me wrong, right. But we have the people that are figuring out how to pull the pressure tubes out into our refurbishments quicker that people machining the parts and that is what is so neglected by the the kind of establishment or the people steering the ship. So all of the best and we are uniquely equipped we have the most pro-nuclear political jurisdiction in the Western world and I think because of our you know, Canada's largest infrastructure project, we have you know, at least 30,000 people that are no can do intimately Well, all we got to do is pour some concrete and lay some nuclear rebar but we can do the rest of you know banging up those those candy reactors and we really should and we need the time to plan is now Okay, shut up. Mike.


Chris Keefer  57:38  

Sir.



bottom of page