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The push for small nuclear reactors – just a distraction, that helps fossil fuel industries keep going

Small modular nuclear reactors distract from real climate solutions, Regina Leader Post, Darrin Qualman, Glenn Wright, Jul 03, 2020  •Last fall, the premiers of Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick pledged their support for small modular reactors (SMRs). Last week, Saskatchewan’s government announced a Nuclear Secretariat to oversee development of those reactors. Many in Saskatchewan took these announcements at face value and began questioning the cost, feasibility and safety of these units. To do so, however, is to misunderstand what’s really happening. The reality is that three premiers lacking adequate emission-reduction plans pledged themselves to speculative technologies that will take a decade or two to get up and running, if ever. SMRs are another distraction to shift the focus away from provincial records of increasing emissions. The SMR announcement follows a pattern of past policy declarations that serve to distract the public and delay effective policies…..

As the lustre was fading from biofuels, Saskatchewan’s government trotted out a new fix: Carbon capture and storage (CCS). ……..  As a political tactic, CCS did what it was supposed to do: Delay action on emissions reduction and paper over a huge policy gap. Rather than admitting it had no climate plan, the Saskatchewan government spent years pretending CCS would be an emissions fix.
SMRs are the third chapter in the government’s use of distracting technologies to kick the climate change can down the road. Thoughtful, informed people can disagree over nuclear energy, but even those who support nuclear power should be angered by what the government is doing: Not supporting nuclear, but rather using it cynically as a fig leaf to cover up the government’s ideologically driven foot-dragging on climate solutions
The government’s stalling tactics are irresponsible. There are numerous proven technologies, policies, and strategies to address climate change and reduce emissions being implemented worldwide. Our government is delaying because it chooses to, not because it has to. In the best case, SMRs are 2030s or 2040s technologies. But solar and wind power can provide low-emission electricity today. In fact, our province has among the best solar and wind resources in the world and those power supplies can be deployed at less cost, lower risk and much more quickly. It’s strange that the sunniest province in Canada has not developed this world class renewable resource. Real leadership would focus on wind and solar. Instead, the government dealt a body blow to solar installers when it rolled back the net metering program.
Real leadership would focus on wind and solar. Instead, the government dealt a body blow to solar installers when it rolled back the net metering program.
Canada has committed to cut emissions by 30 per cent (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. We have lots of work to do. And the sooner we start, the smoother the transition will be. We must begin ramping up employment to support this transition: Residential solar installation, utility-scale wind turbine construction, battery and power-storage installation, new net zero buildings, energy-conserving building retrofits and adding capacity to the electrical grid for automobile charging and building heating and interprovincial electricity transfers.

Solutions are within reach. Jobs await. SMRs are a distraction. Let’s not be fooled again. Let’s demand rapid, effective emissions reduction now as part of a revitalized Saskatchewan economy.

Darrin Qualman is director of climate crisis policy and action with the National Farmers Union. Glenn Wright is an NFU member, farmer, engineer, student at law, former uranium-sector worker and electric vehicle advocate.

July 6, 2020 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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