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Canada’s push for small nuclear reactors effectively stops real action on climate change.

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Are Mostly Bad Policy, 
“………So Who Is Advocating For SMRs & Why? Clean Technica, ByMichael Barnard, 3 May 21,

At present we see SMR earmarked funds in both Canadian and US federal budgets, $150 million in Canada and 10 times as much in the US, mostly for research and development with the exception of over a billion to NuScale to, in theory, build something. In Canada, four provinces — Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan — have joined forces in an SMR consortium. Bill Gates’ Terrapower has received another $80 million, as has X-Energy from the US DOE.

The failure conditions of small modular reactors are obvious. The lack of a significant market is obvious. The lack of ability to create a clear winner is obvious. The security costs are obvious. The lack of vertical scaling to thermal efficiency is obvious. The security risks and associated costs are obvious. The liability insurance cap implications are obvious. So why is all of this money and energy being thrown at SMRs? There are two major reasons, and only one of them is at all tenable.

Let’s start with the worst one. The Canadian provinces which are focused on SMRs are claiming that they are doing this as a major part of their climate change solutions. They are all conservative governments. Only one of those provinces has a nuclear fleet, although New Brunswick has one old, expensive, and due-to-retire reactor, as well as a track record of throwing money away on bad energy ideas, like Joi Scientific’s hydrogen perpetual motion machines. One of the provinces, Ontario, has been actively hostile to renewable energy, with the current administration cutting up 758 renewables contracts and legislating a lack of recourse as a very early act after election.

So why are they doing this? Because it allows them to defer governmental climate action while giving the appearance of climate action. They can pander to their least intelligent and wise supporters by asserting that renewables aren’t fit for purpose, while also not doing anything about the real problem because SMRs don’t exist in a modern, deployable, operable form yet.

The other major reason gets back to renewables as well. 15 years ago it was an arguable position to hold that renewables were too expensive, would cause grid reliability issues and that nuclear in large amounts was necessary. That’s been disproven by both 15 years of failures of nuclear deployments, but more importantly plummeting costs and proven grid reliability with renewable generation. Now almost every serious analyst agrees that renewables can economically deliver 80% of required grid energy, but there is still debate from credible analysts about the remaining 20%.

Mark Z. Jacobson and his Stanford team are at the center of this debate. Since the late 2000s, they’ve been publishing regular studies of increasing scope and sophistication on the thesis of 100% renewables by 2050. The 2015 publication saw a lot of pushback. At the time, my assessment of the fundamental disagreement was that the people who published a criticism of it thought the last 20% would be too expensive, and that both nuclear and carbon capture and sequestration would be necessary and scaled components.

Personally, I’ve done various aspects of the math, looked at grid reliability and transformation data from around the world, and looked at ancillary services requirements, and I think Jacobson and team are right. Further, that since we all agree that renewables are fit for purpose for 80% of the problem we should deploy them as rapidly as possible.

However, it’s very reasonable to make a side bet or two to ensure coverage of that last 20%. I don’t mind research dollars spent on SMRs, which is all most of the SMR expenditures amount to, outside of the Nu Scale bailout (which is added to the Ohio $1.3 billion bailout, which is added to the annual $1.7 billion overt federal subsidy, which is added to the annual hidden $4 billion security subsidy which is added to the $70 billion unfunded cleanup subsidy, which is added to the uncosted and unfunded taxpayer liability). Spending a few tens of millions of dollars in rich countries to ensure that we have that last 20% bridged is reasonable.

But the people asserting that SMRs are the primary or only answer to energy generation either don’t know what they are talking about, are actively dissembling or are intentionally delaying climate action.

May 4, 2021 - Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

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