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Canadian government in the grip of the nuclear lobby’s NICE dishonest spin about small nuclear reactors.

”…………….To date, not a single SMR has been built in Canada, but no matter, the technology is the current darling of nuclear power circles, and not just at home, either; other countries, from China to the United States, are pursuing the development of SMRs. Currently, 12 proposals for SMR development are winding their way through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) pre-licensing vendor review process, which enables CNSC staff to provide feedback on proposed designs at a company’s request. But not a single project has yet been approved.

For the time being, any vision of SMRs is largely aspirational. A Conference Board of Canada report in March on SMRs outlined that from concept to commercialization, the technology will require about a billion dollars of development expenditure. The same report noted that as an emerging technology, costs are still uncertain, and the “risky pre-commercial phase needs capital investment, but governments will be reluctant without major private capital commitment.”

It’s early days for financing the technology. For instance, one infusion of federal funds, the $50 million granted to New Brunswick’s Moltex Energy in mid-April, only supports research and development, employee recruitment and the expansion of academic, research and supply chain partnerships, not the physical construction of that firm’s SMR.

Beyond financial considerations, the Liberal government will have a tough time convincing environmentalists to embrace the merits of SMRs, or any nuclear power, as a clean energy source. More than 100 groups have signed a letter issued by the Canadian Environmental Law Association condemning the government’s push to pursue nuclear power and SMRs. Among their concerns are that SMRs are more expensive to develop than renewable energy and that the reactors are “dirty and dangerous,” creating new forms of radioactive waste that are especially dangerous to manage.

For now, however, nothing is slowing the momentum. In mid-April, the Canadian Nuclear Association triumphantly announced Alberta was joining Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan in the development of SMRs.

Those aren’t the only recent developments in the burgeoning SMR industry. Ontario Power Generation is teaming up with SMR developer Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation to develop a micro modular reactor at Chalk River. Ontario Power Generation is also carrying out engineering and design work on SMRs with GE Hitachi, Terrestrial Energy, and X-energy…….

Europe is now shifting away from nuclear power. In 2019, solar installed capacity exceeded nuclear for the first time in the EU, with 130 gigawatts versus 116 gigawatts, according to the World Nuclear Industry Status annual report, which provides independent assessments of global nuclear developments. And a technical expert group convened in the EU chose not to recommend nuclear energy when asked to advise on screening criteria that would substantially contribute to climate change mitigation or adaptation while “avoiding significant harm” to other environmental objectives.,…..

the federal government has been lobbying hard on behalf of the industry since at least 2019. The Department of Natural Resources, for instance, is a member of the international initiative Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future, or as it’s better known, NICE,  Besides Canada, members include Japan, the United States, and a number of nuclear associations. The goal “is to ensure that nuclear energy receives appropriate representation in high-level discussions about clean energy.”

Freelance researcher Ken Rubin turned up a number of documents using freedom-of-information requests that showed the federal government is collaborating with NICE and others to promote nuclear power and SMRs. The federal government, for example, offered $150,000 for the development of a “Top 20 book of short stories” on “exciting near-term nuclear innovations” designed to showcase nuclear power as an environmental force for good. The book includes stories on the safe storage of nuclear waste as well as on the emerging SMR market.

According to the book, uses for the latter technology include “energy parks” providing heat for industrial processes, steam for heating and electricity for cooling homes, offices and shops, all without emissions. The story breathlessly declares: “This isn’t science fiction.”

No matter how hard the government lobbies the public for a NICE future, though, it’s going to remain a tough sell to Canadian environmentalists. While the environmentalists have nothing specific to fight yet, given that a viable SMR has yet to be built, they’ll be ready when the technology reaches development. Already, a who’s who of groups has signed a letter protesting the next thing in nuclear.

Theresa McClenaghan, CELA’s executive director and counsel, told Canada’s National Observer: “It’s not a climate answer for many reasons, including the fact it’s not realistic and it’s way too far down the road for us to meet any serious climate targets. We’ve characterized it as a dirty, dangerous distraction.”

Susan O’Donnell, a researcher and adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of New Brunswick and a nuclear activist, says SMRs are too slow and costly as a climate crisis solution. “It’s important to remember that these technologies basically don’t exist yet,” she said. “They’re at a very early stage in development. They are speculative technologies. It will take at least a decade to get them off the drawing board and then it will take much longer than that to find out if they work.” – from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , 20 May 21

May 25, 2021 - Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

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