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Canada: Federal gifts for the nuclear and mining industries

The government needs a more transparent and evidence-based approach to decision-making when assessing choices for decarbonization.

Policy Options, by Mark Winfield, January 25, 2023

Canada’s nuclear industry got an important pre-Christmas gift from the federal government in the form of the announcement of its decision not to conduct an assessment under the 2019 Impact Assessment Act of a proposed small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) at the Point Lepreau site in New Brunswick.

The Lepreau SMR proposal has been highly controversial, given its reliance on technologies where the performance, costs and risks are essentially unknown. Moreover, serious questions have even been raised about whether the project, intended to reprocess fuel from the Lepreau CANDU reactors, would violate the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It would have seemed precisely the kind of situation where a very thorough, public review is needed before a project can proceed. The federal government has chosen otherwise.

The Lepreau decision capped a string of federal decisions and multi-billion-dollar announcements around technologies claimed to be essential to decarbonizing Canada’s economy. There was the $970-million investment through the Canada Infrastructure Bank in another SMR project at Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington facility. A “critical minerals strategy,” also released in December, reads like a mining industry wish list. Billions had already been committed to “critical minerals” projects and infrastructures. A tax credit for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), with a value in the range of $1.5 billion per year, was introduced in the March 2022 budget. Hundreds of millions more have gone into fossil-fuel-based “blue hydrogen-related” technologies…………………………………………………………………

The SMR component of the federal government’s approach to “clean” electricity, for its part, carries high trade-off risks, ranging from direct impacts to questions of geopolitical security. At the same time, the technology remains immature and unlikely to make any contribution to the achievement of Canadian or global emission-reduction targets for 2030 or even by mid-century. Rather, it may represent a “dead-end” pathway – albeit one with very significant risks of major legacy costs and impacts………… more


January 25, 2023 - Posted by | Canada, politics

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