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Small Nuclear Reactors are all the hype. But here’s the reality

promoting a dizzying assortment of  next-generation models that have collectively been dubbed “small modular reactors” (SMRs).……..

The real challenge “is answering all the safety questions that any good regulator would ask: ‘How will this behave if there’s an earthquake or fire? What happens if there’s a complete blackout? What happens if this component fails?’ ” Answering such questions requires an intensive research program and countless hours of laboratory work, which can take decades. There’s no guarantee the answers will be favourable.

Governments, utilities and the nuclear industry hope small modular reactors will power Canada’s future. Can they actually build one?  The Globe and Mail MATTHEW MCCLEARN, JULY 17, 2021  Ontario Power Generation plans to make a decision this year that might determine the future of Canada’s nuclear industry.The utility, by far Canada’s largest nuclear power producer, promises to select a design for a 300-megawatt reactor it proposes to build at its Darlington Nuclear Generating Station by 2028. The estimated price tag: up to $3-billion. It would be the first new reactor built on Canadian soil in well over three decades. OPG won’t make that decision alone, because it’s intended to be the first of many reactors of the same design built across the country.Canada’s nuclear industry desperately needs a next act…..  With a supply chain of more than 200 companies covering everything from uranium mining, to operating power plants, to decommissioning them, Canada is considered a Tier 1 nuclear country.

But lately, this machine has been devoted to squeezing more life out of old CANDU units, largely through Ontario’s $26-billion plan to refurbish its Darlington station, east of Toronto, and the Bruce Power complex, on Lake Huron. The industry has few, if any, exciting new products for sale……
but  renewable forms of generation – hydro, wind, solar and biomass – have become preferred tools for decarbonizing electricity grids. And utilities can buy inexpensive wind turbines and solar panels today.

Seeking to catch up, dozens of nuclear vendors sprung up just in the past few years, promoting a dizzying assortment of  next-generation models that have collectively been dubbed “small modular reactors” (SMRs)………

U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson have also indicated they will also support SMR development, as have some prominent investors, notably Bill Gates.

Here’s the reality: Most SMRs exist only as conceptual designs and are not yet licensed for construction anywhere.

The promised assembly lines that would churn them out like clockwork don’t exist


Here’s the reality: Most SMRs exist only as conceptual designs and are not yet licensed for construction anywhere. (The international law firm White & Case says the only contemporary SMR in existence is located on a vessel anchored off Russia’s Arctic coast. According to reports, construction of China’s first SMR recently commenced on the southern island of Hainan.) The promised assembly lines that would churn them out like clockwork don’t exist; many vendors are early-stage companies with hardly any revenues.
To change this, the federal government will probably have to open wide the taxpayer’s wallet. And the industry must move quickly from bold marketing claims to commercially viable products

OLD IDEAS, NEW PACKAGESMR is a marketing term, rather than a technical one, reflecting the industry’s aspirations rather than what it can deliver today.In Canada, SMR has come to describe reactors that generate 300 megawatts or less. That isn’t exactly small – it’s enough to power a small city – but for comparison’s sake, Ontario’s largest current reactors generate around 900 megawatts. Some proposed SMRs would produce just a few megawatts. The industry pitches them for remote Indigenous communities, industrial use (at mines, for instance) and tiny island nations.Small reactors aren’t new. They’ve been used in icebreakers, submarines and aircraft carriers. And many SMRs are based on concepts contemplated as long ago as the 1950s.

Oakville, Ont.-based Terrestrial Energy Inc., one of OPG’s potential partners, intends to use molten salt, rather than water, as a coolant. The company says its technology is a “game-changer”: The Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) would operate at much higher temperatures (about 700 C) than conventional reactors (about 300 C)….

As for the “modular” part, the notion is that SMRs would be mass-produced on assembly lines and shipped to where they’re needed, rather than custom-built onsite. This plug-and-play approach is intended to reduce purchase costs and accelerate deployment…………….

SMRs appeal to certain nationalist impulses as well: Canada is, after all, the world’s second-largest uranium producer.
…… The industry has made limited progress in addressing wastes from decades-old reactors; it’s unclear how novel detritus from SMRs might be handled. Perhaps most damagingly of all, reactors have earned a reputation for being overpriced relative to other forms of generation, and oftenbeleaguered by massive delays and cost overruns.

SMR GAME PLAN

The nuclear industry’s plan to reverse its flagging fortunes begins at Darlington. OPG announced late last year it was working with three SMR developers on preliminary design and engineering work: North Carolina-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Terrestrial Energy and X-energy. It promises to select a winner by year’s end….
Naturally, of course, no SMR developer aspires to be a one-hit wonder. So next up: Persuade Saskatchewan to build a fleet of the same reactors……….. Winning Saskatchewan would be a major coup: Jurisdictions that go nuclear tend to stay nuclear for decades. ……  quandary remains: Prospective SMR buyers such as SaskPower can only look at conceptual designs. “There’s been some small demonstration units built, but nothing of the size that we would expect to see in operational terms,” Mr. Morgan said.

……... NUCLEAR GHOSTS Twenty years ago, Canada’s nuclear industry staked its future on updating the venerable CANDU design. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), the
 Crown corporation that pioneered it, talked up the Enhanced CANDU 6, CANDU 9 and Advanced CANDU Reactor (ACR) as safer, faster to construct, cheaper and better than previous models. The federal government pumped untold sums into their development.None were licensed. None were ordered. None were built.

In 2011, the federal government sold AECL’s reactor business to SNC-Lavalin for a paltry $15-million. After six decades of development, and dozens of bona fide reactors built and operated in seven countries, the CANDU had become nearly worthless.

The proposed site for OPG’s first SMR, next to the existing Darlington Station, is an artifact of that era. In 2006, OPG began preparing to build up to four reactors at the same location. AECL’s Enhanced CANDU 6 and the ACR 1000 were candidates.But the project was derailed in late 2013 when the Ontario government asked OPG to stand down, essentially because the province no longer needed the power. The viability of those “next-generation” CANDUs, however, was never clear.

It’s relatively easy to sketch a reactor design on the back of a napkin, or create promotional videos and brochures with snazzy renderings. Professor M.V. Ramana, of the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute for Global Issues, says a few graduate students can develop a conceptual design for a few hundred thousand dollars.

But it’s quite another matter to advance a design to the point of actually building it. The real challenge, Prof. Ramana said, “is answering all the safety questions that any good regulator would ask: ‘How will this behave if there’s an earthquake or fire? What happens if there’s a complete blackout? What happens if this component fails?’ ” Answering such questions requires an intensive research program and countless hours of laboratory work, which can take decades. There’s no guarantee the answers will be favourable.

……………  Even a mature design isn’t enough. Just as Ford wouldn’t build an assembly line for the Mustang Mach-E if it thought it could sell only a handful, SMR vendors need assurances they’ll receive enough orders to justify mass production. It’s unclear how many orders would be sufficient, but published estimates have ranged from as low as 30 to well into the hundreds.

……… Prof. Ramana said many of the earliest power reactors met the modern definition of SMRs. But their diminutive size was rarely a virtue: It meant they couldn’t take advantage of economies of scale, resulting in high costs per unit of electricity generated, not to mention disproportionately greater volumes of radioactive waste. Many were shut down early.

“The lesson that we learned from some of these experiences is that designs that might seem captivating on paper might not actually work so well in real life,” Prof. Ramana said. “SMRs are not going to be economical. You can see that from the outset.”

………………. FEDERAL SUPPORT – THE CRUCIAL INGREDIENT. In contrast with the CANDU, the nuclear industry promises SMRs will be funded largely by the private sector. Many observers are skeptical. “Without government programs and financial support promoting SMRs, industry alone is unlikely to invest in the high up-front costs,” opined lawyers at Stikeman Elliott in a recent commentary.
Nor are non-nuclear provinces likely to make the leap alone. Mr. Morgan confirmed Saskatchewan seeks federal support to deploy SMRs, although the form of that support has yet to be determined.

For several years, federal and provincial government officials have signalled they want Canada to be one of the earliest adopters of SMRs. They’ve partnered with industry to produce road maps for making that happen. The governments of Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta have agreed to collaborate on advancing SMRs. Mr. O’Regan, the federal Natural Resources Minister, has fully embraced the industry’s claim that Canada’s clean-energy transition cannot succeed without them,

So far, however, such pronouncements haven’t translated into generous subsidies. The federal government has channelled just meagre amounts of funding to SMRs, such as $20-million last October toward development of Terrestrial’s IMSR, and $50.5-million to New Brunswick-based Moltex Energy in March.
The latest federal budget didn’t mention SMRs. Nevertheless, studying its fine print, lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault LLP noticed what they described as “exciting policy levers.” They pointed, for example, to an income tax break of up to 50 per cent for manufacturers of zero-emission technologies. There was also $1-billion offered for clean tech projects “where there is a perceived lack of patient capital or ability to scale up because of the size of the Canadian market.” SMR vendors could capitalize on such programs, the lawyers concluded, depending on how they’re implemented.

Meanwhile, SMR vendors seek relaxed safety requirements that could make SMRs more cost-competitive. 
……It’s unclear to what extent the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will acquiesce………….
Obtaining a licence typically takes a few years. “Experience has shown that it will be dramatically affected by the [proponent’s] capability of submitting adequate and complete information on day one,” Mr. Carrier said. Only one SMR has so far commenced a full licensing review: Ottawa-based Global First Power Ltd. submitted documentation for its Micro Modular Reactor in March.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a long-time opponent of nuclear power, released a study in March which concluded that SMR designs, including molten salt reactors, are no safer than previous designs. It therefore urged regulators to maintain current requirements.

“The intense scrutiny, from policy makers and the public – given the safety and security angle combined with a nascent technology – will likely cause delays and conflicts” for SMR developers, lawyers from global law firm White & Case predicted in a recent commentary.

In short, SMRs’ future depends to a large extent on vendors delivering hard proof supporting their most ambitious promises about safety, efficiency, cost and other matters……..   a late arrival by SMRs could consign them to irrelevance. And right now, many observers regard them as too speculative to factor into forecasts. The federal government’s own Canada Energy Regulator projects the amount of power generated by nuclear reactors in Canada will continue on a declining trend.


Dennis Langren is a regulatory lawyer with Stikeman Elliott. He says the earliest deployments of SMRs in Canada are at least a decade off
Paris-based Mycle Schneider Consulting has reviewed the status of global SMR development three times since 2015. In the firm’s most recent review, published in September, 2020, it found little had changed over the period.

“Overall, there are few signs that would hint at a major breakthrough for SMRs, either with regard to the technology or with regard to the commercial side,” the firm observed. “Delays, poor economics, and the increased availability of low-carbon alternatives at rapidly decreasing cost plague these technologies as well, and there is no need to wait with bated breath for SMRs to be deployed.”

Ralph Torrie is a partner at Torrie Smith Associates, an energy and environmental consultancy. He says he’s focused on power generation options that can be built this decade to address a warming climate – a criterion that, in his view, disqualifies SMRs.“They’re a long way off.”  theglobeandmail.com/business/article-governments-utilities-and-the-nuclear-industry-hope-small-modular/#:~:text=The%20utility%2C%20by%20far%20Canada’s,Nuclear%20Generating%20Station%20by%202028.–













July 19, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

In extreme heat wave, forest fire threatens Sakatchewan uranium mine – another example of global heating hitting nuclear activities.

Forest fire burns uncontained near Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Sask., CBC, 2 July 21, All non-essential personnel have been evacuated due to the fire, Cameco said in a statement.

The Cameco Corporation has reported a forest fire in the vicinity of its Cigar Lake uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan.

In a statement Thursday morning, the company said it has evacuated about 230 workers from the mine and roughly 80 people remain on site to keep the facility in a safe state. 

Cameco said, should the wildfire threat continue to grow, there is a plan to keep the workers there safe and a number of precautions have been implemented. It said it’s working closely with the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency on site. 

Cameco said the fire is complicated by extremely warm, dry weather resulting from the heat dome currently over Western Canada

Production at the Cigar Lake mine has been temporarily suspended. …….

…… As of early Thursday afternoon, the provincial government’s website listed 19 active fires across Saskatchewan. Five are not contained, including the Briggs fire near the Cigar Lake mine. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/forest-fire-cigar-lake-mine-1.6087459

July 3, 2021 Posted by | Canada, climate change, incidents | Leave a comment

Five good reasons to support the City of Ottawa’s request for a regional assessment of radioactive waste disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley. 

Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

Working for 40+ years to prevent radioactive pollution in the Ottawa Valley, Canada.   Five good reasons to support the City of Ottawa’s request for a regional assessment of radioactive waste disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley
.  On April 14, 2021, the City of Ottawa council passed a resolution regarding the Chalk River and Rolphton radioactive waste disposal projects; this is in addition to resolutions from 140 municipalities, the Anishinabek Nation, the Iroquois Caucus, and the Assembly of First Nations.


Before the resolution was passed by the entire Ottawa City Council, it was considered and unanimously adopted by the City of Ottawa’s environment committee after an eight-hour meeting on the 30th. March 2021 (see the presentation on YouTube). Among other things, the resolution calls on Minister Jonathan Wilkinson of the Environment and Climate Change to undertake a regional assessment of radioactive waste disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley under the Assessment Act. impact sanctioned in 2019. (See letter from Mayor Jim Watson to Minister Wilkinson.)

Here are five reasons to support the City of Ottawa’s request to Minister Jonathan Wilkinson. 


1. Radioactive waste in the Ottawa Valley is a very large and complex problem. This is the lion’s share of “legacy” radioactive waste for which the federal government is responsible, a liability of $ 8 billion to Canadian taxpayers.
Radioactive waste that is currently at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories site at Chalk River, upstream from Ottawa-Gatineau, constitutes the bulk of the Canadian government’s $ 8 billion nuclear liability liability. This federal liability for radioactive waste clean-up liability exceeds the total sum of 2,000 other federal environmental liabilities. This federal environmental responsibility, Canada’s largest and most complex, requires the best and most comprehensive assessment available under the new Impact Assessment Act.

2 The proposed radioactive waste disposal projects in the Ottawa Valley are mediocre, highly controversial, and fail to address several aspects essential to the cleanup required.
The radioactive waste mound project, called the Near Surface Waste Management Facility (IGDPS) at Chalk River and the Rolphton Reactor Entombment Project ("NPD Closure Project") are inadequate, low budget proposals which aim to rapidly and inexpensively reduce the liability for federal nuclear liabilities in Canada. Both projects were proposed five years ago by a consortium of private companies under a contract awarded by the Harper government in 2015. The proposals do not take into account the International Agency's security standards. atomic energy; these proposals were deemed insufficient in the thousands of critical comments made by indigenous communities, municipalities, former scientists and managers of AECL, NGOs, citizen groups and individuals........... more https://concernedcitizens.net/2021/06/30/cinq-bonnes-raisons-dappuyer-la-requete-de-la-ville-dottawa-pour-une-evaluation-regionale-des-projets-delimination-des-dechets-radioactifs-dans-la-vallee-de-loutaouais/

 



July 1, 2021 Posted by | Canada, wastes | Leave a comment

High school lobbyists ‘thrilled’ as Winnipeg unanimously supports ban on nuclear weapons, 

CBC News · Jun 27, 2021 Two Winnipeg high school students are “thrilled” after their campaign to get the city’s support for a ban on nuclear weapons got council’s unanimous backing.

“We were both thrilled because this is months and months of work,” Avinashpall Singh said of Thursday’s vote.

Singh and classmate Rooj Ali started working in March toward their goal of getting the City of Winnipeg’s support for the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as part of the youth-led International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Cities Appeal.

High school lobbyists ‘thrilled’ as Winnipeg unanimously supports ban on nuclear weapons, 

City joins 14 others across Canada in backing UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/winnipeg-city-council-supports-nuclear-ban-unanimously-1.6082203

CBC News · Jun 27, 2021 Two Winnipeg high school students are “thrilled” after their campaign to get the city’s support for a ban on nuclear weapons got council’s unanimous backing.

“We were both thrilled because this is months and months of work,” Avinashpall Singh said of Thursday’s vote.

Singh and classmate Rooj Ali started working in March toward their goal of getting the City of Winnipeg’s support for the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as part of the youth-led International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons Cities Appeal.

That campaign looks to gain support at a municipal level for the first legally binding international agreement to ban nuclear weapons.

They got endorsements from organizations including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Rotary Club of Winnipeg and Manitoba’s Mennonite Central Committee, and gave presentations to city committees and councillors across Winnipeg — all while balancing homework and other commitments at River East Collegiate.

It’s a cause the students have been working on for years, they told CBC’s Weekend Morning Show host Stephanie Cram on Sunday.

“This cause is incredibly important for us because, among other things that our generation will be inheriting, it will still be a world still full of nuclear weapons. And so we aren’t going to stay silent as this happens,” Singh said.

“I think by far the most important reason is that [a nuclear incident] doesn’t have to be with intent. It could also be through an accident that something catastrophic could happen. And so [if we’re] trying to eliminate that risk totally, disarmament is the only guarantee toward that. No other solution exists.”

Ali says she hopes their achievement with city council inspires other young people to get involved in issues that matter to them.

“No cause or activism work is too impossible to achieve,” Ali said.

“The key to making change is to start. And we started this not knowing where it could end up, but we took it so far and we’re so happy for that.”

The move means Winnipeg joins 14 other Canadian cities, including Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, in support of the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty, the campaign’s website says.

However, while Canada has said it’s committed to nuclear disarmament, it has so far not signed the UN treaty.

Ali says that’s why getting Winnipeg’s support felt like such a win — it added one more city to the list of those willing to go on the record that it stands in support of the ban, and potentially sends a message to Ottawa.

“Not one city is going to make a difference,” she said.

“But when more cities do it — especially here in Canada, as Winnipeg joins the list — then hopefully we can turn that conversation up to the national level and make this a priority, because right now it’s not as discussed as it should be and that needs to change.”

The biggest issue is still awareness, so Ali and Singh’s work isn’t done yet. Next, they say they plan to take the campaign to other cities and municipalities in Manitoba and Canada. 

June 28, 2021 Posted by | Canada, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Scientists say New Brunswick’s plutonium plan is undermining the global nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime

Scientists say New Brunswick’s plutonium plan is undermining the global nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime,    https://nbmediacoop.org/2021/06/14/scientists-say-nbs-plutonium-plan-is-undermining-the-global-nuclear-weapons-non-proliferation-regime/ by Susan O’Donnell and Gordon EdwardsJune 14, 2021  The company Moltex Energy wants to extract plutonium from the thousands of used nuclear fuel bundles stored at Point Lepreau on the Bay of Fundy. They plan to use the plutonium as fuel for a new nuclear reactor, still in the design stage. If the project is successful, the entire package could be replicated and sold to other countries.

However, American scientists and non-proliferation experts say that Canadian government support for the Moltex plutonium-extraction project is undermining the global nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime. Plutonium is the primary nuclear explosive material in the world’s arsenals of nuclear weapons.

On March 18 this year, federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced a $50.5 million grant for the Moltex project, adding to the $5 million the New Brunswick government gave the company in 2018. During the announcement, LeBlanc and Premier Blaine Higgs described the Moltex project as “recycling” nuclear waste, although less than one percent of the used nuclear fuel is potentially available for use as new reactor fuel, leaving a lot of radioactive waste leftovers.

On May 25, nine US non-proliferation experts sent an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau expressing concern that by “backing spent-fuel reprocessing and plutonium extraction, the government of Canada will undermine the global nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime that Canada has done so much to strengthen.”

The nine signatories to the letter include senior White House scientist appointees and other US government advisors who worked under six US presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama; and who hold professorships at the Harvard Kennedy School, University of Maryland, Georgetown University, University of Texas at Austin, George Washington University and Princeton University.

Plutonium is a human-made element created as a byproduct in every nuclear reactor. India exploded its first nuclear weapon in 1974 using plutonium extracted from a “peaceful” Canadian nuclear reactor given as a gift many years earlier. In the months afterwards, it was discovered that South Korea, Pakistan, Taiwan and Argentina – all customers of Canadian nuclear technology – were well on the way to replicating India’s achievement.

The US and its allies acted swiftly to prevent these countries from acquiring the necessary plutonium extraction facilities. To this day South Korea is not allowed to extract plutonium from used nuclear fuel on its own territory due to proliferation concerns.

Several years after the Indian explosion, the US Carter administration ended federal support for civil reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in the US out of concern that making plutonium more available would contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. At that time, Canada’s policy on reprocessing also changed to accord with the US policy.

Moltex is proposing extract plutonium at Point Lepreau using “pyroprocessing,” in which the solid used reactor fuel is converted to a liquid form, dissolved in a very hot bath of molten salt. What happens next was described by Moltex Chairman and Chief Scientist Ian Scott in a recent article in Energy Intelligence. “We then — in a very, very simple process — extract the plutonium selectively from that molten metal. It’s literally a pot. You put the metal in, put salt in the top, mix them up, and the plutonium moves into the salt, and the salt’s our fuel. That’s it … You tip the crucible and out pours the fuel for our reactor.”

From an international perspective, the federal support of the Moltex project can be seen as Canada sending a signal – giving a green light to plutonium extraction and the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel.

The US experts are concerned other countries could point to Canada’s support of the Moltex project to help justify their own plutonium acquisition programs. That could undo years of efforts to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of countries that might want to join the ranks of unofficial nuclear weapons states. The Moltex project is especially irksome since its proposed pyroprocessing technology is very similar to the one South Korea has been trying to deploy for almost 10 years.

Despite the alarm raised by the nine experts in their letter to Trudeau, the government has not yet responded. The only response has come from the industry, Moltex CEO Rory O’Sullivan. His reply to a Globe and Mail reporter: the plutonium extracted in the Moltex facility would be “completely unsuitable for use in weapons.”

But the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has stated that “Nuclear weapons can be fabricated using plutonium containing virtually any combination of plutonium isotopes.” All plutonium is of equal “sensitivity” for purposes of IAEA safeguards in non-nuclear weapon States.

Similarly, a 2009 report by non-proliferation experts from six US national laboratories concluded that pyroprocessing is about as susceptible to misuse for nuclear weapons as the original reprocessing technology used by the military.

In 2011, a US State Department official responsible stated that pyroprocessing is just as dangerous from a proliferation point of view as any other kind of plutonium extraction technology, saying “frankly and positively that pyroprocessing is reprocessing. Period. Full stop.”

And, despite years of effort, the IAEA has not yet developed an approach to effectively safeguard pyroprocessing to prevent diversion of plutonium for illicit uses.

Given that history has shown the dangers of promoting the greater availability of plutonium, why is the federal government supporting pyroprocessing?

The answer: the Canadian nuclear lobby wants it. In the nuclear industry’s report released in March, “Feasibility of Small Modular Reactor Development and Deployment in Canada,” reprocessing (which they call “recycling”) spent nuclear fuel is presented as key to the industry’s future plans.

To date however, there has been no democratic open debate or public consultation over the path Canada is charting with nuclear energy. Important national and international issues are at stake, and conscientious New Brunswickers and all Canadians should sit up and take notice. Political representatives in the Canadian Parliament and the New Brunswick Legislature owe it to their constituents to demand more accountability and ask why our governments are supporting a plutonium-extraction project that raises such serious international concerns.

Susan O’Donnell, a Fredericton-based researcher specializing in technology adoption and environmental issues, is the lead researcher for the RAVEN project at the University of New Brunswick. Gordon Edwards is a Montreal-based mathematician, physicist, nuclear consultant, and President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. 

June 24, 2021 Posted by | Canada, reprocessing | Leave a comment

New technology comes nowhere close to solving the problem of nuclear waste

New technology comes nowhere close to solving the problem of nuclear waste, Toronto Star, By Thomas Walkom May 27, 2021  What is to be done with nuclear waste? It is a question that dominates the Atomic Age. It is also one that has never been satisfactorily answered…..

nuclear waste is a relentless certainty. A plant that produces nuclear power creates nuclear waste. It is that simple.But what to do with that waste? Up to now, the assumption was that such waste would be buried in deep geological caverns, or repositories. Two potential sites for such repositories have been identified — one in Northwestern Ontario and one near Lake Huron. The usual political battles are being waged over whether either or both sites are safe.

But over the last few years, more attention has been paid to a different solution — using radioactive waste as fuel to create more nuclear power from so-called small modular reactors (SMRs). The governments of Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick have been particularly interested in developing this new SMR technology.

One New Brunswick start-up, Moltex Energy of Saint John, has received $50.5 million in federal funds.

The new technology has its critics. In the first place, it can create new and even more dangerous radioactive waste. As the Globe and Mail reports, Moltex says it produces an impure form of plutonium as a waste byproduct from its SMRs. Pure plutonium is used in the manufacture of atomic bombs.

Indeed, some nuclear experts, including former senior U.S. officials, were so alarmed that seven of them took the unusual step of penning an open letter this week to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In that letter, they warned that reprocessing waste in a manner that creates plutonium would undermine global efforts to limit nuclear proliferation.

They also noted that the new technology wouldn’t solve the waste problem. Rather, it would just produce different kinds of nuclear waste.

“Moltex, even in the R&D stage, would create a costly legacy of contaminated facilities and radioactive waste streams and require substantial additional government funding for cleanup,” the letter said.

All of this is true. But none of it is enough to derail the new interest in SMR technology. Governments like it because it promises to be cheaper to build than classic Pickering-style nuclear power plants. The nuclear industry sees it as a political lifeline at a time when atomic power is not particularly popular.

So regardless of what its critics say, don’t expect this new technology to fade away. It may not be the silver bullet that its adherents claim it to be. It comes nowhere close to solving the waste problem.

But it is supported by important political constituencies. History has shown how crucial this support has been to the nuclear industry.  https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/05/27/new-technology-comes-nowhere-close-to-solving-the-problem-of-nuclear-waste.html

May 29, 2021 Posted by | Canada, technology, wastes | 1 Comment

American experts warn Trudeau that Moltex small nuclear reactors are likely to prove a nightmare for Canada

The critics contend that SMRs are costly, unproven and creators of toxic waste of their own. From a practical point of view, it is hard to make the case that SMRs will be crucial in the battle against climate change, since they won’t come off the drawing board for years, if ever. Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May says that opting for experimental SMRs is just another way of delaying real action on global warming.

US Experts to Trudeau: Your Nuclear Dream May Turn Nightmare   https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2021/05/26/US-Experts-Trudeau-Your-Nuclear-Dream-May-Turn-Nightmare/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=260521

Rethink backing the Moltex reactor, urge nine non-proliferation heavyweights.

Michael Harris TheTyee.ca, 6 May 21, A blue-ribbon group of American nuclear non-proliferation experts warns that Canada’s investment in new nuclear technology could lead to the spread of nuclear weapons and new threats to the environment.

“We write as U.S. non-proliferation experts and former government officials and advisors with related responsibilities to express our concern about your government’s financial support of Moltex — a startup company that proposes to reprocess CANDU spent fuel to recover its contained plutonium for use in molten-salt-cooled reactors.”

The warning came in the form of an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that was delivered on Tuesday and signed by the nine experts.

The group is spearheaded by Frank von Hippel, professor and senior research physicist at Princeton University; it includes Matthew Bunn, the Schlesinger professor of the practise of energy, national security, and foreign policy at the Harvard Kennedy School; and Thomas Countryman, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation.

“We understand your government’s motivation to support nuclear power and to reduce fossil fuel use but saving the world from climate disaster need not be in conflict with saving it from nuclear weapons. Also, like other reprocessing efforts, Moltex, even in the R&D stage, would create a costly legacy of contaminated facilities and radioactive waste streams, and require substantial additional government funding for cleanup and stabilization prior to disposal,” they wrote.

Rory O’Sullivan, CEO of Moltex North America painted a very different picture of his company’s experimental technology in an interview with World Nuclear News: “We are working to develop a technology that uses the fuel from the first generation of nuclear power to the next. This reduces the challenges associated with spent nuclear fuel, while expanding nuclear power to help Canada achieve its climate change objectives.”

The Trudeau government has invested $50.5 million in Moltex, and backs the company’s plan to build a 300 MW molten salt reactor in New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy. Theoretically, it would then reprocess spent fuel from the Point Lepreau nuclear plant, which is set to be decommissioned in 2040.

The Moltex reactor belongs to a class of nuclear power plants termed small modular reactors or SMRs that generate small amounts of electricity in comparison with typical CANDU reactors.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan has said that Canada can’t get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 without nuclear as part of the equation, along with renewables.

Despite marketing its roll of the dice on Moltex as part of its war on climate change, Ottawa isn’t getting much love from environmentalists, or many other people. Three federal political parties, the NDP, the Bloc and the Greens; the Green Budget Coalition; and the Canadian Environmental Law Association all oppose the federal investment in small modular reactors. University of British Columbia professor of public policy and global affairs M.V. Ramana has levelled criticisms in these pages as well.

The critics contend that SMRs are costly, unproven and creators of toxic waste of their own. From a practical point of view, it is hard to make the case that SMRs will be crucial in the battle against climate change, since they won’t come off the drawing board for years, if ever. Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May says that opting for experimental SMRs is just another way of delaying real action on global warming.

One who has closely followed and opposes the two experimental SMR reactors planned for New Brunswick, the ARC-100 and the Moltex SSR, is Dr. Susan O’Donnell, an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of New Brunswick. O’Donnell is also the primary investigator of Raven, a research team based at the university dedicated to highlighting rural environmental issues in the province.

O’Donnell points out that Moltex has never built a nuclear reactor before. In fact, only two molten salt reactors have ever been built — 50 years ago. Neither of them produced electricity. One of them lasted four years before shutting down, the other, just 100 hours.

On the environmental side, O’Donnell says that SMR pollution or a serious failure could lead to “disasters and no-go zones.”

On the non-proliferation front, she denounces the plan to broadly “export” the Moltex technology, assuming it ever gets up and running.

“What we have learned from Canada’s role in making India a nuclear power is that one of the dangers of the Moltex proposal is its plan to export the technology. We’re exporting bomb-making capacity,” she told The Tyee.

O’Donnell has pushed for public consultations to help develop a national radioactive waste policy. Last Aug. 13, she made an offer to the federal minister of natural resources to have the Raven project organize such a public consultation in New Brunswick. It would be online because of the pandemic, in both official languages, and would include Indigenous nations and rural communities. Minister O’Regan responded two months later, on Oct. 30, turning her down.

“Strangely, he cited the pandemic, even though our offer clearly stated the consultation would be virtual,” the professor said.

O’Donnell’s take on the Moltex project is backed up by Allison Macfarlane, former chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The specialist in the storage of nuclear waste told the CBC in January that the molten salt technology is totally unproven with respect to viability, costs and storage risks.

“Nobody knows what the numbers are, and anybody who gives you numbers is selling you a bridge to nowhere…. Nobody’s been able to answer my questions yet on what all those wastes are, and how much of them there are, and how heat-producing they are and what their compositions are,” Macfarlane said. She is now the director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at UBC.

But the Trudeau government does have allies at the provincial level for its nuclear ambitions. The governments of New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta have all signed a memorandum of understanding to develop SMRs, which means promoting them.

They are excited about the promises by Moltex that it will be able to produce clean energy at a low cost by recycling something that everyone wants to get rid of — the three million spent fuel bundles in Canada that the government still doesn’t know how to dispose of safely and permanently.

The U.S. experts made clear to the PM in their letter that they are not convinced by the company’s assertions. They want the Trudeau government to convene a high-level review of both the non-proliferation and environmental implications of Moltex’s reprocessing proposal. Key to that proposal is including “independent international experts,” before Ottawa makes any further investments in support of the Moltex proposal.

The earliest projects to reprocess nuclear waste extracted plutonium to make nuclear weapons. The letter signees worry Canada’s new generation of reactors will afford the same opportunity to anyone who buys them.

“Our main concern is that, by backing spent-fuel reprocessing and plutonium extraction, the government of Canada will undermine the global nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime that Canada has done so much to strengthen. Canada is a founding member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which was established in 1974 in response to India’s misuse of a Canada-supplied research reactor and U.S.-supplied reprocessing technology to acquire the plutonium needed for its first nuclear weapons.”

The reprocessing of nuclear waste was “indefinitely deferred” in the United States by president Jimmy Carter in 1977 after India tested its first nuclear weapon. At the time, the Americans discovered that several other countries including Brazil, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan were all surreptitiously headed down the same nuclear weapons path that India had taken. Of that group, only Pakistan managed to get the bomb.

The U.S. experts who signed the letter to Trudeau also rejected the claim by Moltex that by using spent fuel from older Canadian CANDU reactors, its reactor would reduce the long-term risk from a deep underground radioactive waste repository.

The Trudeau government promised it would base its major policies on science. It’s time for the public consultation, far from the greasy paws of lobbyists, and with the best minds that can be brought to the table.

This is a letter to take to heart. 

May 27, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

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 | Leave a comment

Small nuclear reactors – a way to get indigenous people to then accept nuclear waste?

Gordon Edwards is president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and notes the Moltex SMR design involves dissolving spent nuclear fuel in molten salt, and there lies an issue, he believes.

“What happens when you dissolve the solid fuel in a liquid, in this molten salt – then all of these radioactive materials are released into the liquid,” says Edwards, “and it becomes more dangerous to contain them because a solid material is much easier to contain than a liquid or gaseous material.

Peskotomuhkati chief unhappy about nuclear reactor testing on his traditional territory  https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/peskotomuhkati-nation-nuclear-reactor-testing-new-brunswick-small-modular-reactors/

Christopher Read cread@aptn.caMay 16, 2021,

Feds say they won’t reach zero emissions by 2050 without small nuclear reactors.

It’s a new kind of nuclear reactor that the federal government is putting up $50.5 million in development money for, but some Indigenous leaders are already speaking out against it

.Moltex Energy Canada is getting the tax-dollar investment to develop what the nuclear industry calls a “small modular reactor” or SMR – which is generally considered to be a reactor with a power output of 300 megawatts or less.The Moltex SMR design is to be developed at New Brunswick Power’s Point LePreau Nuclear Generating Station, which is on the north shore of the Bay of Fundy and in Peskotomuhkati traditional territory.

ARC Clean Energy Canada is another operation also set to develop an SMR at the Point LePreau site.  It was announced in February that ARC would get $20 million from the New Brunswick government if the company can raise $30 million of its own cash.

Hugh Akagi is Chief of Peskotomuhkati Nation and has concerns about more nuclear development in the aging facility.

“Well, I don’t feel very good about it, to be honest,” says Akagi. You paid that money if you pay tax on anything in this country, you’ve just made a donation to Moltex. If you’re not concerned about $50 million being turned over to a corporation for a technology that does not exist – I hope you heard me correctly on that.”

The federal government has taken a shine to the idea of SMRs and Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan is on the record as saying “We have not seen a model where we can get to net-zero emissions by 2050 without nuclear.”

Under the Small Modular Reactor Action Plan, the federal government is pushing for SMRs to be developed and deployed to power remote industrial operations as well as northern communities.

Three streams of government-supported SMR developments are underway at two sites in Ontario as well as at Point LePreau.

As well, the governments of New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta have all signed a memorandum of understanding pledging their support for SMR development.

Akagi says he hasn’t been formally consulted – but has been to a presentations put on by NB Power about the SMR project.

He says he is unlikely he’ll ever give it his support.

“Until I can have an assurance that the impact on the future is zero,” says Akagi, “I don’t want to 100 years, 200 years is still seven generations. I want zero impact.”

But Moltex Energy Canada CEO Rory O’Sullivan says his company’s technology will ultimately reduce environmental impact, by recycling spent nuclear fuel from full scale reactors.

“Instead of putting it in the ground where it’ll be radioactive for very long periods, we can reuse it as fuel to create more clean energy from what was waste,” says O’Sullivan. “We can’t get rid of the waste altogether. But the aim is to get rid, to get it down to about a thousandth of volume of the original long-lived radioactivity.


O’Sullivan admits to formerly seeing nuclear as too much of a problem to be a viable solution in the climate crisis.

“When I graduated as a mechanical engineer I saw that nuclear is potentially as too expensive, has the waste issue, has a potential safety issue,” says O’Sullivan. “Well, actually, with these innovative new designs, you can potentially have nuclear power that is lower cost, cheaper than fossil fuels – you can get much safer solution using innovation and you can potentially deal with the waste.”

Gordon Edwards, one of Canada’s most prominent nuclear critics, isn’t buying that argument.

Edwards is president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and notes the Moltex SMR design involves dissolving spent nuclear fuel in molten salt, and there lies an issue, he believes.

“What happens when you dissolve the solid fuel in a liquid, in this molten salt – then all of these radioactive materials are released into the liquid,” says Edwards, “and it becomes more dangerous to contain them because a solid material is much easier to contain than a liquid or gaseous material.”

Edwards also works on a radioactive task force with the Anishinabek Nation and the Iroquois Caucus.

And as he sees it, small modular reactors could make it harder for Indigenous communities to say no to the deep geological repositories [DGRs] being pitched to Indigenous communities as a supposedly safe way for Canada’s nuclear industry to entomb highly radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years.

“We don’t accept the small modular reactors because we know that it’s just a way of implicating us so that we can then have less of an argument against being radioactive waste dumps,” says Edwards. “If we accept small modular reactors into our communities, how can we then turn around and say we don’t want to keep the radioactive waste? It would just put us in an impossible position.”

Edwards and other nuclear critics such as Akagi recently participated in an online webinar focused on concerns around nuclear development at Point LePreau.

And those adding their voices to the critical side of the ledger on nuclear development at Point LePreau include Jenica Atwin – the Green Party’s MP for Fredricton, and Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay – who issued a Resolution calling for nuclear development to be halted.

Atwin put out a release in April calling Canadian nuclear policies “profoundly misguided.”

“My basic premise is that the government needs to be more responsible in the information that they’re sharing just in general to talk about the risks that exist alongside whatever benefits they’re kind of toting,” says Atwin. “And right now, we’re only hearing that it’s the greatest option. This is how we fight climate change. It is clean, it’s cheap energy. And I have to disagree.”

If all goes to according to the Moltex plan, its SMR could be operable by about 2030.

May 17, 2021 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, wastes | Leave a comment

Saugeen First Nation do not want Canada’s nuclear waste. Nuclear Waste Management Organization says the project will not be built without their consent.

Saugeen First Nation debates fate of Canada’s nuclear waste CTV News , Scott Miller CTV News London Videographer @ScottMillerCTV  Contact Sunday, May 16, 2021   ”…… Last January, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation voted 85 per cent against plans to bury Ontario’s low and intermediate level nuclear waste along the shores of Lake Huron. 

Saugeen members will have a similar decision to make on plans to bury Canada’s high-level nuclear waste under 1,500 acres of farmland, north of Teeswater, because the planned project also falls within their traditional territory.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization says the project will not be built without SON’s consent.

“Well it’s important now because that’s what was agreed to as part of the treaties. So there’s constitutional rights that are at play,” says NWMO’s Indigenous Knowledge and Reconciliation Section Manager, Jessica Perritt.

SON leadership have said they didn’t ask for nuclear waste to be created and temporarily stored in their territory, but now, they must be part of deciding its fate.

“We’ve got to treat our people, not like the olden days where the Indian Agent didn’t even allow us to think or make decisions. We can make decisions for ourselves,” says Roote………..

Members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and residents of South Bruce have until 2023 to decide if they want to permanently house Canada’s first and only underground nuclear waste storage facility. https://london.ctvnews.ca/saugeen-first-nation-debates-fate-of-canada-s-nuclear-waste-1.5430208

May 17, 2021 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, wastes | Leave a comment

Scepticism in Canada, about the government’s push for small nuclear reactors.

Canada pegs its energy future on nuclear power, but not everyone’s buying it,  Canada’s National Observer, By Charles Mandel  May 12th 2021  “………….   Gorman, along with the rest of the nuclear industry, pins the country’s future decarbonization efforts on a new breed of nuclear power known as small modular reactors (SMRs). 

……… To date, not a single SMR has been built in Canada, but no matter, the technology is the current darling of nuclear power circles…. 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.

That hasn’t stopped the Canadian federal government from actively promoting a shift to SMRs………

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 (CELA) 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.

As the SMR developments move forward, the environmental groups will have a chance to make their views heard during the public consultations that will have to take place as part of the environmental review phase of licensing each SMR.

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.

…….. there are signs 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.

May 13, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Canadian government hand in glove with the nuclear lobby for a ”NICE” nuclear future

Canada pegs its energy future on nuclear power, but not everyone’s buying it,  Canada’s National Observer, By Charles Mandel  May 12th 2021…………….. The development of SMRs in Canada isn’t just a matter of happy coincidence; 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 U.S. 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.”

May 13, 2021 Posted by | Canada, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Bribing a declining rural community – into taking in nuclear waste

Goodwill’ money from proposed nuclear waste site pours into declining Ontario farm town. What if it stops? 
Colin Butler · CBC News ·May 07, 2021 A citizens’ group is accusing Canada’s nuclear industry of using its financial might to groom a declining Ontario farm community into becoming a willing host for the country’s most dangerous radioactive waste. 

In a pamphlet about the proposed disposal site that was published last year, the Ontario municipality of South Bruce —which encompasses the farming communities of Teeswater, Mildmay, Formosa and Salem — says it’s “on the decline.” 

The pamphlet tells of a shrinking population, where rural towns and village “downtowns are fading from what they used to be,” with vacant store windows, big infrastructure bills and few prospects for new economic growth. 

Protecting Our Waterways – No Nuclear Waste, a grassroots citizens’ group, accuses the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) of taking advantage of the decline by spending millions of dollars on “goodwill” projects the community couldn’t afford on its own. 

Bill Noll, a resident of Teeswater and the vice-president of Protecting Our Waterways, said the money has done a lot of good — it’s helped find small-town doctors, boosted senior care, upgraded wells, and even bought local firefighters lifesaving new safety equipment.

Money ‘divorced’ from project, group says

“Its strictly a goodwill gesture,” said Noll. “That money is not tied to anything to do with the project. It is completely divorced. Why would you spend one and a half million dollars on a community if you didn’t expect something back in return?”

The project Noll is referring to is a $23-billion nuclear disposal site where the NWMO wants to inter some three million spent nuclear fuel bundles in a sprawling network of tunnels and holes 500 metres below the ground.

South Bruce is one of two Ontario communities — the other is Ignace, about 2½ hours northwest of Thunder Bay — under consideration for what the NWMO is calling the “deep geological repository.” The NWMO says it’s working with local communities in selecting the site in 2023.

In the case of South Bruce, test drilling recently began north of the dairy town of Teeswater to see if the ancient bedrock is viable enough. But funds from the NWMO have been flowing in since 2012, when the local council volunteered to be considered as a host. 

According to a March 2021 report from South Bruce Treasurer Kendra Reinhart, the community has received more than $3.2 million from the NWMO since 2012. It’s been used to pay for everything from St John Ambulance training, to offsetting extra costs of the pandemic, to the salaries of municipal employees. 

The report didn’t include all the money, and noted several sources of NWMO funding were omitted. For instance, left out were requests for additional support, such as the $1.5 million the municipality is seeking from a $4-million NWMO-sponsored investment fund to help offset the cost of expanding a local sewage treatment plant. 

Michelle Stein, another Teeswater resident and president of Protect Our Waterways, said the money has become so ubiquitous that on March 23, the same day the treasury report was presented to South Bruce council, NWMO appeared on the council agenda 121 times. 

Mayor says community ‘foolish not to’ take money…

“Our community has really started to rely on the money from the NWMO,” said Stein.Stein and Noll said the more the municipality of South Bruce becomes intertwined financially with the NWMO, the harder it will be for the community to disentangle itself by saying no to the nuclear disposal site, lest it cut off the community’s newfound source of wealth……..

May 8, 2021 Posted by | Canada, secrets,lies and civil liberties, wastes | Leave a comment

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.  https://cleantechnica.com/2021/05/03/small-modular-nuclear-reactors-are-mostly-bad-policy/

May 4, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Canadian government rejects Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, but majority of Canadians support it.


Government out of step with Canadians on nuclear weapons, Policy Options, 26 Apr 21,
Ottawa refuses to support a UN nuclear weapons ban treaty. Why is there such a disconnect between government policy and public preference? Policy Options, 

While most Canadians are aware of the massive destructive power of nuclear weapons, they are rarely asked their opinion about them. Earlier this month, a Nanos poll provided the responses of 1,000 Canadians to a set of nine questions on the theme of nuclear disarmament. The clear preference of 80 per cent of those surveyed was that the world should work to eliminate nuclear weapons.

This sentiment could be seen as merely an abstract aspirational goal, but the poll also addressed levels of support for the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which entered into force this January. Overall, 74 per cent of those polled expressed support for Canada adhering to this treaty. This support is at odds with the Canadian government’s current rejection of the TPNW, which it has argued is ineffective and contrary to NATO policies. Still, the polling numbers suggest the public is supportive of a nuclear weapons ban of some sort, regardless of the government’s concerns.

Popular support for the TPNW didn’t fade even when respondents were presented with a scenario of U.S. opposition to Canada embracing the treaty……… https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/april-2021/government-out-of-step-with-canadians-on-nuclear-weapons/

April 27, 2021 Posted by | Canada, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment