Canadian environmental groups oppose experimental small modular nuclear reactors
A number of groups have joined together to ask the federal government to halt its plans to fund experimental new small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs).
The Federal Government is preparing to launch the federal government’s SMR ” Action Plan” within weeks.
The SMR Action Plan is expected to include a strategy to fund and support the development of experimental nuclear reactors by private sector companies, the majority based in the US and UK.
In a media release, dozens of organizations from coast to coast have called the proposed new nuclear reactors a dirty, dangerous distraction from tackling climate change. They include Greenpeace Canada, Friends of the Earth Canada, Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive, Équiterre, the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and Northwatch..
The Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Green Party all oppose the government’s “small” modular nuclear reactor plan.
On November 13, Monique Pauze from the Bloc Québécois stated: “The Bloc Québécois denounces the intention of Ottawa to invest in nuclear energy to the benefit, once again, of the Ontario industrial sector, instead of financing the transition towards clean electricity. The Bloc calls for the abandonment of the anticipated deployment of small modular nuclear reactors. The Federal government is leading Canada towards a wall by betting on nuclear energy that is absolutely not clean.”
NDP natural resources critic Richard Cannings said in a statement: “Many Canadians have concerns about impacts of nuclear energy. When it comes to energy generation there are better ways forward. We have options that are cheaper and safer and will be available quicker. I think we should be supporting the development of energy storage solutions to help roll out renewables like solar and wind on a larger scale instead.”
On November 10, all three Green Party of Canada caucus members issued a statement and signed a letter to Minister O’Regan and Minister Navdeep Bains saying that: “Small nuclear reactors (SMRs) have no place in any plan to mitigate climate change when cleaner and cheaper alternatives already exist. The federal government must stop funding the nuclear industry and instead redirect investments towards smarter solutions. Nuclear fails on many grounds, including on the economics.”
Prof. Susan O’Donnell from the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick said: “Building new nuclear reactors does not belong in a climate action plan. Leading researchers have shown that investing in renewable energy is the best path to net zero and that adding nuclear energy to the mix actually hinders rather than helps.”
Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Director of Programs at Greenpeace Canada, said: “The Liberal government is throwing good money after bad. Hypothetical new nuclear power technologies have been promising to be the next big thing for the last forty years, but in spite of massive public subsidies, that prospect has never panned out.”
The release pointed out the proposed reactors are still on the drawing board and will take a decade or more to develop. If built, their power will cost ten times more than wind or solar energy. The most advanced SMR project to date in the US has already doubled its estimated cost – from $3B to over $6B.
The federal government announced its first SMR grant of $20 million to Terrestrial Energy on October 15.
The environmental groups said they are shocked that the government is funding new nuclear energy development with no parliamentary review, while trying to avoid public scrutiny and debate. They called the consultation process leading to date on the SMR Action Plan a sham. Individuals and groups could only comment on the plan if they first signed on to a statement of principles supporting SMR technologies. They say nuclear power and uranium mining will always be dirty and dangerous. Radioactive waste will have to be kept out of the environment for tens of thousands of years, and there is no known means of achieving that.