---- Funding mini-nuclear reactors is like promoting asbestos
Public interest groups across Canada are criticizing the federal government for funding small nuclear reactor (SMR) development and challenge the government to release any research that support its strategy. They charge the federal government with trying to save the (private) nuclear industry rather than saving the environment and protecting health.
Ministers O’Regan and Bains just announced $20 million to Terrestrial Energy in Ontario to develop a molten salt reactor. More funding announcements for new nuclear reactors are expected.
Federal funding for new nuclear energy is opposed by groups from BC to New Brunswick, from the West Coast Environmental Law Association to Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive, Équiterre and the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. They argue that “next generation” nuclear reactors are a dirty, dangerous distraction from tackling the climate crisis. Nuclear energy is not green, not clean, too costly and too slow to build.
The groups argue:
1) SMR development is too slow to address the climate crisis: The 2020 World Nuclear Industry Status Report says developing new nuclear energy is too slow to address the climate crisis – and more expensive – compared to renewable energy and energy efficiency. No SMRs have yet been built and proposals will take a decade or more just to develop.
2) SMRs are more expensive than renewable energy: A Canadian study found that energy from small nuclear reactors would be up to ten times the cost of renewable energy. In the past decade, the cost of building solar, wind power and battery storage has gone down dramatically, while the cost of building new nuclear reactors has gone up. Small reactors will be even more expensive per unit of power than the current large ones.
3) There are better sources of energy: Minister O’Regan has said repeatedly, without providing any evidence, that there is no path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions without nuclear energy. On the contrary, a new study of 123 countries over 25 years found that countries that invested in renewable energy lowered their carbon emissions much more than those reliant on nuclear energy.
4) SMRs are dirty and dangerous: New “small” reactors, to be spread across Canada, will produce radioactive waste of many kinds. Some would extract plutonium, worsening concerns about weapons proliferation and creating new forms of radioactive waste especially dangerous to manage. The federal government has no detailed policy or strategy for radioactive waste, and no design or location for a deep underground repository to store high-level radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years.
5) The federal government has never consulted the public about small reactors, which would create environmental risks and financial liabilities for Canadians.
Eva Schacherl & Kerrie Blaise
Note: This letter was signed by 25 public-interest groups from BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, NB, NS, the North, plus nation-wide groups (list available from Bulletin).