John Gorman believes in a nuclear future — which, given his background, might come as a surprise. Before becoming president and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association, Gorman worked in positions where he championed solar, wind and hydro, renewable energy sources with a lot less baggage.

But make no mistake, Gorman views the ongoing development of nuclear power as vital to battling the climate crisis and lowering Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Many other environmentalists reject nuclear over concerns about the disposal of nuclear waste, radioactive fallout and the length of time it might take to develop the technology. Not Gorman.

“Canada is the poster child for approaching nuclear the right way as we approach a net-zero future,” he recently told Canada’s National Observer.

Canada’s existing nuclear power is produced by 19 CANDU reactors, which supply 15 per cent of the country’s total electricity. Ontario hosts 18 of the reactors, while New Brunswick has one at Point Lepreau. Two of the Ontario plants, Darlington and Bruce, are being refurbished. The industry as a whole employs 76,000 people and contributes $17.6 billion to the economy annually, Gorman says.

However, 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). SMRs are portable reactors capable of generating up to 300 megawatts of electricity. They can be deployed in a variety of ways, potentially replacing large-scale diesel generators in remote mining operations, for example, or helping power off-grid communities in Canada’s North.

A feasibility study on SMRs released by four Canadian power companies in March says with growing interest in SMRs an exciting opportunity exists for Canada to export the technology to address global issues such as climate change and energy security.

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 U.S., 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.

That hasn’t stopped the Canadian federal government from actively promoting a shift to SMRs. Seamus O’Regan, the minister of natural resources (whose department has nuclear power under its purview), said in a speech delivered to the Canadian Nuclear Association in 2020: “Our government understands the importance of nuclear energy to meeting our climate change goals… We are placing nuclear energy front and centre.”

In case he didn’t make it clear enough, O’Regan added: “This is nuclear’s moment. This is your moment. To shape the next wave of nuclear technology. And move to the front lines in the battle against climate change and the plan to get Canada to net zero by 2050.”

To date, not a single small modular reactor has been built in Canada, but no matter, the technology is the current darling of nuclear power circles. #SMRs #NuclearEnergy

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.

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

On its website, the CNSC also reports that 17 companies globally have requested regulatory information on SMRs. These include Westinghouse in the United States, China’s CNCC and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute. Canada, though, remains one of the SMR innovators and could even surpass the European Union with its new nuclear program. To be sure, Everett Redmond, a senior technical adviser with the U.S.-based Nuclear Energy Institute, said: “I’d say Canada is running right on par with the U.S in terms of looking at deployments.”

When it comes to decarbonization using nuclear as an energy source, the European Union previously led the way. France and the EU have placed more reliance than North America on nuclear power to help meet stringent renewable energy targets. France, for example, pulls 70 per cent of its energy from nuclear power.

However, 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.

Gorman views nuclear as favourable to the environment. When Ontario replaced coal-fired electricity with nuclear by 2014, it became the single largest carbon-reduction initiative in the world. “Canada is definitely a world leader in this regard,” Gorman maintains.

The elimination of coal stands as the single largest greenhouse gas emissions-reduction action on the continent and was primarily responsible for Ontario achieving its 2014 emissions-reduction target of six per cent below 1990 levels, according to the Ontario government.

Gorman compares SMRs and conventional reactors to the personal computer versus mainframe computers. The SMRs can power as little as one megawatt or as much as 300. They can be mass-produced in a manufacturing facility and scaled to different sizes. The first anticipated SMR in Canada is under development by Westinghouse and has been dubbed the eVinci Micro Reactor. The company wants to have it up and running by 2026. Westinghouse has not disclosed how much it will cost to develop the eVinci.

Westinghouse is working with Bruce Power to find applications for the micro reactor, which is described as a “next-generation small battery” that could be sold to and used in remote communities and industrial mines, among other things. It is that industrial application that particularly excites Gorman, who says according to a study the Canadian Nuclear Association commissioned, SMRs could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 216 megatonnes in the heavy industrial sector — the equivalent of removing all current emissions from the oil and gas sector for a one-year period.

The eVinci is only one of a spate of projects. Oakville, Ont.-based Terrestrial Energy received $20 million in federal funding in 2020 to begin development on its SMR, which it anticipates launching in the late 2020s.

Other projects in development include a 300-megawatt SMR at the Darlington Nuclear Plant in Ontario, in conjunction with Bruce Power and Saskatchewan Power, for 2028. Four more SMRs, described as a “fleet,” would then be deployed in Saskatchewan to replace coal plants, with the first unit starting up in 2032. A five-megawatt, gas-cooled SMR is being built at Chalk River in Ontario, with service anticipated for 2026, while the Moltex project in New Brunswick is expected to come on stream in early 2030.

An aerial view of Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, one of the locations for a proposed small modular reactor project. File photo

“We’re a world leader in terms of having advanced these technologies through the regulatory and licensing system, so Canada really is positioned to be a first mover here and it’s very exciting,” Gorman said.

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.”

Faced with such criticisms, Gorman expresses frustration. He says when he first began working in the solar industry, the main criticism was solar was an expensive science experiment that would never result in low-cost electricity, and that it was a waste of money to try and develop the technology. “And lo and behold, that’s exactly what the detractors of small modular reactors are saying.”

Gorman doesn’t dismiss renewables, calling wind and solar extremely important, but he says the challenge is to produce two to three times as much electricity generation globally compared to what’s currently available, and we only have 30 years in which to do it. He maintains that every source of clean energy will be necessary to meet the demand, including such developing technologies as SMRs, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and new forms of electricity storage.

“We desperately need to be developing those at the same time we’re deploying wind and solar and existing technologies so that we can bring everything to bear by 2030 as we lead into 2050.

“That’s the challenge.”

Keep reading

This is a terrible story. The National Observer has not lived up to its reputation as an critical investigator of official and corporate spin. The article simply repeats all the unsubstantiated claims of this industry, while dropping in one sentence quotes from two of its critics towards the end - that is mainstream journalism as its worst. To let the industry claims stand unchallenged is irresponsible. I trust a future article will do that.

it would be a bitterly humorous cautionary tale of get rich schemes-- like the canal building craze of the 19th century where fortunes were lost and "sunk" by the next big transport innovation: railways, IF it weren't so cynically distracting from the need to invest heavily in NON LETHAL energy generation. why oh why does nuclear never get pinned to the wall to explain where the planet-killing waste is supposed to go and / or become non lethal??? there are lawsuits about windmills harming people for god's sake but who in Pickering is taking on cancer-causing nuclear as "harming their health" or groups up in arms at the poisoning of the land and water??? Got to give the nuclear band wagon boosters top marks for snakeoil salemsmanship.

In response to previous comments, I am quoted in this story so will mention that after my interview with the journalist, I sent him peer-reviewed research and government reports supporting my comments that the nuclear industry is spinning untruths. Obviously, he chose to not use this information. The problem isn't so much this particular journalist, it's that very few of them will take the time to do the research required to understand what is a complex situation. It took me thousands of hours of research and analysis, reading peer-reviewed articles and speaking with nuclear experts not funded by the nuclear industry, so of course it's difficult for a journalist writing one story who only has a few days to do it. In the meantime, while we are waiting for the National Observer to catch up, to understand what's going on with the nuclear file, I recommend the work of a journalist at the Globe & Mail, Matthew McClearn who has done the work, and two journalists in New Brunswick: Jacques Poitras of the CBC and Justin Dupuis at Acadie Nouvelle. As for commentaries, I recommend The Hill Times, they have published some excellent ones on the nuclear file (including several of mine) and in French, Acadie Nouvelle.

Susan O'Donnell, thank you for the work you are doing. I am disappointed in this article, and even more disappointed in our federal government, which hides its support for nuclear power behind a green mask.

Another corporate presentation by another reporter who uncritically provides a standard nuclear marketing pitch for nuclear reactors that have been talked about for decades. All previous attempts to build these reactors have failed. Where is that mentioned in the article? What is the plan for disposing of these reactors once they reach end-of-life? Who is going to be responsible for these end-of-life reactors that they claim will be used in remote locations? What is the relationship between spending BILLIONS on these fantasy reactors that MIGHT happen sometime in the future and continuing to provide BILLIONS in subsidies for fossil fuel corporations and their pipelines instead of investing in renewables that are available today? How are the radioactive waste "clean-up" in Port Hope costing BILLIONS of dollars being included in these nuclear industry promotional stories? Where is there any discussion on the entire nuclear fuel cycle and its carbon intensive requirements (mining, fabrication, processing, reprocessing, construction, operations and maintenance, waste management, etc) included in these "reports"? Is there a reason to avoid highlighting that Canada sold all its research and facilities at Chalk River to a majority of American corporations led by SNC Lavalin ( What is the reason that radioactive emissions in the air and water are avoided in these presentations especially when terms like "zero emissions" & "clean technologies" are used? I really did have more hope that the National Observer would be more than just another corporate rag spreading their one-sided lies about a dying industry desperate for more government hand-outs.

Where are the rabid fiscal conservatives on this? The "taxes are an affliction" crowd? The nuclear industry has spun fairy tales about economic benefits but the big numbers they splash around are nothing but government handouts from federal, provincial and municipal officials (elected and bureaucrats alike). Well guess what? That's three hands in my pocket. And hello OPG, there's only one ratepayer, and that's me. So make that four hands in my pocket to pay for irrationally exuberant dreams of mass produced nuclear reactors and thorium sugar plum fairies.
Nuclear is a dangerous distraction from what we need to do in the next 10 years to face the carbon pollution crisis. In the 1950s, the story was a "too cheap to meter", then it became "too expensive to matter", now it's "too little, too late". 10 years is the time it will take to build just one of these SM(N)Rs.

Hello everyone, Thanks for your comments. We're reading them. This story was intended to lay out the federal government's push to develop a small nuclear reactor industry in Canada. We at the Observer are well aware of the problems associated with nuclear waste disposal and have plans to cover that in depth as well. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading the comments Linda. The story was intended to lay out the federal government's push to develop the industry - a lot could have been written about that - but instead was a mostly uncritical interview with the CEO of the CNA, the nuclear industry lobbying organization. (Glad to see you removed his promo photo.) It was disappointing because the NO's coverage of the federal government's relationship with the fossil fuel industry is exceptional, hard-hitting and critical, but this story about the government's relationship with the nuclear industry is the opposite, a promotional piece for the industry. It was like reading a story about the government's relationship with the fossil fuel industry based on an interview of the CEO of ExxonMobil.

The National Observer is still in a position to make a choice between being an activist operation, that greatly pleases people with one point of view, or a journal, that frequently challenges most of its readership to consider alternative information. (I'm not recommending, actually; these are hard times for journalism, and many news organs have decided their economic interests lie in activist journalism, it certainly inspires loyalty.)

I'm reading your comment as practically an apology for not being anti-nuclear *enough*, and promising redress. Actually, the "darling" sentence made it clear the writer was on the environmentalist's side, as one would imagine from an NO reporter, and interviewed Gorman to get the "industry view", and give space to one side of a conflict, as journalists do.

The problem with the article is that it sought conflict. Journalism does this to entertain, not inform. He went straight to "on the other hand, let's hear from environmental activists". I check stories about science for the search-string "professor" to see if anybody asked one. Here, it came up for sociology(!?!) professor, asked, specifically because she's an anti-nuclear activist.

A moment of googling confirmed for me that Canada has, not just engineering professors who specialize in the subject, but whole faculties of them. They can't all be industry shills who'd say anything in hopes of a consulting contract. So I did three minutes of skimming their resumes,and liked the fourth I tried: how about Dr. Kirk Atkinson:
...he's an expert in small modular reactors, has studied them for the British Navy for suitability, but has zero work for the industry on his resume'. Mostly, he's studied ways to eliminate nuclear waste.

Why not ask him for his opinion? Or anybody who has genuine, peer-reviewed expertise, no industry ties, and no expressed activism?

Nope, the article went straight to industry-vs-activists, let's watch the conflict, and ignored expertise from academia entirely, no attempt to find a neutral source of facts with an academic reputation to protect.

As Jon Stewart said of "Crossfire", "It's theatre".

Such a typical nuclear position to take when it comes to the realities of institutional corporatization by the government and the industry. This position presented suggests talking with their expensive "experts" who solicit funding from, establish their "research" labs and work for the nuclear industry, doing what they are directed to do and produce.

When the government under Harper began defunding universities and establishing their industry led "research clusters" which are now being further funded by Trudeau and his Liberal government, all research being done by any nuclear group becomes biased and problematic. These research institutes are now primarily funded by the nuclear industry, their board members are expensive nuclear executives who determine what is researched and what gets funded.

The key biase in this comment is made with the lack of understanding and ignorance about the sociology professor who has been studying technological innovation and human interaction for years at the National Research Council. Her research at the University of New Brunswick does make her a well-informed advocate for fair and just environmental transitions from the corporate rape and destruction of rural areas by industries who only exploit the lands, air and waterways for their own greed.

I'm not sure why a retired waterworks engineer would take a "typical nuclear position". I've never taken a penny from the industry, or belonged to any kind of activist group. My voting patterns a left-wing. I simply want workable climate solutions, and something than can provide new, green, baseload power is not otherwise on offer.

Dr. Atkinson has only worked for academia and the UK Navy, his resume' indicates no industry consulting contracts, that's why I selected it. A vaccine specialist may think vaccines can save the world, without being in the pay of Big Pharma. A wind turbine engineer can give a great review of the GE Haliade-X product without taking money from GE, simply because it's really a good wind turbine.

The same can be said of an enthusiast for his chosen field of nuclear reactors, he might genuinely believe they can save the world on their own merits. Such sources should enjoy a presumption of innocence unless you can show malfeasance.

Dr. O'Donnell is a fine researcher and activist (self-described), but her publications indicate zero expertise, at a peer-reviewed level, on the subject of nuclear engineering itself. At the very least, a non-industry subject-matter-expert, like Dr. Atkinson, should also have been interviewed, not just two activists in inherent conflict.

"something than can provide new, green, baseload power"

The far more flexible and responsive renewable energy system replaces the old model of baseload power.
No single form of power generation will provide the solution by itself. No silver bullet. That's not the game plan. The game has changed.
All the renewable technologies together, including energy (not just battery) storage, will provide increasing amounts of increasingly reliable power. A broadly distributed network of diverse renewables plus storage increases their reliability and the reliability of the grid overall.
"Can renewables provide baseload power?" (Skeptical Science, 2016)

"The idea that wind, solar, geothermal, and hydrokinetic should, individually or collectively, 'replace' coal is a straw man. What greens are proposing is a new paradigm, pairing aggressive energy efficiency and conservation (easily the cheapest 'source' of energy) with distributed small-scale sources appropriate to regional context, and smart grids."
"Let’s ask the market. Investment money is streaming into small-scale, distributed power, but the nuclear industry is utterly moribund. If it were revived, it would be a Frankenstein, entirely sustained by government largess. Mining uranium is an environmental nightmare; building the plants is prohibitively costly; the risks are all but uninsurable. What we’re talking about is creating a(nother) huge, centralized, politically connected energy cartel forever seeking to increase its take from the public teat. We need more of those?
"Kevin Drum blows it by repeating the conventional wisdom" (David Roberts, Grist, Apr 16, 2006)

"The key to stable, reliable grids is not any individual technology but the design of power markets and power systems. Today ... they are designed around large, centralized power plants and one-way power flows. To keep grids reliable during the energy transition, policymakers need to redesign markets to encourage diverse portfolios of energy technologies, from distributed generation to storage and demand response."
"More natural gas isn't a 'middle ground' — it’s a climate disaster" (Vox, May 30, 2019)
The new paradigm is based on variable/intermittent non-dispatchable renewables (wind, solar PV) supplemented by fast-peaking dispatchable [can adjust power to demand] power (open-cycle gas turbine, hydro, concentrated solar thermal power [CST] with thermal storage).
"Wind and solar PV can supply bulk energy, balanced by flexible, dispatchable renewables." This new paradigm can do something far more valuable than baseload power: supply power flexibly according to demand.
"Renewable energy versus nuclear: dispelling the myths" (The Ecologist)
The article above and the next one, both in The Ecologist, address the issue of intermittency and how to incorporate renewables into a reliable power system:
"Dispelling the nuclear ‘baseload’ myth: nothing renewables can’t do better!" (The Ecologist)
“Increased electricity system flexibility, needed to enable electricity supply-demand balance with high levels of renewable generation, can come from a portfolio of supply- and demand-side options, including flexible conventional generation, grid storage, new transmission, more responsive loads, and changes in power system operations.”
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL): "Renewable Electricity Futures Study"
"Renewables that will be built to meet the Alberta renewable energy target won’t require special backup. In fact, there’s no such thing as “special” backup. Every generator on the grid today, whether it's natural gas, coal, nuclear, or renewables has a backup option. This is how the grid reliably provides power, because even fossil power plants routinely shut down for extended maintenance periods, and also suffer unexpected outages. For some coal plants, this accounts for as much as 10 per cent of the time.
"In reality, renewables can contribute to reliability by being available during times of system stress. Often the same phenomena that stress conventional power plants correlate with high levels of renewable generation. In other words, extreme weather can be renewables' time to shine. …there are well documented cases of wind power helping to prevent blackouts in the U.S. during the recent “polar vortex”, when coal piles were frozen solid and demand for gas for home heating skyrocketed."
"Baseload myths and why we need to change how we look at our grid" (Pembina Institute, Aug. 3, 2017)

"The sun doesn’t always shine? No problem for renewables" (Pembina Institute, March 16, 2016)

"Four EU countries not rich in hydropower got half their 2014 electricity use from renewables (Spain 46%, Scotland 50%, Denmark 59%, and Portugal 64%) without increasing bulk storage or reducing reliability. Italy achieved 33%, as Germany is expected to do in 2015. These countries’ grids work as a conductor leads a symphony orchestra: No instrument plays all the time, but the ensemble continuously produces beautiful music."
"The experts on nuclear power and climate change" (The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Dec 17, 2015)

Ignoring the fact that your suggested reference is employed by the same institution that is now working for the nuclear industry and taking their money to pay for the "research" the industry wants produced is just feeding into the same lies that the nuclear industry has been spreading for years. "Trusting" industry purchased "research" is exactly what works best for these corporations. Enjoy their kool-aid ..

Can you find me genuine experts in any technology that are more than one arms-length away from industry money?

Here's a comparison for you. In an article on a move to vaccinate, the journalist interviews:

1) The spokesman for an association of Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, AstraZenaca.

NO Professors of Immunology...because nearly all of them have been to conferences partially funded by those companies, have written papers for research institutes that accept funding from those companies. All of them have problems with certain vaccines or vaccine approaches (as Dr. Atkinson no doubt criticizes many reactor designs) but they are all basically pro-vaccine! So that interview would just be doubling up on the "pro vax" side of these two sides.

2) An anti-vax activist. Full-time physiotherapist, by trade, but really serious about his anti-vax research.

Who's telling the truth? The industry spokesdroid, or the passionate activist? Those were your only two interviews, so we've reported, you decide.

I found this article to be helpful. It let me know that SMRs are being promoted by the current federal govt as part of the means for achieving 2050 GHG reduction targets; that there are ~ 12 SMR projects in Canada in development, but none yet approved; and that the coal phase-out in Ontario (replaced largely with nuclear energy) was North America's largest emissions reductions accomplishment. Has any other province ever met an emissions reduction target? The article could have been improved with some discussion of the nuclear waste problem.

John Gorman, president and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association, makes a false analogy with solar power, and its rapid cost reductions. The two technologies are not remotely comparable in scale. Solar panels do not cost (taxpayers) billions of dollars. While solar panels have benefitted from rapid cost reductions due to economies of scale, nuclear has shown a negative learning curve. Costs and project delays have increased over time as safety concerns have mounted.

Gorman: "every source of clean energy will be necessary to meet the demand"
Another fallacy. When you have a problem or a breakdown, you do not throw every possible solution at it — no matter how inefficient, expensive, potentially dangerous, and unfit for the task. No, you choose the best possible, most efficient, and safest solution that fits your budget. To throw everything but the kitchen sink at the problem guarantees inefficiency and delays the solution.
Particularly problematic given our limited resources. Public dollars invested in nuclear are dollars not invested in cheaper, more efficient solutions like renewables + storage.
Renewables are ready to go. At much lower cost.
The IEA's 2020 ETP Clean Energy Technology Guide rates SMRs as just "Moderate" (lowest rating) in terms of Importance for net-zero emissions. Wind and solar rate High in Importance for Net-Zero Emissions and much higher in Technology Readiness Level.
Benjamin Sovacool, director of the energy group, U of Sussex: Renewables provide a bigger bang for the buck to lower emissions, and are widely available now, unlike SMRs. "Nuclear power is like fighting world hunger with caviar, it's like using the most expensive option when there are far more plentiful and nutritious options available when you account for the costs."
"Can small nuclear reactors help Canada reach its net-zero 2050 goals? Some experts are skeptical" (CBC)

The nuclear industry is its own worst enemy: negative learning curve, construction delays, big cost overruns, mining pollution, waste problem, plant releases, etc.
While the cost of renewables falls, nuclear costs rise. Renewables without subsidy increasingly beat fossil fuels on cost; nuclear requires massive govt support and subsidies.

This easy-to-read paper is an excellent summary of the case against nuclear and SMRs in particular:

M. V. Ramana, "Small Modular and Advanced Nuclear Reactors: A Reality Check" (2021)
"The higher construction and operational costs per unit of electricity generation capacity will make electricity from small modular reactors more expensive than electricity from large nuclear power plants, which are themselves not competitive in today’s electricity markets.
"The historical record suggests that the potential savings from learning and modular construction will be inadequate to compensate for the economic challenges resulting from the lower generation capacity.
"…The key difference is that the costs of nuclear energy, especially from SMRs, are prohibitively high and rising, whereas the costs of renewables are low and declining. More narrowly, renewables benefit from the almost zero marginal costs of solar and wind energy because they don’t incur any fueling costs and operator costs are minimal."
..."Expectations that small modular or advanced nuclear reactors will rescue nuclear power are unlikely to be met. Most advanced nuclear reactor designs are simply not ready for deployment or commercialization because of technical problems. Small modular reactors start off being less economical than large reactors because of their smaller power outputs without correspondingly smaller costs. Various methods of modifying SMRs and advanced nuclear reactors to load-follow or co-generate hydrogen or desalinate water do not help. Nuclear advocates seem to be clutching at straws by emphasizing these options.
"Pursuing SMRs will only worsen the problem of poor economics that has plagued nuclear power and make it harder for nuclear power to compete with renewable sources of electricity. The scenario is even more bleak as we look to the future because other sources of electricity supply, in particular combinations of renewables and storage technologies such as batteries, are fast becoming cheaper.
"Finally, because there is no evidence of adequate demand, it is financially not viable to set up the manufacturing facilities needed to mass produce SMRs and advanced reactors. All of these problems might just end up reinforcing The Economist magazine’s observation from the turn of the century: 'nuclear power, which early advocates thought would be ‘too cheap to meter’, is more likely to be remembered as too costly to matter'."

I agree with all these comments. The promotion of Small Nuclear Reactors is similar to Carbon Capture and Storage in that it distracts us from what we really need to do as a society, reduce our GHG emissions NOW. And of course both technologies are extremely expensive. Let's not forget that a lot of emission reduction can be done through energy efficiency (retrofitting buildings etc.).

I am very concerned about the risks of nuclear power: the potential for accidents such as Fukishima (have we already forgotten?), the problem of nuclear waste which has a half-life of 250,000 years (!), its waste of water and its potential relation to nuclear weapons industry. Especially disturbing is a recent CBC story stating that former PM Jean Cretien is promoting Labrador as a place to store international nuclear waste:

I encourage all readers to write their MP's and other government officials NOW before the nuclear lobby gains more traction than it already has.

The Green Party is opposed to nuclear energy. I'm not sure about the NDP.

All fair comments, but not all nuclear technology, so to speak, is alike. There is a small reactor, the Travelling Wave Reactor that can actually radically reduce risk and use up spent fuel rods. The technology has been understood since the 1950s but had no government support (it doesn't produce weapons-useful wast product). The Gates Foundation has a working model. The world should seriously consider it.

I depends on the technology (not the size); there are different nuclear technologies out there. If the SMRs are Travelling Wave Reactors, they're a huge improvement on conventional nuclear reactors: they can use spent fuel rods, so that it's win-win i.e. no GHGs and reduction of (other) nuclear waste.
Environmental change is a truly existential threat. We have to stop fooling around and go with some, at least, nuclear power. It's doable.

Check out this 2013 article: Bill Gates On The Wrong Path With Travelling Wave Reactors: Despite $100 Billion Invested Globally, Sodium-Cooled Reactors Plagued By Leaks, Accidents, And Low Reliability ( Abraham Lincoln said "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

No environmentalists "reject nuclear over concerns about the disposal of nuclear waste", because there is no genuine concern about that.

The proper description of persons pushing that barrow is "government astroturf". That is because government is uniquely affected by the tremendous savings in human effort and environmental harm when a dollar's worth of uranium replaces $25 worth of methane, or $100 worth of petroleum -- prices that include multiple dollars in tax.

Promoters of SMRs, like those pushing all kinds of nuclear reactors...
The nuclear industry has been "working on the problem" of safe permanent disposal for 70 years. They are no closer to a solution now than they were 70 years ago. All of it is stockpiled and heavily guarded around the clock at endless cost into a forever future.

We never talk about that? I could swear I was just now pointing out that it's a big, black lie.

That is any empty claim. The evidence says otherwise.

Back in the day, when Chernobyl blew up, one of the more simpleminded responses was "Wait, they were using graphite as a moderator. And then they were surprised when it burned. Were they nuts?!" While it was a simpleminded response, and certainly things are much more complicated than that, I still think there was something to it. So for instance when I hear modern designers talk about cooling nuclear reactors with sodium I think "Oh, great, sodium--what could possibly go wrong?"
But when it comes to these SMR thingies what really boggles me is several popular versions are "pebble bed reactors". So this involves lots of little chunks of nuclear fuel roughly the size and shape of billiard balls. Apparently it also involves constantly moving them in and out of the reactor, I guess so they don't overheat or something. This seems stupid, because it seems to me one thing you don't want in a nuclear reactor is lots of moving parts that could fail. But what boggled my mind is the pebbles themselves. They are chunks of uranium or what, wrapped in a coating. What coating, you might ask. Why, it's a coating of CARBON. So they're taking lumps of coal and putting them in a nuclear reactor to be white hot.

What could possibly go wrong?! I suppose you could ask the guys at Chernobyl.

Honestly, one reason I'm against nuclear power is that, beyond all the problems with massive expense, and slowness, and more cancers caused by reactors when running normally than people generally admit, and the waste, and all that--I also think that the people who design nuclear reactors are so kool-aid filled that they should under no circumstances be allowed to design nuclear reactors. You have to drink the kool-aid to be willing to develop the things, and so the mind-set for being a developer of nuclear reactors involves, as a requirement, underestimating the dangers and overestimating the effectiveness of your safety measures. In a word, being a designer of nuclear reactors requires hubris. And hubris means they will screw it up.

As side note, I find it odd that nuclear reactors are considered a sort of triumph of ultramodern technology. They're STEAM ENGINES. It's 19th century technology. They're just using hot uranium instead of hot coal to heat the water.

"... more cancers caused by reactors when running normally than people generally admit ..."

And here we have governments losing a million or more in natural gas royalties every week a 1-gigawatt reactor operates.

You'd think anyone government money could buy would be eager to "admit" the existence of 1000 percent, or ten thousand percent, or minus-a-million percent (if low-level radiation actually is anti-carcinogenic), of these cancers.

And -- spoiler -- we have exactly that. We have loads of people selling their souls for thirty government cents. But we *also* have unpurchasable savants such as long-established government scientist James Hansen pointing out that, if you make up the juiciest death tolls for its accidents that could theoretically be possible, nuclear is still a huge lifesaver.

(Kharecha & Hansen, "Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power", *Environ. Sci. Technol.* 2013, 47, 9, 4889–4895)

At the time of publication (Hansen, 2013), solar and wind were more expensive than fossil fuels.
Now that dynamic has flipped. Solar costs have dropped 90% in the last decade. Solar without subsidy now provides the cheapest power in at least two-thirds of the world. The cost of renewables keeps dropping.
Renewables + storage, supplemented by (green) hydrogen and carbon-neutral synthetic gas, are safer than nuclear, far cheaper, and ready to go.
We need to invest our scarce resources in the best climate solutions: renewables (including R&D) and storage; connecting smart grids; energy conservation and efficiency; public transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure; redesigning cities for people, not cars; and hitting the brakes on urban sprawl. (EV subsidies don't make the list.)
Get the biggest bang for our climate buck. Maximize emissions reductions and minimize cost.
Fundamentally, we have a design problem, not just an energy problem. The fossil fuel paradigm, car culture, and urban sprawl are inherently inefficient, wasteful, and unsustainable. Sustainability demands total redesign and reorganization, including energy systems. We cannot solve the paradigm problem simply by replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors.
A single-Earth ecological footprint cannot accommodate an energy-intensive lifestyle where people drive everywhere they go -- or an urban model relying on millions of cars to transport millions of people. No matter how it is powered.

The Tip of the Radiation Disaster Iceberg

Dr. Helen Caldicott: How nuclear apologists mislead the world over radiation: