B.C. Premier David Eby recently rejected the Canadian Energy Regulator's findings indicating that nuclear power would be a necessary component of Canada’s climate change response. His proclamation that the province would remain nuclear-free and would not need the energy appeals to the no-nuke environmentalist vote.

However, with the recent heat waves, no one knows (or cares) that we are frying. Faced with an existential climate crisis, we are still debating and squaring off rather than executing well-thought-out policy. Our leaders, ever wedded to their roles, continue to appease popularist memes rather than evaluate the hard evidence and form policy of meaningful consequence.

The push for renewable energy sources and achieving net-zero via widescale electrification has seen the emergence of wind, solar and biofuels being presented as the great saviours of our time. But adoption of these technologies invokes dark consequences, replete with moral and ethical dissonance.

Crop-based biofuels rob arable land in a fuel-for-food tradeoff — further threatening food security for the world's poorest — while ancient forests in B.C. are being liquidated for wood pellets in a misguided belief this wood-for-coal replacement is somehow renewable.

But wind and solar come with particularly pernicious ethical issues: to be effectively integrated into the grid, they need to be complemented with storage to provide reliable, firm power.

Lithium-ion batteries are the storage technology of choice, but this technology requires cobalt to function — and the world has only one substantive source: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Anything but democratic, DRC is overrun with foreign exploitation and government corruption.

In the DRC, where 70 per cent of the world's cobalt is sourced, 30 per cent is mined by “artisanal” miners — unshod children working barehanded at gunpoint, often maimed and killed as mine walls collapse. They literally work in their graves.

The profits of the global supply chains from dirt in the DRC, to batteries, have created massive wealth at the expense of enslaved children. This is the repugnant conclusion that every EV driver, cellphone or lithium-ion fuelled device user must face. Lithium-ion is a technology mired in exploitation and tragedy. Forget conflict diamonds, welcome to the age of selective ignorance as conflict batteries become ever-present in our lives.

Against this backdrop, nuclear power is vilified as expensive and dirty and roundly rejected by populist enviro rhetoric. Yet, more humans have died from coal power airborne particulates and in artisanal mines than have ever been affected by nuclear power, including those impacted by well-known and major incidents. The costs of nuclear are roughly equivalent to wind and solar when the required batteries for equitable grid performance are included.

We advocate for nuclear power development in Canada because we are self-sufficient in uranium, and we can and should develop small modular reactors and exploit the technology and domestic resources. In Canada, uranium is mined in an environmentally responsible manner with appropriate regulatory oversight because we are blessed with a functional democracy. And it is a little-appreciated fact that nuclear has the smallest environmental footprint of any energy-generating technology in almost any impact category one chooses.

'We advocate for nuclear power development in Canada." Here's why, write Andrew S. Wright and Taco Niet @BlackSquareTaco @SFU #Sustainability #energy #ClimateChange #cdnpoli

Energy system design is extraordinarily complex, because human well-being, land (food), water and air are all intrinsically linked and affected when energy generation is commissioned. Indeed, eight of the United Nations’ 17 key development goals are directly impacted by energy developments, both positively and negatively.

The negative impacts often fall upon the world's most impoverished. It is repugnant that local populist policies designed to appeal and attract voters ignore global consequences — especially when children are enslaved at gunpoint to service entitled energy-rich lives.

Repugnant conclusions are the consequence of narrow minds born of narrow streets where we “care for kin but not for kind.”

We argue ethical energy development that considers the global consequences of local energy policy should be enshrined in B.C. law and culture. And as such, all technologies, including nuclear, should be evaluated by evidentiary merit, not by myth or meme.

We applaud the Canada Energy Regulator for utilizing an informed modelling approach, because it escapes emotional policy guidance. Its work echoes our modelling efforts and that of other researchers and laboratories.

Dual-expert decision-making by machine modelling with human guidance provides powerful insights and informed policymaking.

Fossil fuel may be Canada’s heritage, but truly clean and ethical energy should be our aspirational future.

Dr. Andrew S. Wright is the former chief technology officer for Datum Telegraphic, a mathematical and algorithmic silicon chip company for the cellular telecommunications industry. He continues to work with industry on innovations in conservation and sustainability initiatives, including working with a variety of cutting-edge technology and engineering startups in Vancouver. His current work is at Simon Fraser University in climate adaptation and mitigation strategies for food, energy and water systems.

Taco Niet is an assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering at Simon Fraser University. He models energy system transitions with a focus on the interaction between the energy, land and water system and is interested in the equity and justice implications of the energy system decisions of society. Niet has taught courses, including those on instrumentation, systems design and modelling, control systems, strength of materials, and technology and society. He supervises graduate students in research related to systems modelling, focusing on building tools that help society and policymakers address climate and other system impacts and tradeoffs.

Keep reading

Nuclear is by far the most expensive and worst choice for green energy. The Chalk River reactor was built primarily to produce plutonium need for weapons by reprocessing spent fuel. Canada sells plutonium to other countries such as the U.S. France and Britain for their nuclear weapons. Plutonium has a half life of 24,000 years. The world doesn't need more of it. There is nothing small about small nuclear reactors. Large nuclear reactors are more efficient. Perhaps 'small' is a marketing gimmick. Perhaps degrowth has to be taken seriously as a reasonable option.

Please provide reputable citations or well-spported references to back your assertion that Canada supplies plutonium fuel for other nation's weapons.

Note that Canada is on record of supplying medical isotopes to hospitals and dental clinics for diagnostic purposes and cancer treatment.

Evidentiary merit of SMRs is thoroughly documented and referenced in this presentation:
It does nothing more than explore the veracity of the many claims made about SMRs. Released only two years ago, one indication from the research was that SMRs would take much longer and cost much more than the then-current industry estimates. And so they are.
Taking action to address mining company travesties, many of the most egregious being Canadian, is achievable given an economic/political will to do so. Supporting nuclear means supporting the piling of radioactive waste on the banks of the Ottawa River. There is no remedial action that can be taken when that radioactivity poisons the river, for 1000s of years.

Article: "Lithium-ion batteries are the storage technology of choice, but this technology requires cobalt to function…"

Not true, apparently:
"Cobalt-free batteries are here, so why are we still mining the mineral? (TNW, May 26, 2022)
"Do we need cobalt?
"Tesla is leading the race to cobalt-free EVs
"No, lithium-ion batteries do not have to use cobalt. Lithium-ion chemistries without cobalt include:
"- Lithium Ferrous (Iron) Phosphate (LiFePo4 or LFP)
"- Lithium Titanate (Li4Ti5O12 or LTO)
"… nearly half the Tesla vehicles produced in the first quarter of 2022 were equipped with cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries."

"Reducing Reliance on Cobalt for Lithium-ion Batteries" (2021)
"Industry has recognized the risks of Co dependency, and many battery manufacturers and end users have established ambitious goals to move to low- or no Co-containing cathodes. Many technological hurdles exist, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through the Vehicle Technologies Office, has committed to a multi-year, multi-thrust program to address all the scientific and engineering issues with eliminating most of the Co in EV batteries."

Battery and renewables manufacturers need to clean up their supply chains, no question. Government must play a role here.
From the oilsands to Yellowknife's Giant gold mine, and from Congo's cobalt mines to China's coal mines, mining around the world is an environmental disaster. Environmentalists support stricter mining regulations and enforcement.

You are absolutely correct. LFP batteries are now replacing LNMC (lithium with nickel, magnesium and cobalt) that do indeed often originate from troubled countries, but that also have dendrite and fire issues. LFP batteries are safer, can be fully charged more often and last longer. When dosed with limited quantities of magnesium, LFP batteries are 10%-15% more energy dense.

The battery research is really taking off. LFP will no doubt give way to sodium and/or silicon chemistry before too long which have greater energy density and are not sensitive to cold or hot weather.

But the revolution goes even further when separating grid scale storage from smaller scale transportation battery technology. One of the most promising chemistries is iron-air, and Form Energy is leading the way to commercialization in the US where they have one massive battery storage facility underway with another two in the works, all of which are replacing coal-fired power plants with renewables backstopped by storage that can discharge MW of power for 100 hours. Iron and air ... not exactly rare commodities, eh?

The academics who wrote this article resorted to the very tactics they accused supporters of solar and wind of using: Myth making and memes. I would add also a distaste for looking at the latest research, which is curious for academia that is supposed to dig for facts and the truth. And I say that as one who is not against nuclear power and who sees the Canadian nuclear power industry as one of the safest in the world but with two strikes against it, namely cost and not using the waste as fuel to render it down for a decade instead of considering direct burial.

On these points, solar and wind combined with the best battery storage available today is far superior than nuclear.

Correction: L-ion and LFP batteries use manganese, not magnesium.

I would suggest you look into Form Energy. They've broken ground on their iron-air battery factory in West Virginia. All the criticisms you have for Lithium don't apply. The initial plant will provide 500 MWh of batteries per year. They claim they will sell for 10% of the cost of lithium batteries and the current design be able to hold power for 4 days. Unlike the nuclear industry the manufacturing isn't bespoke so as they scale they'll be even more competitive.

Nuclear Costs
Article: "The costs of nuclear are roughly equivalent to wind and solar when the required batteries for equitable grid performance are included."

We do not know the cost of SMRs yet. Nuclear costs keep going up (negative learning curve), while renewables costs have fallen dramatically.
Add up all the govt subsidies and benefits for nuclear — from R&D through financing and project construction to decommissioning and waste disposal. Add the total to ratepayers' monthly bill.

Nuclear power does not exist w/o massive subsidies. Every nuclear station in Ontario was built by the govt. If nuclear weren't massively subsidized (R&D, financing, project construction, decommissioning, waste disposal), no one would touch it.
Nuclear fails on costs alone. Renewables provide a bigger bang for the buck to lower emissions, and are widely available now, unlike SMRs.

The nuclear industry is its own worst enemy: negative learning curve, huge cost overruns, construction delays, waste problem, mining pollution, plant releases, etc.
If nuclear weren't massively subsidized (R&D, financing, project construction, decommissioning, waste disposal), no one would touch it.

"No country has managed to develop a safe, successful, economically competitive nuclear power industry in a market-based environment." (Naomi Oreskes)
Benjamin Sovacool, director of the energy group, U of Sussex: "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."

Govt-subsidized nuclear is more likely to compete with, displace, and delay renewables — not back them up. Nuclear should be the last 20% if necessary, not the first 80%.

According to the IPCC, nuclear offers little help in the short term to reduce emissions. Nuclear is the least affordable low-carbon option. Unreliable in heat waves.
In the end, it comes down to economics. Nuclear is a money pit. Without massive government involvement, there is no nuclear industry. Homeowners can put solar panels on the roof for a few thousand dollars.
Why spend billions on nuclear projects and billions more on nuclear-waste disposal when you can generate far more GWh for less cost using renewables, without worrying about radioactive contamination at any stage of the process (apart from mining).
Why go nuclear if you don't have to?

Climate change itself is kneecapping nuclear power, due to drought- and heat-related shutdowns.
"[Europe's 2022] drought also affected energy production, leading to reductions in hydroelectric power as well as output from some nuclear power stations which rely on water supplies for cooling." (AFP, 2023)

"As France's disastrous summer of 2022 taught us (half of its reactors were down for repairs) old nuclear technology is unreliable – anything but the 24/7 phenomenon that advocates claim."
"No, nuclear power isn't the 'big bazooka' climate fix you might think" (CNN, 2023)

To promote reliance on SMRs is to delay climate action for decades. SMRs will not be deployable on a mass scale for decades. Time we don't have.

"The Real Obstacle to Nuclear Power" (The Atlantic, Feb 7, 2023)

"The warming clock is ticking—and replacing fossil fuels is much easier with nuclear power in the equation. And yet the industry, in many respects, looks unready to step into a major role. It has consistently flopped as a commercial proposition. Decade after decade, it has broken its promises to deliver new plants on budget and on time, and, despite an enviable safety record, it has failed to put to rest the public's fear of catastrophic accidents.
"…When I started reporting this article, I imagined it might be a diatribe against the environmental movement's resistance to nuclear power.
"…And so environmentalists, I thought, were betraying the environment by stigmatizing nuclear power. But I had to revise my view. Even without green opposition, nuclear power as we knew it would have fizzled—today's environmentalists are not the main obstacle to its wide adoption.
"…if you had fallen asleep in the '70s and awakened today, you would recognize the basic nuclear-power model as the same, both technologically and as a business proposition.
"In particular, you would see the same gigantic plants and staggering building costs. In the 1970s, the industry stopped pursuing alternatives to using water to cool the hot nuclear core and transfer heat to steam turbines generating electricity. Water worked fine, but it had to be held under extreme pressure to stay fluid at fission temperatures, and if it boiled off, meltdowns were an inherent risk. Accidents could be reliably prevented, but only by building in elaborate safety measures, all of which necessitated costly engineering and heavy regulatory oversight. … Reactors needed electric-powered pumps, and redundant cooling systems in case those failed, and massive containment structures in case those failed. The need for all of that redundancy and mass raised costs, inducing utility companies to seek economies of scale by making big reactors. Designing giant plants, each bespoke for a specific site, took years; licensing and building them took years more.
"'We got bogged down. As we made plants bigger, we also made them unconstructable.' The creativity of the '60s gave way to an industry that became 'very formal, very bureaucratic, very slow, driven by safety concerns.'
"…And so, in a generation, nuclear power went from the fuel of the future to not worth the bother."

Article: "In Canada, uranium is mined in an environmentally responsible manner with appropriate regulatory oversight because we are blessed with a functional democracy."

Empty boosterism and greenwashing. No logical connection between democratic government and environmental performance. Look at Alberta or B.C.'s environmental record.

Replace "uranium" with coal, bitumen, asbestos, gold, etc., and read that sentence again.
The oilsands industry also claims that it operates "in an environmentally responsible manner with appropriate regulatory oversight". Ethical Oil™.

How good is Alberta's regulatory regime for oil and gas? Think RStar, Alberta's Orphan Well Association, the AER's history of regulatory, failure, tailings pond spills and leakage, etc.
Evidentiary merit?

...still waiting for SOMEONE to mention GRAPHENE!!!...

Interesting. Do you have any links to peer reviewed reports to share?

In reply to Penny Oyama

So an article that advocates for something can contain three things that make you doubt it. It can have . . . fudging. That isn't necessarily enough to sink it. It can contain internal inconsistencies. Those can be pretty bad. And, it can contain outright lies.

This has all three. So, first, at the bedrock level: It claims flat out that nuclear costs about the same as (wind & solar) + storage. Yeah, that's not true. I've seen figures and figures and figures; it's a lie. Sure, maybe these guys managed to find a set of numbers tweaked so carefully as to make it look like a halfway real claim, but they would have had to work hard and deliberately to find those and ignore the rest; when you go with an outlier that bad, you're not fudging, you're lying.

It also claims that thing about cobalt. Now apparently that's not true of car batteries going forward, thank you Mr. Pounder. But even it if was true of car batteries . . . there are ALL KINDS of storage for electricity, everything from various cheap battery technologies that don't do well in cars (too heavy, too delicate, too slow) but would be fine sitting around as backup storage for an electricity grid, to stuff like pumping water uphill. Nearly all of these don't involve cobalt. So the claim that grid storage for renewable energy requires either cobalt or the abuses currently involved in mining it is, again, getting a bit beyond a fudge. I might add that in theory, they should be moving on to argue against electric cars on the same basis . . . but I'm thinking they won't.

There's fudges all over the place. So for instance, you can tell that like all nuclear advocates, they accept safety figures produced by nuclear-power-backed outfits which basically don't count anything as a nuclear-caused death unless the person died screaming of radation sickness right on the premises. Epidemiological studies showing excess deaths need not apply, because those . . . show quite a lot of excess deaths. Even during normal operation, a constant trickle--lower than for, say, a coal plant, but noticeably more than the zero you get from a wind turbine or an array of solar panels. As to the mining, I seem to recall reading some rather questionable stuff about the oh-so-safe-and-ethical uranium mining in Canada.

And then there's the internal contradiction. So the headline talks about evidentiary merit. And then the article talks about comparable costs of nuclear and renewables. And then . . . it starts yacking about Fairy Dust, ah, Small Modular Reactors. Hang on, I thought we were supposed to be talking about evidentiary merit and solid costs here. The only thing we really know about the eventual costs of Small Modular Reactors is that nuclear power plants generally have cost and time overruns in direct proportion to how innovative they are. And that large nuclear reactors are, at a brute physics level, less inefficient than small ones, so SMRs have a fundamental disadvantage. But aside from that--as I understand it, there is no finalized blueprint anywhere for an SMR; they got nothing they can take to a field and base a building project on, so who knows what the damned things will cost? You want to talk cost comparisons and sound all hard-headed, you talk about stuff with track records, not stuff that doesn't exist.

Overall, this article is nonsense. Except the bit about biofuels, which do suck just as the article says. But aside from that, it's bogus.

Ontario's Darlington NPP is being rebuilt and upgraded. The latest reports indicate it is on time and on budget. Go figure.

My only beef is that it doesn't seem to be built to consume the waste produced before and currently stored in huge on site tanks of water.

France uses MOX breeder reactors to generate 70% of the nation's power, and is on record for taking a large quanity of Russia's plutonium left over from its older nuclear weapons stockpile that was decommissioned and using it as fuel to generate peacetime power, all the while rendering it down over and over into new elements that are orders of magnitude less toxic.

Yep, that's a contradiction for a country that has nuclear weapons, a fact that is seized upon by Greepeace that stretches the bounds of credulity when cynically using weapons and energy terminology in the same sentences, as though saying Tomahawk cruise missiles and Westjet's 737's where somehow linked. Both sides of this debate are guilty of issuing propaganda.

France does NOT use MOX breeder reactors to generate electricity. This is absolutely false. Only Russia, China and India have operating breeder reactors, and in the latter two countries they are small. France does reprocess irradiated fuel rods from conventional reactors, extract plutonium, and fabricate it into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, but this is very expensive. This "recycled" fuel accounts for only 17% of France's electricity, according to the World Nuclear Association.

The key point of this article is to recommend the embracing of an ethical and evidence based energy development policy, one that considers global impacts on the poorest - and to not exclude any technology. The situation in the DRC is heart breaking and the world should act - at the highest levels, but we have not.

Not to exclude any technology? First, that was NOT your point. You certainly argued fairly strenuously for exclusion of battery technology. And indeed, argued strongly and I think accurately for avoiding biofuel technology. So, clever goalpost shifting there. You were clearly only arguing not to exclude any technology called "nuclear".

But if it HAD been your point, that would have been insane. Obviously some technologies are going to be more fit for purpose than others. Given limited resources to deploy these technologies, devoting much of our resources to deploying a technology that is not fit for purpose or which costs a great deal compared to others would be foolish and could cause failure to reach our goals. Also, if there is a great need for speed, deploying a technology which is very slow to put in place would also be deeply counterproductive. Your claim was fundamentally that nuclear power did not have these drawbacks and so should be among the group of technologies considered, but in fact it does and shouldn't.

What is this ridiculous opinion piece doing on the National Observer? I see more believable nonsense on right wing disinformation sites. It troubles me that these authors are apparently researchers at SFU; I would have expected better from that fine institution.
If the ridiculous fearmongering about wind and solar is any indication, their arguments in favour of nuclear can be quickly dismissed as similarly biased. And why mention biofuels? No serious person considers those to be a solution to...well, anything.
I'd be prepared to entertain nuclear as one of the ways to green our energy infrastructure, as long as the well known problems with cost, spent fuel storage and the potential for catastrophic accidents are properly addressed. However, this article, if anything, makes me less likely to do so.

BC exports significant quantities of virgin forest as bio fuels to Europe. The article argues for ethical framework for energy development that asks the reader to consider global real impacts of local choices.
This is all.

As soon as they played the cobalt card I knew this was just another pro-nuclear rant. Lithium battery chemistry has shifted/shifting to exclude cobalt for stationary storage. It's only used for applications with higher density needs, like laptops and electric vehicles (EVs). Even many EVs don't use cobalt in their batteries any more. On top of all that, most energy storage needs are expected to be meet by materials as benign as iron (iron-air batteries), water (pumped storage hydro), the ground beneath your feet (thermal boreholes), etc.

Both cobalt and nickel are now being withdrawn by most battery companies in favour of more stable chemistries. About 2/3rds of new Teslas use LFP or LMFP in their batteries, giving them similar range as L-ion but with the ability to charge to 100% more often. L-ion batteries work best and last longer when the charge is limited to between 20% and 80%, which does tend to limit the range for long distance drivers.

This thing about Congo and EV fires has been blown up out of proportion. Gasoline cars erupt in flames at a higher rate than even L-ion EVs. Air pollution from ICEs kills more people and causes more chronic disease than is commonly admitted. Mainstream journalists have jumped on the band wagon and make outrageous statements about how EVs are a "fraud" or how "cities aren't ready" for EVs. Whatever became of the principle of fact-checking that is supposedly taught in foundational Journalism 101?

Personally, I live in a walkable neighbourhood and don't need a car 90% of the time. But it's most definitely NOT the suburbs where you do need a car (or multiple cars per family) 90+% of the time. Even the most progressive governments and city planners cannot possibly urbanize the suburbs anytime within the next two generations, so in my view EVs are a necessary instrument to fight climate change until zoning, urban design for humans and mass transit (primarily rail in all its permutations) can catch up.

Please explain the ethical calculus that justifies producing electricity, heat, etc. for, say, 50 to 100 years in a nuclear reactor which leaves at the end of its economic lifetime radioactive waste that has to be somehow ensured to be kept from entering the human environment for 200,000 years or so.

770 word article with 2770 words of comments from four people who supply most of CNO's comments. Nice to see a little participation from a few others. The CNO writes a fair bit about mental health and staying positive in the climate crisis, and I imagine it's still running comments when so many sites have ditched them, because the venting helps a few subscribers feel better. (I've done a share, though I know it's pointless!)

But SMRs and Thorium and Travelling Wave are all going to get a few test builds, somewhere, in some country, whatever your objections. And with big subsidies and tax credits now going firmly to renewables, nuclear proposals are going to have hard economic competition. If one of the new proposed technologies doesn't just do an awesome star turn in the pilot plant, they're done.

This brilliant sentence - Our leaders, ever wedded to their roles, continue to appease popularist memes rather than evaluate the hard evidence and form policy of meaningful consequence - ran up against ran up against both hard evidence and deeply held antipathy. As always, nuclear appears to generate critical mass beyond technical and social containment.