There is little to no disagreement about the fact that mitigating the long-term impacts of climate change must remain at the top of our collective priorities from a global perspective. Canada has stated time and time again its willingness to play a leadership role in efforts to decarbonize the global economy.
As part of its 2021 budget, the Trudeau government announced several bold commitments toward enabling a greener future, including its first-ever net-zero strategy via Bill C-12 (armed with legally binding provisions and targets), a nationally mandated carbon tax and the potential ban of single-use plastics across the country.
It is also apparent that Canada remains steadfast in its commitment to advance nuclear energy and, more specifically, small modular reactors (SMRs) as part of its clean energy transformation. In December, Natural Resources Canada released Canada’s first-ever SMR Action Plan, signalling its intentions to firmly position SMRs as part of the country’s energy portfolio and a tangible avenue to transition economies away from their dependence on fossil fuels.
In Canada, COVID-19 has accentuated long-standing issues of regional economic disparity and inequitable access to resources, including health care and energy, particularly for northern and remote communities.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the Canadian government and their provincial counterparts have made it a priority to ensure that those living in remote communities with limited access to local health care were well-supported, in some cases through the deployment of Canada’s Armed Forces. Though, much of that attention only breeds a short-term solution. It is important for us to think about the bigger picture and try to comprehend the underlying issues that will undoubtedly continue unless we address them.
By encouraging an intersection between technological innovation and nuclear energy, we’ll be able to empower remote communities to become self-sustainable. We have an opportunity to reimagine the way we power people’s lives through sustainable energy development. For example, U-Battery’s advanced SMR design has the potential not only to deliver significant environmental benefits, but enable a plethora of value-added economic and social benefits.
With promise comes risk, and one of the key concerns among some climate change experts has been the time necessary for SMR technology to demonstrate its viability and make its way from innovation to commercial use. The criticism being that waiting for the SMRs to move through the regulatory process, while demonstrating their capabilities in a commercial setting, will drag out the very urgent climate crisis that needs to be addressed immediately.
What people are reading
It is imperative to understand that advanced nuclear is simply one part of a broad-reaching solution to move away from dated fossil fuel generation and toward zero-carbon energy projects, and we must include renewables like solar and wind as well as hydrogen in addition to SMRs. While there is no doubt that SMRs will likely take longer in comparison to renewable sources that are already being deployed, we must think bigger picture and longer term when striving to achieve our net-zero ambitions.
Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said: “Canada can be a world leader in this promising, innovative, zero-emissions energy technology, and this is our plan to position ourselves in an emerging global market. There is no path to net-zero without nuclear power.”
Another criticism raised in the same National Observer article revolves around nuclear waste and our ability to manage its environmental impact. While this is certainly an area where a lot more work needs to be done, it is important to note that advanced SMRs like the U-Battery would need to use a significantly lower amount of fuel in comparison to today’s CANDU reactors, meaning that the refuelling cycles would also reduce drastically.
Additionally, Canada is home to a leading nuclear waste management organization, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, which is dedicated to designing and implementing Canada's plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel. This plan, known as adaptive phased management, will require used fuel to be contained and isolated in a deep geological repository, thereby mitigating its long-term environmental impacts.
Given that climate change mitigation remains at the forefront of the Canadian government’s agenda, we must look to marry the intangibles of clean energy technologies like SMRs with broader regional infrastructure development initiatives. The true potential of SMRs could be unlocked by integrating them into larger infrastructure hubs that concurrently provide other value-added applications for remote communities, including water purification, hydrogen production and district heating. As a result of accessing these capabilities, remote communities could become more self-sufficient and have their own greenhouses, hospitals, recreational facilities and much, much more.
The sheer size of Canada makes access to energy challenging in many parts of the country, and this inability to access energy results in a number of unintended consequences. We must look to leverage SMRs to tackle more than climate change. As well, we must understand that relying on renewable sources alone without leveraging the benefits of advanced nuclear technology is not the answer to tackling the existing climate crisis — a threat which only continues to increase. We have an opportunity to enable significant economic and social benefits as a byproduct of establishing locally embedded, low-carbon, clean-energy infrastructure in Canada’s northern and remote communities.
Steve Threlfall is the general manager of U-Battery, leading the development of its advanced modular reactor (AMR) and small modular reactor (SMR) design and technology.
You have to re-cycle maybe 10
You have to re-cycle maybe 10% of your government grants back into campaign funds to buy this level of ignorance and stupidity.
Well said......short, concise
Well said......short, concise and to the point.
With zero content.
With zero content.
Is there a path to net zero
Is there a path to net zero without nuclear power?
Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University: "In sum, we have 95% of the technologies we need today and the know-how to get the rest to address both energy and non-energy emissions. As such, no miracle technology, particularly carbon capture, direct air capture, modern bioenergy or modern nuclear power, is needed."
"No, we don't need 'miracle technologies' to slash emissions — we already have 95 percent"
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.
Nuclear energy is the most expensive energy on offer. SMRs start off at a competive disadvantage to large nuclear reactors because of their smaller size. To achieve economies of scale, SMR manufacturers need to have lots of customers for that model. Remote communities do not provide a sufficient market. The population of the Canadian Arctic would fill Toronto's Rogers Centre about twice over.
"Are Thousands of New Nuclear Generators in Canada’s Future?
"Ottawa is pushing a new smaller, modular nuclear plant that could only pay off if mass produced.
"Canada’s government is about to embrace a new generation of small nuclear reactors that do not make economic sense.
"SMR proponents argue that they can make up for the lost economies of scale two ways: by savings through mass manufacture in factories, and by moving from a steep learning curve early on to gaining rich knowledge about how to achieve efficiencies as more and more reactors are designed and built. But, to achieve such savings, these reactors have to be manufactured by the thousands, even under very optimistic assumptions about rates of learning. Rates of learning in nuclear power plant manufacturing have been extremely low. Indeed, in both the United States and France, the two countries with the highest number of nuclear plants, costs went up, not down, with construction experience.
"In the case of Canada, the potential markets that are most often proffered as a reason for developing SMRs are small and remote communities and mines that are not connected to the electric grid. That is not a viable business proposition. There are simply not enough remote communities, with adequate purchasing capacity, to be able to drive the manufacture of the thousands of SMRs needed to make them competitive with large reactors, let alone other sources of power.
"There are thus good reasons to expect that small modular reactors, like large nuclear power plants, are just not commercially viable. They will also impose the other well-known problems associated with nuclear energy — the risk of severe accidents, the production of radioactive waste, and the linkage with nuclear weapons — on society. Rather than seeing the writing on the wall, unfortunately, NRCan and other such institutions are regurgitating industry propaganda and wasting money on technologies that will never be economical or contribute to any meaningful mitigation of climate change. There is no justification for such expensive distractions, especially as the climate problem becomes more urgent."
"Another explanation for the
"Another explanation for the governments’ eagerness could be the multitude of remote mining and fossil fuel projects in need of power.
"'This is more about providing low-cost, reliable energy to major natural resource projects,' said Kristen van de Biezenbos, an associate professor at UofC’s Haskayne School of Business. 'There must be some kind of economic upside, and SELLING [SMRs] TO RURAL CANADA HAS NO ECONOMIC UPSIDE.'
"Indeed, part of Jason Kenney’s enthusiasm for developing the technology for AB has been to get oilsands projects a cleaner source of energy."
"Is Canada betting big on small nuclear reactors? Here’s what you need to know" (The Narwhal, Jan 4, 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."
"…Niche markets, for example, remote mines and communities that are not otherwise served by the grid and that are currently electrified using diesel plants with very high fuel costs, are quite limited. Indeed, even in a best case scenario, where economics plays no part and where nearly every potential user of SMRs purchases a small modular reactor, the net demand from remote mines and communities in Canada was shown to be far smaller than the minimum demand necessary to construct the factories needed to build these reactors . Further, such remote sites have often provided attractive renewable opportunities.
"The lack of adequate demand, either in niche markets, grid connected markets, or developing countries, is a major constraint because of the emphasis on modular construction by SMR and advanced nuclear reactor designers. As one SMR designer admitted, 'A supplier would have to foresee a sufficient market to invest in factories large enough to achieve economy of mass production from production runs of many hundreds of turnkey plants'.
"If there is no market to set up a factory, then SMR plans run into a chicken and egg problem: without the factory, they cannot ever hope to achieve the theoretical cost reductions that are at heart of the strategy to compensate for the lack of economies of scale."
M. V. Ramana, "Small Modular and Advanced Nuclear Reactors: A Reality Check" (2021)
Promoters suggest that remote communities and off-grid mining operations are promising markets for SMRs in Canada. … the total demand for electricity at these proposed markets is insufficient to justify investing in a factory to manufacture the SMRs. … many of these communities had demands that were too low for even the smallest-output SMR under review at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. … The minimum demand required to justify the cost of producing SMRs would be three to seven times higher.
Sarah Froese, Nadja Kunz, M. V. Ramana, "Small modular reactors aren’t the energy answer for remote communities and mines" (August 26, 2020)
Unfortunately, such 'growth'
Unfortunately, such 'growth' curves are inevitably parabolic. The last 5% at the top of the curve is always exponentially more difficult than the previous 95%. Perhaps an alternative technology that is earlier in its growth curve could provide that last 5% more quickly and easily?
That said, if we can't keep water purification plants running in remote Canadian locations, a brutally simple technology, what prospect is there for safe, remote nuclear reactors?
This shill for small nuclear
This shill for small nuclear reactors is just another example........from the industry that gave us Chernobyl and Fukushima.....of how industrialists wrack their brains to preserve industrialism rather than the planet.
There may well be no road to net 0 that includes continuing the life style cheap hydrocarbons have made possible.........but it we look closely, that lifestyle has been based on a lot of sacrifice zones and colonized people's. We do not live on an infinite planet, and we do not have many places on the over populated earth that can safely sequester nuclear waste for the millennia needed for it to decompose.
Leaving a toxic legacy buried here and there for the distant future is no way to guarantee any kind of a future at all. We need to focus on reducing waste, killing an economy that depends on over production, cheap global supply chains, foreign slave labour, and massive subsidies to the few who do the majority of the damage.
We need another kind of economy....but I fear more children will starve, more fields go under to fracking and other forms of exploitation, before we wake up. The argument that we need nuclear...small modules every damn where......'for the benefit of the people we've colonized for over a century'....is pure capitalist bullshit.
It's time we called it out for what it is........a get rich scheme for the nuclear industry.....a toxic gift that keeps on giving, for the planet.
Free advertising...and should
Free advertising...and should be noted by the National Observer as such.
Certainly deserves a "Sponsor
Certainly deserves a "Sponsor Content" label.
The question in the title is
The question in the title is answered in a paper by M.Z. Jacobson of Stanford University entitled "Roadmaps to Transition Countries to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy for All Purposes to Curtail Global Warming, Air
Pollution, and Energy Risk"
It says, in part,
'In one set of proposals to address these problems, Jacobson and Delucchi (2009, 2011), Delucchi and Jacobson (2011), and Jacobson et al. (2015a, 2015b) posited that the world as a whole and individual U.S. states
could run entirely on wind, water, and solar (WWS) power after all energy sectors were electrified or powered by heat directly and after energy efficiency measures were put in place. Only WWS electricity and
heat generation were considered following the scientific assessment of Jacobson (2009). That study concluded that WWS technologies “will result in the most benefit among the options considered,” in terms of
carbon-equivalent emissions, air pollution health impacts, water use, land footprint, land spacing, wildlife
impacts, resource availability, thermal pollution, water chemical pollution, radioactive waste, weapons proliferation, catastrophic risk, energy supply disruption, and normal operating reliability. The study further
concluded that nuclear power, fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and biofuels for
transportation offered less benefit than WWS options in terms of the same factors, thus were opportunity
Since then, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2014, p. 517) has similarly concluded
with respect to nuclear that there is “robust evidence” and “high agreement” that “Barriers to and risks
associated with an increasing use of nuclear energy include operational risks and the associated safety concerns, uranium mining risks, financial and regulatory risks, unresolved waste management issues, nuclear
weapons proliferation concerns, and adverse public opinion."'
So we need to ignore shills trying to prolong the life of nuclear power.
This isn't an opinion. It's
This isn't an opinion. It's an advertisement. No thanks nuclear. You had your chance in the last century and produced expensive power and immortal toxic waste. This century we'll be powered by wind, water, and solar.
With regard to small modular
With regard to small modular reactors in general, see my previous comment at https://qr.ae/pGPgxi .
This article continues the NO
This article continues the NO presumption in the previous anti-nuclear article, that the only voices offered to the readers are anti-nuclear activists, and nuclear industry promoters. Publishing this article means the NO can claim to have provided a "balancing opinion", while ensuring that the NO readership will disregard it completely as an industry shill.
I attempted, in two comments, to point out that there might be a middle ground between two polarity extremes, to ask for an article by a professor of engineering or physics, with expertise in the subject, but no financial interest in the outcome. (Other commentators berated this, on the theory that no academic could be objective, if they ever participated in a grant work that was in any way funded by industry: a standard we do not apply to professors of medicine evaluating vaccines.) I compared it to addressing the vaccine issue with only two voices allowed: anti-vaxxers, and salesmen from Pfizer. No virologists allowed.
Nuclear power is not needed once we can store energy for a capital cost of less than $20/kWh stored. We do not yet have that. We cannot guess when or if that "breakthrough battery" will be developed. There isn't enough pumped-hydro. (Details from David Ross at Vox, reporting on the MIT study, at:
David Ross is excellent on the energy issue, self-taught, but covering it now for decades, at multiple employers. He's also commented insightfully and even amusingly on the whole nuclear debate:
"One thing I hope to convey is that “pro-nuclear” and “anti-nuclear” are not considered policy positions. They are identities, ways of signaling membership in a tribe. You sign up for one team and then scold the other team on social media (you will have lots of company)."
NO badly needs to get objective voices writing on this to get away from that mentality. Partisan polemics bring only heat, not light.
I agree with your comment, Mr
I agree with your comment, Mr. Brander, and thank you for the link to Mr. Ross' Vox article. This article in the Observer was disappointing because, despite its title, it gave no consideration to whether Canada can achieve zero-emission electricity generation without nuclear. I personally would like to start with the proposition that Canadian electricity generation should be zero-emission -- or at least very close -- and then see what works. The Vox article suggests that, at least for four of the United States of America, it could economically be at least 95% Solar-Wind-Water. If something similar is possible in Canada, we could then have a conversation about how to deal with that occasional 5%. Until we get to that stage, pro-nuke or anti-nuke arguments just confuse the discussion and waste human energy. It is already hard enough to find useful information on how close Canada can get to economical to 100% Solar-Wind-Water (or other non-fossil-fuel/ non-nuke generation).