TAYLOR: Small nuclear reactors no solution to climate chang

TAYLOR: Small nuclear reactors no solution to climate chang

Postby Oscar » Sat Dec 21, 2019 5:07 pm

Small nuclear reactors no solution to climate change

By David Taylor, Winnipeg Free Press, December 20, 2019

[ https://tinyurl.com/v79n475 ]

At a time when drastic measures are needed to contain a climate catastrophe, premiers Scott Moe of Saskatchewan, Doug Ford of Ontario and Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick have decided to bet the futures of their provinces on the darkest horse of all: at a recent news conference, these three premiers — who are adamantly against a carbon tax — said they want federal tax dollars to build nuclear reactors.

Maybe they are not well-educated in the pitfalls of the technology, or perhaps they have a more sinister objective — to distract the public’s attention from the real need to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.

Regardless, it is an expensive and futile effort that, at best, would take decades to come to fruition, require billions of taxpayer dollars and would leave us with more of the nuclear waste we are still attempting to clean up after decades of primitive disposal techniques.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are yet another fantasy of the nuclear industry. The required technological fix for the current crisis will not be found in SMRs, and here are the reasons:

The German Institute for Economic Research examined 674 nuclear power plants built since the 1950s and found they averaged 4.8 billion euros ($7 billion) in losses. Kenora ratepayers can attest to having the highest hydro bills in the country, thanks in part to Ontario’s nuclear ambitions. Canada has subsidized its nuclear industry to the tune of $25 billion in direct subsidies over 60 years, and SMRs can’t survive without massive government subsidies.

Ironically, SNC-Lavalin, which pleaded guilty on Wednesday to fraud over $5,000 and will pay a $280-million penalty, refers to itself as an expert in SMRs, and is just waiting for another opportunity to swallow up more federal funds.

A past president of Westinghouse decided to steer clear of SMRs in 2014, stating that, "unless you’re going to build 30 to 50 of them, you’re not going to make your money back."

Consider the emergency, safety and non-proliferation implications of scattering mini-reactors across our northern frontier and you’ll see that this proposed initiative is just not feasible.

Not only is nuclear power expensive, it also has a dismally poor environmental track record — as is clearly displayed in the HBO series Chernobyl.

Canada has no realistic answers to nuclear waste, and is still attempting to clean up a multitude of leaking sites, including the one at Pinawa, in Manitoba.

Ignace, Ont., has been shortlisted as one of two available sites for disposal, but officials have yet to demonstrate a viable technology to contain radioactive waste for the millennia the process requires.

Nuclear power is not clean, nor is it a renewable source of energy, and the road map developed by the department of natural resources, which called for expansion of this technology, is fraught with problems.

Developing SMRs, which are still an unproven concept on paper, amounts to wasting tax dollars that could be better spent on immediate sustainable-energy development instead of squandering sparse research funds on a project that may take 20 years to get off the ground.

Been there, done that... Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. tried the same thing decades ago with its Slowpoke mini-reactor, which was going to be the answer to providing energy for eastern European apartment housing. It flopped, and AECL is still dealing with this spent piece of used nuke trash.

Moe stated in his press conference that he hopes for an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2040 and is hoping for Saskatchewan to embrace the SMR pipe dream. With such an ambitious carbon-reduction goal, what he should be doing is looking east to Manitoba, which has an abundance of surplus hydroelectric power.

Climate change is upon us. We need real, immediate solutions, not lowbrow distractions.

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Dave Taylor teaches at the University of Winnipeg.
Oscar
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