This raises a question: Why should we invest in a design for a new nuclear reactor, an unproven technology that’s still only a computer drawing, and won’t be available for more than a decade – if ever – instead of solar, wind and geothermal energy, all proven technologies and all available now?
And why do I care about this?
At a recent meeting of the New Brunswick Environmental Network (NBEN), one of the members asked the Just Transition caucus where it stood on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). I had heard some months ago that these new nuclear reactors were being considered by the Government of New Brunswick but the idea seemed so groundless that I assumed it would be dropped and I stopped paying attention.
I was gobsmacked when I learned at the meeting that not only had the idea not been dropped, but that the New Brunswick government and NB Power had already invested $10 million in two companies who had already set up shop in Saint John.
I again assumed: this time that I had missed some important developments in nuclear technology. So, I did a search on SMRs. The top hit was an article with a page-wide photo of a sophisticated SMR control room, and immediately below that a photo of an “actual” SMR. Wow!
Then I read the article. The control room is a computer simulation and the SMR is a mock-up. That is, it was all fiction.
As I delved deeper into the current state of SMR development, what I found was that many of the championed ‘facts’ were actually fiction. And that was the inspiration for the title of the presentation: SMRs – Facts and Fictions.
Click here to access the presentation.
I am a member of the group VOICES for Sustainable Environments and Communities. As a group we see the Lower Wolastoq as our region of concern. Since 2014, through our various educational events, VOICES has reached residents of as many as 26 communities in the Lower Wolastoq and there are now more than 100 supporters on our email list.
Recently, our primary focus has been to develop and offer information to help our communities work towards minimizing flood risks and mitigate climate change. I asked the planning group if the proposed nuclear reactors for New Brunswick should become a VOICES project. There was unanimous consent and the visual presentation was created as an educational piece for our supporters, to explain what these nuclear reactors are and why they should care.
In the development of the visual presentation, the plethora of information that the NB Media Co-op has on SMRs was very helpful. Much of the research underlined my original conclusion from months ago – the SMR idea is groundless.
The presentation is the first of two projects. The second arose from my wanting to know how SMRs became so popular in the plans for sustainable power generation. It isn’t just New Brunswick. The federal government is gung-ho, as are Saskatchewan and Ontario, and more recently, Alberta. At this point, the evidence strongly suggests that the reasons are founded more in convincing promotional pieces for the nuclear industry than convincing in-depth analysis.
Rick Cheeseman is a member of the VOICES for Sustainable Environments and Communities group in Gagetown-Petitcodiac.