This is in response to MP Wayne Long’s letter in the Telegraph Journal (March 20 – “Coon Got It Wrong on SMRs”), which is riddled with dangerous and alarming inaccuracies.
Long’s misuse of the word “recycling” is particularly troubling. When it comes to nuclear fuel, plutonium obtained from existing used reactor fuel (i.e. from the Point Lepreau reactor or from the US) can be incorporated, after burning, into new fuel elements used to power a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR). This much is true.
In doing so, however, the structural materials used to build an SMR, the steel and concrete, become so radioactively contaminated that they can never be “recycled.” This is because some of these materials have a half life of many hundreds of thousands of years.
Worse yet, and as New Brunswickers learned from the March 18 announcement from Mr. Long and Premier Blaine Higgs that SMRs would be coming to the province soon, these materials cannot be safely reprocessed or disposed of, like plastic bottles or paper, in storage facilities presently available in New Brunswick. If either of these politicians had attended the presentations given in New Brunswick last March by mathematician and nuclear consultant Gordon Edwards, they would have been aware of these contingencies.
Edwards’s takedown of the nuclear industry also details the “litany of economic failures” which have dogged it worldwide since 2000. Citing the multi-million dollar collapse of the giant Areva Corporation in France and the U.S. government’s $8.3 billion dollar bailout of Westinghouse Electric in 2010, Edwards itemizes the misfortunes of an industry which has barely been able to keep itself alive over the past three decades. Major US banks now refuse to invest in nuclear energy, leaving government’s to pick up the slack and placing taxpayers on the hook for all failures and vagaries. Sound familiar?
As leader of New Brunswick’s Green Party, David Coon has obviously familiarized himself with current research on the subject of SMRs which is why, presumably, he maintains that, introducing SMRs to New Brunswick, is tantamount to “opening up a Pandora’s box of radioactive waste.”
Long, however, views Coon’s due diligence as a sign that he does not inhabit the “real world,” ironically claiming that the industry about to be foisted by his government on a gullible New Brunswick is somehow a “green initiative.”Challenging Long’s claim that the science pertaining to the safety and economic feasibility of SMRs is “clear,” I would suggest that the question both he and Blaine Higgs should be asking themselves is this: who in their right mind, Green or otherwise, would want to move to Saint John once it’s been turned into a testing ground for small nuclear reactors. Would you?
Christopher Reibling lives in Saint John.