I see, in an article by Colin Perkel of The Canadian Press that Paul Lefebvre, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of natural resources, told an international conference that “Canadians will have to wait a little while longer to see the federal government’s plan for the development of small nuclear reactors, seen by proponents as critical to the country’s fight against global warming … [but the plan is coming and] … the plan will lay out key actions regarding the reactors. Its launch, Paul Lefebvre said, would come in the next few weeks.“
I know I’m being shamelessly nasty and partisan, but I suspect this is being advanced despite both the ignorance and apathy of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan. I would be surprised if either even knows what a small modular reactor is. My guess is that this is the work of smart, dedicated officials in the Department who want a practical, affordable green future for Canada.
I have written often about the roles of nuclear energy in addressing Canada’s and the world’s green energy needs. Canada has, traditionally, been a global leader in the peaceful use of nuclear power. It is high time we regained that leading role by being a major builder, user and exporter or small modular reactors and nuclear fuel for them. There are huge advantages to small modular reactors, especially anywhere that communities are not connected to a reliable power grid, such as in remote Canadian communities, like some First Nations, and many places in Africa and Asia where the electricity supply is unreliable or insufficient.
I see in the article that “Industry critics were quick to pounce on the government’s expected SMR announcement. They called on Ottawa to halt its plans to fund the experimental technology … [and] … Dozens of groups, including the NDP, Bloc Quebecois, Green Party and some Indigenous organizations, oppose the plan for developing small modular reactors. They want the government to fight climate change by investing more in renewable energy and energy efficiency.” Nuclear energy has been under attack by an ignorant band of technological Luddites since its inception. There are real engineering challenges to the safe disposal and vey long term safe storage of nuclear waste. But they are engineering challenges, not scientific ons and we have been solving engineering challenges since we stated building the pyramids over 3,500 years ago. There is no reason to believe that this challenge is beyond us.
I think a solid majority of Canadians wants to do something to fight global climate change. I suspect a majority supports (without much thought about ways and means) Prime Minister Trudeau’s new goal (since he failed to meet any of the previous ones) of achieving “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050. (Now, “net-zero” means that the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere is zero. That means we reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away. We can still produce greenhouse gases, by burning fossil fuels for example, but the amount we produce must be balanced by the amount we produce.)
Getting to “net-zero” in a rich, productive society means we need lots of electricity, including electricity to power trains and ships and cars and our homes and factories, but we also need to produce less greenhouse gasses. We need to use HUGE amounts of petroleum products to make windmill blades and solar panels. There are two routes that we need to follow to get to net-zero:
- First, we need an enhanced R&D programme to build better batteries for mobile (cars, trucks, buses, even ships) use; and
- Second we need more and better clean nuclear power which produces NO greenhouse gasses.
I think I understand some of the fears of the anti-nuclear lobby, but I am 100% certain that they are based on ignorance and disinformation provided by a small but well-funded anti-nuclear lobby. 2050 is not a long way off. My sons will still be healthy, active senior, I hope; my grandsons will be young men; I hope they will all be living in a net-zero world. IF they are it will be because Australia and Britain and Canada and Denmark and Egypt and France, and, and, and … all took sensible environmental action in the 2020s and made clean, efficient nuclear energy a major part of their national energy programmes.
So, kudos to Canada’s Ministry of Natural Resources for putting us on the right rack. Let’s hope we can stay there.