Small modular nuclear reactors:

Media Release Small modular nuclear reactors: A nightmare, not a dream for Canada in this week’s Throne Speech
A nightmare, not a dream for Canada in this week’s Throne Speech

For immediate release

OTTAWA, September 22, 2020 — In anticipation of this week’s Throne Speech, environmental groups across Canada are sending a message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan that “small” nuclear reactors would be a nightmare and not a dream for Canada’s Northern and First Nations communities and are not the solution to climate change.

Critics of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) say that developing experimental nuclear reactor technologies will take too long to make a difference on climate change and could drain billions of dollars from public coffers. A recent University of British Columbia study showed that energy produced by SMRs could cost up to ten times as much as renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. 

SMRs would also leave radioactive waste in the proposed locations across Canada’s North, remote and First Nations communities. Some models would introduce new problems by utilizing plutonium fuel extracted from used fuel rods liquefied in corrosive acid, creating a legacy of long-lived, highly-radioactive waste.

A group of women leaders wrote to members of the Treasury Board on Monday, stating that federal support for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) would breach Canada’s international commitment to minimize generation of radioactive waste, and asking them to stop all government support and funding for SMRs.

SMRs are touted by Minister O’Regan as essential to addressing climate change. Yet the SMR roadmap published by Natural Resources Canada says that SMRs would be used for oil sands and oil and gas extraction, in addition to mining and heavy industry. The roadmap also calls on federal and provincial governments to share the cost of the first SMRs and their radioactive waste with industry.

Plans for one SMR demonstration project are already underway at Chalk River Laboratories on the Ottawa River, northwest of Ottawa. The site is run by a private-sector consortium of SNC-Lavalin and two Texas-based companies (Fluor and Jacobs). It is federally owned but its operations were privatized in 2015.

The messages being sent to Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister O’Regan by groups and individuals argue that:

·         SMRs will delay climate action because 15 years to build untested technology is too long. Lower-cost, proven renewable energy exists now.

·         SMRs have no business case and will require billions in public funds, in a fiscal environment already strained by COVID-19.

·         SMRs will create more radioactive wastes, different and in addition to what already exists, and won’t “recycle” or reduce nuclear waste stockpiles.

They also ask for consultation with Canadians and Indigenous peoples and say SMRs would link Canada to a plutonium economy and weapons production, and proliferate nuclear risk to locations and communities across Canada.


“More opportunities for jobs and economic recovery exist in renewable energy production and energy efficiency than in the unaffordable and polluting nuclear industry. If the government plans to pour taxpayer money into untested new nuclear technologies, it will just delay action to reduce emissions now. In addition, SMRs would create a nightmare legacy of radioactive waste from coast to coast to coast.”

–           Dr. Ole Hendrickson, Vice-President of Sierra Club Canada Foundation.

“How many sacrifice zones can we take responsibility for on a finite planet? There are already too many.”

–          Candyce Paul, English River First Nation, Saskatchewan, Outreach Coordinator for the Committee for Future Generations

“We formed the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) in response to the decision by the New Brunswick government to invest in SMRs rather than sustainable renewable energy. We want residents of New Brunswick to avoid being exposed to more nuclear waste and to avoid having our public funds wasted on developing prototype nuclear energy technology. Instead, we want to be players in the emerging global low-carbon renewable energy economy.”

–          Dr. Susan O’Donnell, PhD, lead researcher of the Rural Action and Voices for the Environment (RAVEN) project at the University of New Brunswick and member of CRED-NB

“Investment in nuclear power at the 11th hour is a distraction from real climate action when scalable, cost-effective renewable solutions could and need to be employed. Already climate-burdened future generations should not have new risks imposed on them, due to SMR’s radioactive waste and accompanying proliferation risk. We need to invest in known renewable energy solutions, and not the promise of a hypothetical and risky technology. “

–          Kerrie Blaise, Northern Services Legal Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association

“All nuclear plants, small or large, are expensive, can undergo severe accidents, produce hazardous radioactive waste, and use materials that can be used to make nuclear weapons. While smaller reactors might be better on some metrics, they will be worse on others. A smaller reactor will necessarily be more expensive per unit of electrical energy generated because they lose out on economies of scale. There is no way that SMRs will be able to rescue nuclear power and make it safe or sustainable.”

–          Dr. M. V. Ramana, Director, Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia

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Link: Letter to Treasury Board from women leaders across Canada re: small nuclear reactors:

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