Avoiding Taxpayer Liabilities for Small Modular Reactors

The nuclear industry is seeking taxpayer funding to develop Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), using the climate crisis as justification. However, SMRs are unproven, far more costly than renewables, and entail risks of severe accidents and nuclear weapons proliferation. To date, there is no full assessment of the lifetime costs and risks accompanying their construction, operation, maintenance, decommissioning and eventual waste oversight. There is strong opposition to SMRs from First Nations communities, and from civil society groups, who repudiate any federal investment in the technology.

In addition to direct government subsidies, SMR proponents seek reduced requirements for environmental assessment, emergency planning, nuclear security, accident liability, and decommissioning. Claims of low inherent risks and passive safety, which have been used to exempt SMRs from Canada’s Impact Assessment Act, are not supported by evidence. Indeed, plutonium or High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuels— which nearly all SMRs rely upon—would increase weapons proliferation risks.

SMRs’ contribution to climate change mitigation would be very limited. Countries making large investments in nuclear energy tend to have higher carbon emissions, with nuclear energy crowding out renewables.

Recommendation:

Eliminate federal funding and reject calls to rollback accident liability for SMRs, and reallocate investments towards renewable technologies that are proven, socially acceptable and scalable now. [NRCan]

See also Accelerating Renewable and Decentralized Energy, earlier in this section.

Contacts

Gretchen Fitzgerald – gretchenf@sierraclub.ca
Kerrie Blaise – kerrie@cela.ca