Avoiding Taxpayer Liabilities for Small Modular Reactors

The nuclear industry is seeking policy and financial support for the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMR), which are promised to be cheaper and safer than previous reactor designs. However, spending federal resources pursuing such an unproven technology during the climate emergency while the costs of renewables continue to fall and timelines for commercial SMRs continue to be pushed further into the future is imprudent. Cost benefit analysis of SMRs has largely failed to address operations and maintenance costs as well as decommissioning costs satisfactorily.

In addition to subsidies, many industry policy requests contravene principles of sustainability, including protection from accident liability, waste responsibilities and exempting of SMRs from impact assessments.

Based on similar promises, the Canadian nuclear industry has obtained significant federal support to develop new reactors in the past, but been unable to commercialize new reactor designs. For example, between 2002 and 2009 Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL)  received $433.5 million in federal subsidies to develop the “Advanced CANDU Reactor” (ACR),  but no ACRs were ever built. The uncertainties, questionable economics and this unsuccessful track-record should preclude federal support for SMRs.

The federal government should provide no support for the development of SMRs, including direct financial subsidies as well as indirect liability support or risks sharing. [NRCan]

Shawn-Patrick Stensil – shawn.patrick.stensil@greenpeace.org