The Energy Council of Canada accepts and endorses the Small Medium Reactor (SMR) Action Plan Statement of Principles. We support the development of new technologies that help Canada achieve its goals related to energy and the environment. We are particularly interested in options which integrate well with existing methods for energy production, transformation, and end-use.
The Energy Council of Canada does not promote any one technology over existing or competing alternatives, we believe in keeping all viable energy options open. We strongly endorse and support initiatives to develop and commercialize new energy technologies. This includes the approach launched by the Canadian nuclear industry and the federal government to promote SMR technology, as expressed in the Statement of Principles. The Energy Council of Canada commits to including the discussion of SMR technology within its program of activities going forward.
Successfully introducing any new technology into the Canadian energy mix involves choices which must take into consideration the many different energy contexts that are spread across the vast Canadian landscape. SMR technology is no exception. Geography, ecology, topography, geology, hydrology, demographics, and economics are all important factors. Perhaps more importantly, these variables and more, must be set against the constantly changing social and political expectations found in a sophisticated federal democracy like Canada.
The more responsive Canadian energy is to Canadian values, the more responsible Canadian energy becomes. In short, energy solutions cannot be foisted upon Canadians. All solutions must be adopted through open sharing of all relevant information. A fulsome discussion of any positive or potentially negative attributes of any proposed technologies, must occur. These are essential ingredients to informed and successful decision making in Canada.
This in part, is why the Energy Council of Canada strongly supports the opening sentence of the Statements of Principles that commits to reconciliation with Indigenous people, as a foundational priority in the promotion of SMR technology. This must be a shared priority, across the Canadian energy industry. The Energy Council of Canada encourages and promotes action demonstrating progress on this commitment through initiatives such as its publication: Indigenous Energy Across Canada. We will welcome the promotion of SMR technology particularly in relationship to its advancement of Indigenous reconciliation.
The commitment to Indigenous reconciliation in the statement of principles suggests equal dedication to broader communication and stakeholder engagement in the promotion of SMR technology. This unfortunately, is not mentioned directly or elucidated quite as clearly. In the current Canadian context, non-technical issues are far more important than technical issues.
Public acceptance for any energy option in Canada is far more difficult than any engineering challenges surmounted long ago. The more relevant stakeholders engage in robust conversations regarding SMR complexity, safety and waste, the more the spirit of the Statement of Principles will be honoured, as we understand it. No matter how well broader communications and stakeholder relations are mentioned in any guiding document, success or failure will rest in how these activities are actually prioritized and executed.
Canada’s Northern and Remote Challenges and Opportunities
Remote natural resource development projects like mining, have helped establish new communities and grow existing ones, throughout Canada’s history. Often located too far from existing electricity grids, energy needs are foundational to the viability of these projects.
Availability and reliability of energy will make or break natural resource development in Canada. Successful deployment of SMRs in Canada could eventually encourage additional, important economic development in northern and remote regions, where it is often needed most.
As a neutral promoter of all Canadian energy, the Energy Council of Canada is particularly supportive of the potential for SMR technology to complement and integrate with other energy technologies. Its ability to provide reliable baseload electricity can enable additional, local and variable generation such as wind and solar. This new synergy can offer significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, helping in the fight against climate change.
The electricity challenge for Canada’s remote and northern communities is varied and complex. In some cases, extending existing electricity grids may be the best solution. In others, local wind and solar may be better backed up by traditional or new waterpower options. In others still, natural gas or propane-based generation may be the best enablers. In some areas, diesel generation may be the only viable option for some time to come.
As modular and scalable sources of baseload electricity generation, SMRs could act as attractive, low emissions enablers for other more local, low emitting generation options. As reliable as diesel fuel has been for remote communities over the years, SMRs could provide an equally reliable energy source, with better fuel transportation and storage options. This is important to the north as seasonal roads, landing pads and ports are negatively affected by climate change and the delivery of diesel fuel becomes more challenged.
A World Class Nuclear Regulator
For any new energy technology to be successful in Canada, sound regulations are required to ensure it is operated in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Canada’s safety record in nuclear power operation is well established. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is a trusted and respected world class regulator. It is currently engaged in helping to develop a framework for the potential deployment for SMRs. This should be viewed as a positive development both domestically and internationally in the deployment of this new technology.
Inherent in obtaining necessary public support for SMR technology, will be the acceptance of required changes to the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act. The adoption of new and necessary regulations under the Impact Assessment Act will also be needed. Communications and stakeholder outreach for changing these regulations must be initiated before or at least, in parallel to, all the other activities outlined within the Statement of Principles.
Canada is the world’s second largest uranium producer. Given the current and projected state of technology, nuclear power is likely to become an inevitable option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in countries with fewer energy options than Canada. It is in Canada’s interest to maintain and grow its global leadership position in nuclear power. If pursued properly, SMR technology can offer net benefit to both Canada and the rest of the world.
In Conclusion, Our Support
In Canada, what matters most, is how a new energy technology might be explored and implemented. The Small Medium Reactor (SMR) Action Plan Statement of Principles offers many useful and encouraging indications in this regard. Additional suggestions by the Energy Council of Canada are offered to help strengthen the Statement of Principles and general framework for proceeding forward. The Energy Council of Canada is pleased to lend its support and engagement to further examining the overall viability of developing and deploying SMR technology in Canada and around the world.