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Trudeau Says Canada ‘Very Serious’ About Nuclear Power, Potentially Crippling Oil Industry

Trudeau Says Canada ‘Very Serious’ About Nuclear Power, Potentially Crippling Oil Industry

Far-left Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week his government is “very serious” about reviving nuclear power, specifically because it might cripple Canada’s oil and natural gas industry. “Even though in the short term there is a need for support of more fossil fuels into the global economy, what the world is looking at is not just getting off Russian oil and gas, it’s reducing our dependency on oil and gas overall and decarbonizing our energy mix as much as possible,” Trudeau said at a panel discussion in Ottawa with Canadian college students and visiting German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Trudeau said nuclear energy would probably be indispensable for “decarbonization,” a point the climate change movement is normally loathe to concede because environmental activists viscerally hate nuclear power. It was also a provocative point to raise on stage with Steinmeier since Germany shut down its last three nuclear reactors in April. “As we look at what the baseload energy requirements are gonna be needed by Canada over the coming decades, especially as we continue to draw in global giants like Volkswagen who choose Canada partially because we have a clean energy mix to offer to power, we’re gonna need a lot more energy. We’re gonna have to be doing much more nuclear,” said Trudeau. File/The control room for the reactors, each reactor has its own separate control area. Darlington Nuclear Power Plant is currently ramping up to do a decade long refit of all four reactors. Ontario Power Generation has also built a mock up of a reactor so that crews can practice leading up to the refit. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) The National Post observed on Monday that Canada has become something of a leader in “green” governments embracing nuclear power. About 15 percent of the Canadian grid is currently powered by nuclear reactors and polls show 57 percent of the public would like to increase that number. Trudeau and his top officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, have been signaling a willingness to satisfy that desire while still insisting that solar and wind power will be major elements of Canada’s energy mix. In October, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced $708 million in funding for a “small modular reactor” or SMR, a new technology that is also of interest to the U.S. Department of Energy. SMRs are physically much smaller than traditional nuclear plants, making them faster and cheaper to construct, and they can be built in locations that would be unsuitable for large reactors.

They can be strategically located to increase power production for energy-intensive industries, such as the auto plants Trudeau mentioned Canada is attempting to attract. “Prefabricated units of SMRs can be manufactured and then shipped and installed on site, making them more affordable to build than large power reactors, which are often custom designed for a particular location, sometimes leading to construction delays,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) observed in a November 2021 white paper on the subject. SMR proponents also describe them as safer and cleaner than older, larger designs, while detractors note that in regulation-heavy construction environments like the United States, the paperwork delays and construction requirements would be almost as strict as they are for full-scale reactors, so it might make more sense to build larger plants in a serious transition to nuclear power. Canada’s 2023 federal budget, released in March, made nuclear power projects eligible for the new 15-percent refundable Clean Electricity Investment Tax Credit. Companies that produce nuclear energy equipment and process nuclear fuels will also be eligible for the 30 percent Investment Tax credit for Clean Technology Manufacturing. “No longer are we simply ‘on the table’ as Prime Minister Trudeau put it one year ago; nuclear is now recognized as a fundamental and necessary component of Canada’s low carbon energy system,” Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) President John Gorman said when the budget was published. Trudeau sought to cushion the impending doom of the Canadian oil industry at the Monday forum by promising that plastics and other petroleum byproducts would still be in demand after “decarbonization,” a somewhat absurd consolation prize given the current scale of oil and natural gas production. CBC News reported last summer that the Canadian oil industry is adapting to the push for nuclear power by announcing its interest in purchasing SMRs once they become commercially available.

The IAEA projects about a hundred SMRs will be operational around the world by 2030. Oil companies say they can use the small reactors to provide cleaner power for the energy-intensive process of extracting bitumen from oil sands, a process that is currently driven by burning large amounts of natural gas to generate the necessary heat. Transitioning to small nuclear reactors would greatly reduce the emissions generated by oil sands production.

The industry believes it can reduce emissions by 22 million tonnes by 2030, and become “net zero” by 2050.

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