There has been a great deal of fuss in the right-wing press recently about a breakthrough deal announced by the premiers of New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Ontario – Tories all – “to fight climate change by working together on small nuclear reactors.”
“The Ontario government said Premier Doug Ford will meet with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs for an announcement at a hotel near Pearson International Airport on Sunday afternoon,” said the CTV press report. The exact same report (plus a few paragraphs) was carried by Global. Nobody else carried the announcement.
Both articles took pains to note that “All three of the premiers are opponents of the federally mandated carbon tax.” The CTV article ended on that note.
This plan has been in the works for years. It has nothing to do with carbon pricing, and nothing to do with this announcement the three Tory premiers.
GEH (a General Electric and Hitachi joint venture) licensed technology to Advanced Reactor Concepts LLC (a Delaware-based company with murky financing) and the two announced back in 2017 that they were going to set up shop in Canada, pending a regulatory review of the ARC-100 by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission through its Vendor Design Review process (which it passed in October).
In 2018 New Brunswick announced an agreement to deploy at NB Power’s Point Lepreau. And a deal with LA-based AECOM, an infrastructure company, was announced last March. Insofar as the three premiers are ‘investing’ (if they are actually investing anything at all) they are investing in American nuclear reactor technology is direct competition with Canadian vendors. The CEO on the Arc Canada team came out of the Bruce generating plant. GEC sold its business assets to BWXT Canada, which was also involved in work on the Bruce generating plant.
The Telegraph-Journal, an Irving spokespaper, says that nuclear is New Brunswick’s Next Billion Dollar Industry. Irving loyalist David W. Campbell, now of New Brunswick Energy Solutions Corporation, is involved. And there are Irving fingerprints all over this. This worries me more than the fact that it’s nuclear. Irving has a terrible safety record (c.f. Lac Megantic) and dumped the Canadian reactor’s turbine to the bottom of Saint John harbour. It also has a record of voiding taxes and systematically depressing the New Brunswick’s economy even while running billion dollar industries.
As for the ARC reactor itself, its main feature isn’t that it’s small and modular, but rather, that it uses sodium as a coolant rather than water. This is what makes it essentially meltdown-proof. The small size is only important because it means that parts can be shipped using regular transportation networks. It’s main competitor is Moltex, a crowdfunded Canadian-British-based company that uses molten salt instead of sodium. It also recently announced a demonstration project in New Brunswick. Obviously, though, it’s the Americans that have the support of the Conservative premiers.
This is all stuff that CTV News should have reported, but didn’t. Readers are invited to speculate as to why.
p.s. There’s probably more to this story that I don’t know. This is basically what I found out in a couple hours research while waiting for a flight at Pearson.