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Opinion: Does Alberta want an orphan reactor drawback as effectively?

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On Sept. 19, at this 12 months’s World Petroleum Congress, Minister of Surroundings and Protected Areas Rebecca Schulz introduced that the Authorities of Alberta would make investments $7 million right into a research by Cenovus Vitality on the potential utilization of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) to energy future oilsands operations.

Over the previous 12 months, the federal government has singlehandedly picked the winners and losers within the vitality transition race. Hydrogen, carbon seize and nuclear are winners. With the current moratorium on undertaking approvals, photo voltaic and wind are set to be the losers. However don’t we, as Albertans, deserve a say?

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The federal government’s new curiosity and funding in SMR feasibility needs to be a name to Albertans to begin asking questions on what position (if any) nuclear ought to play in our vitality future. Most of our present conversations are tied to the way forward for fossil fuels. Nuclear isn’t even on most individuals’s radar. We have to get able to ask powerful questions on nuclear vitality that different jurisdictions are already debating.

Listed here are three questions that Albertans must ask:

Who will regulate the usage of SMRs?

At present, the Alberta Vitality Regulator (AER) is the one regulator of vitality growth in our province, overseeing the method from exploration to reclamation. AER’s current silence after a identified tailings leak at Imperial Oil’s Kearl oilsands mine has prompted questioning of not solely AER’s transparency but in addition its capacity to speak danger and generate belief with communities that home vitality tasks. AER’s failure to inform residents in Wooden Buffalo for almost 9 months in regards to the estimated 5.3 million litres of leaked industrial wastewater has additionally raised critical questions on AER’s capacity to make sure public security. We have to ask: is AER, in its present type, one of the best regulator to supervise the event of nuclear vitality?

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What is going to occur to SMRs after they’re decommissioned and the place will we retailer our nuclear waste?

There are critical technological challenges to managing nuclear waste. At present, Canada’s used nuclear gas is managed at amenities at nuclear reactor websites in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, together with restricted websites in Manitoba. These are all short-term websites. The federal authorities is hoping to finalize a everlasting nuclear repository after 15 years of planning, engagement and scientific and engineering research. Residents of communities the place nuclear storage has been proposed are fearful. There are at present no nuclear waste repositories in western Canada. If SMRs are utilized in Alberta, how a lot waste will they generate? And the place will or not it’s saved? Alberta’s unimpressive monitor document with decommissioning and reclaiming former vitality websites (similar to orphan wells) implies that we have to ask powerful questions in regards to the afterlife of SMRs now.

How will Albertans be consulted within the creation of the Authorities of Alberta’s nuclear vitality technique?

Whereas it’s commendable that the GoA is investing in research that discover clear vitality, there may be at present no indication that Albertans might be consulted about nuclear vitality. Whereas SMRs would clearly have an effect on oilsands operations and assist the business in assembly aggressive net-zero targets set by the federal authorities, the regulation of the nuclear vitality business will influence all Albertans. We must always all have a say in figuring out our path ahead in vitality transitions. And we needs to be doing this by means of broad session led by an impartial third get together, who doesn’t stand to profit financially or regulatorily from the introduction of SMRs.

Albertans are supportive of vitality transitions. We should start a critical public dialogue of how and if nuclear vitality needs to be part of it. We’ve got an orphan effectively drawback. Do we would like an orphan reactor drawback as effectively?

Sabrina Perić is an vitality anthropologist, affiliate professor on the College of Calgary, and the co-director of the Vitality Tales Lab.


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