As the essay writer use of fossil fuels triggers real threats of climate change, countries seek to find alternative energy sources with reduced to zero emissions. One alternative that countries, namely Canada, are considering, is nuclear energy. Experts attest that small nuclear reactors or small modular reactors (SMR) are one solution to a cleaner energy system, (Chung, 2019). According to World Nuclear Association, SMRs are “nuclear reactors generally 300MWe equivalent or less, designed with modular technology using module factor fabrication, pursuing economies of series production and short construction times,” (World Nuclear Association, 2020, para. 5). While there are advantages to a small nuclear reactor plan, there are also some limitations.
The advantages of SMRs include cleaner energy options for the environment, reduced costs in a cleaner energy source, and expanding energy to more remote communities. SMRs are a cleaner energy source because they do not emit greenhouse gases. Small nuclear reactors produce radioactive waste, rather than produce greenhouse gases, (Bensadoun, 2019). While SMRs could replace fuel-burning measures for generating electricity, they can also desalinate water and produce heat for oil sands production as well, (Donnelly, 2019).
In addition to cleaner energy, switching to a small nuclear reactor plan for zero-emission initiatives could be more cost effective. Due to SMRs size and modularity, “[they] could be completely built in a controlled setting and installed module by module, improving the level of construction quality and efficiency,” (World Nuclear Association, 2020, para. 12). The World Nuclear Association also states financing of such reactors would be easier than larger reactor plants, as the size, construction, and safety systems of SMRs “require less redundancy,” (World Nuclear Association, 2020, para. 12)
Remote communities, or communities that may not have the accessibility to much energy, could also benefit from SMR plants. Because small nuclear reactors require less access to cool water, remote communities would be able to utilize the energy SMRs generate.
However, there are also limitations to going forwards with small nuclear reactors. For example, SMRS may not be commercially viable for years, disposing of the nuclear waste is an issue, and licensing is a challenge.
While SMRs may be cost effective, gathering the estimated funds for such a project is not currently viable. According to Emerald Bensadoun of Global News, taking this route for alternative energy source would cost $10 billion on the Canadian market and $150 billion on the global market, (Bensadoun, 2019). It could possibly take between five and 15 years for it to be commercially viable.
Nuclear reactors produce radioactive waste rather than gas emissions to generate energy. While reducing gas emissions is generally considered positive, radioactive waste can last for 100,000 years, (Donnelly, 2019). Canada currently does not have a permanent nuclear waste disposal site, (Chung, 2019).
Licensing also appears to be a common concern for SMR supporters. Licensing a design for a small nuclear reactor could be a lengthy and costly process. One might assume the size of small nuclear reactors would allow for reduced cost for licensing, but small nuclear reactor designs are required to undergo the same design, operation, safety, and construction reviews as large reactors.
Based on the Likert scale, my position on the use of small modular nuclear reactors to reduce carbon emissions would be (7) Strongly Pro. While licensing may be a potential challenge for SMRs, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission states that “licensing costs are a small part of the cost of developing the technology, and include many activities that would have to occur anyway to show the technology is reliable and safe,” (Chung, 2019, para. 24). The World Nuclear Association notes that licensing would occur in two phases; phase one would be 5000 hours of staff time focusing on conceptual design and developer review and phase two would include system level design, (World Nuclear Association, 2020). While the length and potential costs of such phase may appear daunting, the World Nuclear Association reports that the size of SMRs allows for reduced construction costs, easier financing than larger plants, and the series production within SMRs will reduce costs even further, (World Nuclear Association, 2020).
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Despite SMRs’ commercial viability called into question, the economic benefits – namely, lower capital cost – would become more advantageous in the long run. It would be better to begin the process of design and licensing now than not at all. The Canadian Nuclear Safety commission estimates that the technology could actually become developed within eight years, (Chung, 2019).
The potential environmental impacts weigh the most heavily on my Likert scale position. Not only would it produce cleaner energy for the more developed nations that are responsible for higher gas emissions, but it would reach developing or remote regions that lack such energy to begin with. According to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, these off-grid communities (in Canada) operate almost exclusively on diesel fuel. Because of this reliance on diesel, bulk energy and building heat supply is unavailable. Small modular reactors would be able to compensate for these issues, (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, 2018).
- Costs – 4
- Licensing – 4
- Nuclear – 4
- SMRs – 4
- Design – 3
- Energy – 3
- Phase – 3
- Potential – 3
- Technology – 3
- Association – 2
- Become – 2
- Begin – 2
- Canada – 2
- Canadian – 2
- Cost – 2
- Developed – 2
- Developing – 2
- Diesel – 2
- Emissions – 2
- Include – 2
- Likert – 2
- May – 2
- Modular – 2
- Occur – 2
- Position – 2
- Reactors – 2
- Reduce – 2
- Safety – 2
- Scale – 2
- Small – 2
- Two – 2
- Within – 2
- World – 2
Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. 2018. Small Modular Reactors. AECL.
Bensadoun, E. 2019, December 2. Are Small Nuclear Reactors Really Better? Here are the Pros
and Cons. Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/6243567/small-nuclear-reactors-environment/
Chung, E. 2019, June 25. ‘The Next Wave of Innovation’: Nuclear Reactors of the Future are
Small and Modular. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/small-modular-reactors-nuclear-smr-1.5187469
Donnelly, A. 2019, December 2. What are Small Modular Nuclear Reactors and Why are Three
Provinces Uniting to Build Them? National Post. https://nationalpost.com/news
World Nuclear Association. 2020, March. Small Nuclear Power Reactors. https://www.world-