There should be some cause for optimism due to the announcement this past weekend regarding small modular reactors (SMRs). In that announcement, the Premiers of Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick revealed that they had entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to advance the development and deployment of SMRs in order to address climate change, regional energy demand and economic development.
Nuclear generation has been the backbone of Ontario’s power supply for the last four decades and has kept our lights on reliably and safely. One of its strengths that has received growing attention in recent years is its low greenhouse gas emissions compared to those of other traditional power generation technologies. While nuclear power generation has had significant public opinion support in Ontario and New Brunswick, seeing that support move west would be a good outcome for the industry. Several eastern provinces’ economies have benefited for years from the nuclear industry, including from well-paying jobs in research and design, operation, supply chain and refurbishment. The potential development, commercialization and application of SMRs across the country could see similar benefits being distributed more broadly.
The most positive outcome from this announcement, however, may be in what it could mean for intergovernmental cooperation on energy matters coming in the aftermath of the recent federal election. Here is an example of where provinces with differing interests, industries and resources have apparently found common ground in one initiative in the myriad possible means of addressing climate change. Furthermore, in light of all the recent press about western alienation, it is refreshing to see an interprovincial agreement that includes a prairie province and that has energy and natural resources as its subject matter. As nuclear power regulation is a federal government undertaking, this would be a welcome opportunity for the feds to embrace the hand that has been offered in the shape of this MOU.
Canadians should be able to count on their federal and provincial representatives to find common grounds on energy and natural resource development in a manner that promotes regional and national prosperity, meets our Paris Accord commitments, and mobilizes Canadian expertise and resources. Whatever your opinion regarding nuclear power, this announcement should be applauded.