top of page

Ready for SaskPower’s SMRs?

Blowing up misconceptions about SaskPower’s nuclear ambitions

While SaskPower has talked a lot about the virtues of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), we have to wonder; are SMRs really a better option than clean coal? Below, we discuss the clear advantages clean coal has over SMRs - the parts that SaskPower leaves out of its presentations. Cost: $5 billion. That’s how much it will cost SaskPower to build one 350 MW SMR. The cost to retrofit Shand, has been estimated to cost under a billion dollars, with costs falling for each additional unit. Coal-fired power plants are cheaper to build and operate than SMRs, particularly in areas like Estevan and Coronach with abundant and easily accessible coal. And that coal is almost free; the province owns most of the coal rights and so government owned SaskPower pays most of its coal royalties back to the government - government paying itself - a cost savings. Let’s not forget that there are also significant costs related to waste disposal and safety compliance associated with SMRs. Reliability: Coal-fired power plants have a track record of reliable operation having provided over 100 years of reliable baseload power - rain or shine, day or night, in the dead of winter, in the middle of summer, meaning that coal-fired plants can operate continuously to meet a minimum level of demand. In contrast, SMRs are still a relatively new technology, and their reliability has yet to be fully established. Safety Concerns: Although SMRs are designed to be safe, any nuclear reactor poses a potential risk of radiation leaks or other accidents. In the unlikely event of an accident, nearby residents could be exposed to harmful levels of radiation. While the risk of a major accident at an SMR is considered to be low, some people may prefer not to live in close proximity to any nuclear reactor. Waste Management: Nuclear reactors produce radioactive waste that must be stored safely and securely. The long-term storage of nuclear waste is a contentious issue, and some people may be concerned about the potential risks associated with the transport and storage of nuclear waste near their homes. Security: Nuclear reactors are potential targets for sabotage or terrorism, and some people may not feel comfortable living in close proximity to a potential target. Water: Southeast Saskatchewan is dry. Water is precious. SMRs place a lot of demands on local water resources. This will restrict what can and cannot be done with that water. Will this limit recreational activities? the potential for irrigation? Economic development? Jobs: Perhaps the most important consideration for mining families in Estevan. There are significant differences in the types of jobs created by coal-fired power plants and small modular reactors (SMRs). Coal-fired power plants typically require a large workforce, including jobs in mining, transportation, and plant operations. These jobs can provide stable employment and good wages for workers in the coal industry. In contrast, SMRs typically require a much smaller workforce with a completely different skill set. Jobs in the SMR industry include engineers, technicians, and support staff involved in design, construction, and maintenance of the reactors. However, the jobs created by SMRs tend to be more highly specialized, requiring knowledge in nuclear engineering, safety, and security. These jobs typically pay higher wages but require high levels of training and education, such as a degree in engineering or physics. Therefore, without significant retraining efforts, starting many years in advance, most of these jobs will not go to coal miners and power plant workers. If locals can’t fill the jobs, will SaskPower be able to attract the skilled labour force needed? Either way, there appears to be few opportunities for coal miners in SMRs. Even during the construction phase of the project, miners will likely be left out of the jobs as the few licensed companies allowed to work on site, will have their own workers. As an alternative, we have safe, clean, reliable and affordable Estevan coal that has been used for over a hundred years to power the province. With modern technologies and best practices, the environmental impacts of coal can be minimized. Utilizing our world leading, made-in-Saskatchewan carbon capture and storage (CCS) / carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technology pioneered at Boundary Dam, Estevan has a proven source of energy to power the province’s future energy needs. The benefits of SMRs have been greatly oversold - jobs, economic development, etc. And the risks have been undersold, costs, safety, etc. SaskPower’s decision to walkaway from coal will destroy the lives of workers in the coal industry and devastate communities. Estevan will be living with the consequences of SaskPower’s choices for decades to come. To have any hope in salvaging the situation, an honest conversation needs to be had. Saskatchewan Coal Transition Centre

101 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page