New Brunswick premier hopeful for development of small nuclear reactors

FREDERICTON — The premier of New Brunswick says the development of small nuclear reactors may be the answer to the economic and clean-energy needs of the province.

In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Blaine Higgs says the small modular reactors being developed in New Brunswick will be able to provide energy while addressing climate change.

“This can be an absolute solution for the massive amount of energy that is needed, with zero emissions,” he said.

Earlier this month, New Brunswick signed a memorandum of understanding with Ontario and Saskatchewan to collaborate on the development of small modular reactors (SMRs).

Two companies, ARC Nuclear Canada and Moltex Energy, have both set up offices in New Brunswick to develop prototypes. Each has committed $5 million to operations and research.

“The SMR technology is very different than the traditional Candu technology,” Higgs said, referring to the Canadian-invented deuterium uranium technology used in reactors in Point Lepreau, N.B., and elsewhere.

“Both technologies use a fraction of uranium that is used in the Candu reactors.”

Last year, the New Brunswick government announced a commitment of $10 million towards nuclear research.

The premier said he also wants to push for more exploration of natural gas in the province.

“Yes, we may be moving away from some of the traditional fossil fuels, but there is a process,” he said.

“There is a process moving from oil to gas and gas to nuclear, and then solar and wind. That’s what we have to get in acceptance here in this province because we’ve got it right under our nose, and we sit around and say no.”

In June, Higgs’ Progressive Conservative government quietly passed regulatory changes that would allow the extraction of hydrocarbons through the process known as fracking, in the Sussex area.

The move fulfilled a commitment in the government’s throne speech and was consistent with the Tories’ past support for fracking.

Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqey leaders denounced it as secretive and a step backwards in the province’s relationship with Indigenous populations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Dec. 30, 2019.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press