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Opposition to Small Modular Reactor (SMR) nuclear development, Canada

Opposition to Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technology increases from environmental associations, NGOs, women in leadership roles and political parties as the government continues to fund SMR research and development.


In 2018, the government of Canada launched a report called the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Roadmap, that are nuclear reactors, but smaller in size than conventional nuclear reactors.  The project is aimed at bringing awareness about Canada's SMR opportunities by many interested stakeholders, industry, utility companies and provincial and territorial governments. This interest has evolved partially due to a solution for cutting greenhouse gas emissions [1;3]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Opposition to Small Modular Reactor (SMR) nuclear development, Canada
State or province:Ottawa
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Nuclear power plants
Nuclear waste storage
Specific commodities:Uranium
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are nuclear fission reactors which are designed to be smaller in size to the more common nuclear power plants, but are aiming to be produced in much higher quantities. The nuclear fission is used to produce energy. The term "modular" refers to their portability, scalability and are factory constructed [8]. They are supposed to have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, which is about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors.

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Level of Investment:Unknown
Type of populationUnknown
Affected Population:Unknown
Start of the conflict:2018
Company names or state enterprises:Atomic Energy of Canada Limited from Canada
Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) from Canada - BDC has a role to play in the SMR ecosystem by supporting both upstream and downstream commercially viable supply chain companies and directly supporting SMR companies and projects once they pass the demonstration phase and are ready to commercialize.
Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) from Canada - CCC agrees with the SMR Statement of Principles and believes that a G2G contracting approach may be well suited for future SMR transactions.
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) from Canada - Any proposed project to build and operate an SMR requires licensing by the CNSC.
Relevant government actors:- Federal government of Canada
- Provincial governments
- Natural Resources Ministry
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Union of Concerned Scientists:
- Green Budget Coalition:
- Greenpeace Canada:
- Friends of the Earth Canada:
- Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick:
- Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility:
- Équiterre:
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Genetic contamination, Soil contamination, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
There has been no change in the plan and it is still going forward with funding and research and development of SMR technology [13].
Proposal and development of alternatives:In an open letter to the Treasury Board from women leaders in science, medicine and law, they have stated that funding should be moved away from nuclear energy including SMRs as they are expensive and far from reaching operation, stating that it would be too late to reduce greenhouse gases. They propose funding be advanced in more inexpensive low-carbon technologies such as wind and solar energy, which has made rapid advances in recent years [7].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:According to the SMR Action Plan website, which was last updated on the 7th May 2021, there has been no change in the plan and it is still going forward with funding and research and development of SMR technology [13].
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries


Froese et al., 2020, Too small to be viable? The potential market for small modular reactors in mining and remote communities in Canada.
[click to view]

[14] Assembly of First Nations, Marshall, Posluns & Hall, Feb 7, 2006.
[click to view]


Canadian Small Modular Reactor Roadmap, CNA, 2018.
[click to view]


Throne speech signals Canada’s support for new nuclear reactors, opposition builds in New Brunswick, NB Media Co-op, Susan O'Donnell, 2 October 2020.
[click to view]


Opposition grows to small nuclear reactors over alarming risks, Charles Mandel, 25th May 2021.
[click to view]


SMR Action Plan, Government of Canada, 18 December 2020
[click to view]


RECOMMENDATIONS for Recovery and Budget Actions in 2020-2021, Green Budget Coalition, September 2020.
[click to view]


Small modular reactors aren’t the energy answer for remote communities and mines, Policy Options, Froese et al., 26 August 2020.
[click to view]

[13] SMR Action Plan website
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network


Open letter to Treasury Board from women leaders on SMRs published in the Hill Times, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.
[click to view]


Canadian Environmental Law Association, Statement on Small Modular Reactors, 17 November 2020.
[click to view]

[10] Press Release: Environmental groups, three opposition parties, First Nations oppose today’s launch of government’s plan to fund new nuclear reactors, Greenpeace, Jesse Firempong, 18 November 2020
[click to view]

[11] A webinar with Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, speaking about Small Modular Nuclear Reactors. Hosted by the NB Media Co-op with a coalition of groups in New Brunswick. NB Media Co-op. Youtube.
[click to view]

[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Ciara Leonard, Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Last update08/01/2022
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