Toshiba creating nuclear reactor for mining Canada Tar Sands

By David Edwards
Thursday, January 17, 2013 14:13 EDT
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Tar sands development in Northern Alberta
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Toshiba Corp. has reportedly designed a nuclear reactor and intends to market it to natural resource developers for mining Tar Sands in Canada and other places.

Nikkei reported this week that the company had completed design of a small 10,000kw reactor and had asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for approval to begin construction in the United States, but the process had been delayed in connection with a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. The company also planned to seek approval from Canadian authorities.

Sources told The Daily Yomiruri that one natural resource developer had hopes of using the reactor in Alberta by 2020.

“To ensure the reactor’s safety, Toshiba reportedly plans to construct a nuclear reactor building underground, while the building itself will be equipped with an earthquake-absorbing structure,” according to the paper.

The reactor would be used to inject steam about 300 meters underground into the oil sands. A separate pipe would then extract the sand as slurry.

Toshiba’s planned reactor would not need to be refueled for up to 30 years. Additional uses could included turning saltwater into freshwater and powering small communities in frontier areas like northern Alaska.

Ploughshares Fund Program Director Paul Carroll told Raw Story that environmental disasters were still a concern with small nuclear reactors – even one that was 1 percent the size of a 1 million kilowatt power plant — but “the individual accident scenarios are probably orders of magnitude less.”

“I don’t want to say you could have Fukushima in Canada, but I think Fukushima is a really fascinating example because it’s not so much that things failed there, but nature bats last,” he explained. “Here you had an earthquake and then a tsunami, and while some of those safety features worked initially, it basically was overwhelming.”

“What can you imagine might happen up there? When I think Canada, I think, it’s cold. Suppose you had a really long winter and it’s hard to get at this place. Suppose you did have an earthquake, what might that mean?”

Carroll also questioned the logic of using greener technologies like nuclear power to mine tar sands and produce oil that would eventually result in massive amounts of greenhouse gasses being released into the air.

“It’s a little odd,” he admitted.

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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