Nuclear Power as a Foundation for a Sustainable Energy Future
By Denise Carpenter, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association, 18/01/2012
There’s no doubt that most Canadians want sustainable energy. In 2009-2010 the Energy Council of Canada (ECC) held a series of Canadian Energy Forums that provided a grassroots approach to assessing the energy picture in Canada, recognizing regional diversity, and the mix of government players.
The ECC’s Forums showed that Canadians want certain other things, too: we want energy to be an economic driver in every region of the country, and we want Canada to continue to be an energy supplier to North America and the world.
Most of us would add a couple of items to this list of “wants.” We want energy to be affordable. And we want reliability – a balanced energy system that meets our energy needs in all seasons, without blackouts, brownouts, shortages, or incidents that harm people or the environment.
The Nuclear Opportunity
Canada has high-quality uranium deposits and a highly developed base of nuclear technologies, including power generation, medicine, food safety, mining and processing, and materials science – in all of which Canadians have done very well, as innovators and as businesses.
The fact that Canadian power reactor designs have been sold in six other countries – against substantial U.S., Japanese and European competition – is a remarkable technological and commercial success story.
Here in Canada, we have 17 operational CANDU reactors that supply 15% of all electricity in Canada and over 50% in Ontario. The Ontario Government’s Long-Term Energy Plan sees this role continuing, calling for the addition of two new units and for the mid-life refurbishment of ten existing reactors in the province. Nuclear units are also installed in New Brunswick (where a mid-life refurbishment is nearing completion) and in Quebec (where a refurbishment decision is due in the near future).
Refurbishing CANDUs at mid-life is popular among utilities that operate the units, as it is a minimal-carbon-emissions option that generates large numbers of highly skilled, highly paid jobs for several years. Refurbishing these nuclear units is one of the most effective ways to use public dollars to reduce carbon emissions, maintain generating capacity, and create jobs.
New nuclear units are also an integral part of the electricity supply and consistent with Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan. On August 25, 2011 the federal Government-appointed Joint Review Panel released a report stating that the Darlington New Nuclear Project in Ontario will not result in any significant adverse environmental effects. This project is a very important step in fulfilling Canada’s growing energy demands. Ontario Power Generation will review the Panel’s report and work with partners to implement the best solutions for the mitigation requirements set by the Panel as they await the final Government response.
Along with hydroelectricity, nuclear is Canada’s base load power that makes it possible for us to explore energy alternatives. In the short run, with nuclear, we can give evolving renewables a chance because our base load is affordable. In the long run, we have that affordability plus the low carbon emissions for decades to come, so we can afford to take longer paths to sustainability.
Safety Transcends Borders
Since the events of March 2011 unfolded in Japan, our industry has worked tirelessly at home to participate in reviews to ensure our plants were safe, and to talk to the people in our communities. We also worked with the global community to ensure we could help in any analysis that was required.
On October 28, 2011, the CNSC released its Fukushima Task Force Report that concludes all Canadian nuclear power plants are safe. Our plants are designed to withstand conditions similar to those that triggered the Fukushima event; the Task Force confirmed that Canada’s nuclear regulatory framework is strong.
Our industry has a culture of co-operation and openness that transcends national boundaries and commercial interests in a way that is unique among industries worldwide. We consider an event at any nuclear plant to be an event at every plant. The bottom line is that we’re addressing even the most UNLIKELY and IMPROBABLE events that could conceivably affect our nuclear plants – including flooding, earthquakes and the emergencies they create.
Beyond Power Generation
Power generation is only one of the many great things about nuclear, and it isn’t only Canadians who benefit from the Canadian nuclear industry, both today and historically, with the countless Canadian innovations in the field.
Our nuclear industry is made up of over 70,000 Canadians employed directly or indirectly in exploring and mining uranium, generating electricity, advancing nuclear medicine, and promoting Canada’s worldwide leadership in science and technology innovation. Through the efforts of these Canadians, our nuclear industry is a $6.6 billion per year industry, contributing $1.5 billion in tax revenues and $1.2 billion in export revenues.
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