Our Strength: We’re our own Toughest Critics
By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association
Canada’s nuclear energy sector “plays a key role in driving innovation, generating jobs, and providing low electricity rates.” That’s the first conclusion of the Public Policy Forum’s recent report on the sector’s future.
CNA read it with great interest, not just because we’d sponsored it, but because we did not get to co-write it and, until we received an advance copy a little while ago, we did not know what it would say.
Canada’s nuclear industry values the broad, multi-stakeholder conversations on which the report was based. And we respect PPF’s independence in summarizing them.
It’s not perfect or unassailable – no study is – but it’s an unbiased assessment of where we stand in the world, and we wanted that.
(We should note that the report covered only nuclear energy, and not the many other applications of nuclear technologies in which Canada is a world leader, such as medical imaging and diagnosis, radiotherapy, materials testing, and food safety).
Of course, we wouldn’t necessarily agree with everything in the report.
- It’s self-contradictory at times. (Is our reactor technology “lagging” or is it “leading-edge”?)
- It understates our public approval, or “social license.” (Nuclear produced 59.2% of Ontario’s electricity last year. Ontarians appreciate affordable, reliable power, and the host communities in which we operate love their thousands of durable, highly trained jobs).
- It tends to view Canada’s investment in a unique, and in many ways better, reactor technology as a challenge rather than a strength. (You could underestimate any emerging brand or technology in this way at some point in its development).
Many industries’ advocates might have tried to meddle in such a report at the drafting stage, and tried to align it with their own messaging. CNA didn’t. Some lobbyists, eh?
Well, the nuclear energy industry isn’t just any industry. It’s a hard-headed scientific and engineering culture in which we know we need to be the best.
We start by being our own toughest critics.
Then we invite our peers in to assess us with fresh eyes (like the World Association of Nuclear Operators does with its peer review process).
And then we comply with (or, usually, exceed) international standards (like those set by the International Atomic Energy Agency and other bodies).
That’s how we get the kind of performance that we do:
- Near the top of the list in nuclear security performance
- Zero harm to Canadians from radiation
- Successful power generation over a span of four decades in three provinces, and export success in six countries outside of Canada, including four fast-growing Asian markets.
So we’re proud to congratulate PPF on its assessment of the future of Canada’s nuclear energy sector. Warts and all, we welcome the scrutiny, and we look forward to working with them again.