Opening Remarks at the 2014 CNA Conference and Trade Show

February 26, 2014

Opening Remarks by Dr. John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
at the 2014 CNA Conference and Trade Show
February 26, 2014

Let me extend a very warm welcome to everyone here today at the Canadian Nuclear Association’s 2014 Conference and Trade Show!

This very warm welcome includes the exhibitors, the government officials from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Environment Canada, Health Canada, Department of Fisheries & Oceans; it includes CNA members, key industry stakeholders – and the 100 students from coast to coast here to learn more about the nuclear industry and the people who work in it. And to have fun in the process, we hope!

I mention the students last not because there’s any kind of descending – or condescending – order in who we welcome. But because they are the bridge to the theme of this Conference: “Developing the Next Generation”.

Our industry recognizes the importance of skills development and succession planning at this critical point of workforce transition and knowledge transfer. So we decided to focus this year on some of the key human resource needs facing our industry members. To crib from Duncan Hawthorne’s presentation later this morning – we are talking about the “people business”.

And nuclear is very much a people business, no matter where you sit.

For the past four years, prior to joining the CNA, where I sat was on the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. Canada is a permanent member of the Board, and in my last year we chaired it.

Some might say that, in an organization with 161 member states, the people business would be complex, unwieldy, and overshadowed by differing levels of development, technology, economy and education, especially in nuclear matters.

There are established nuclear countries – established in the sense they have been running nuclear power sites and nuclear research establishments for many years. There are newcomer countries – which, as the name suggests, are just entering, or looking to enter, the world of the peaceful application of nuclear technology.

Not much in common, you might say, between the two groups of countries. Not much to talk about when they get together in international fora.

Wrong, I’d say. Yes, they do have differing circumstances, when some boast of running dozens, even hundreds, of nuclear reactors and of using advanced fuel cycles; while others in the same organization struggle to have basic X-ray facilities available for their citizens.

What unites them, however, is the common culture of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. And that common culture is built upon a “three S” foundation of safety, safeguards, and security.

Of course, all share a fundamental interest in what happens when the uranium atom undergoes fission and the neutrons start colliding with each other. But what holds people and countries together, whatever their level of development, is the building of an international nuclear culture that pursues the highest standards of safety, safeguards and security.

Our mandate at the Permanent Mission is to help build this culture. The work abroad of our government officials, regulators and scientists, as well as Canada’s nuclear industry, is similarly directed to this end. In this sense, we were deep into the “people business”.

Now I’ve returned to Canada. And become more knowledgeable about the power plant operators, the construction and uranium mining specialists, the engineers and technology developers, the precision manufacturers, the highly qualified and trained people who are Canada’s nuclear industry.

And it’s a very impressive constellation indeed. We must keep this, and its triple-S culture, intact; renew and nurture it as we look to the future. That, in a nutshell, is the theme of this year’s Conference.

The other observation I have is on the importance of looking at the nuclear industry through the practical lens of economy. That is, the contribution of the nuclear industry to Canada’s economic growth, its prosperity, and the quality of life enjoyed by Canadians.

I see three main economic perspectives. I think they help us better identify and understand where and how this industry makes its mark. They are in no particular order – and are definitely not mutually exclusive.

One perspective is the Knowledge Economy.

Whether one is looking at nuclear medicine, isotopes, radio-pharmaceuticals; or fundamental nuclear research, innovation, commercialization. Or whether one is talking about advance materials and manufacturing, life sciences, agriculture and crop science. Or the skilled workers and highly qualified personnel required in the nuclear sector.

Bottom line: nuclear science and technology is firmly part and parcel of the knowledge economy. The best advantage a developed economy like Canada’s can bring to the global competition today is the culture, talent and knowledge that can deliver innovation.

So if it’s Canada’s knowledge economy one is talking about, and the importance it has for our sustaining prosperity and economic growth – today and in the future – one had better include the nuclear industry, in its broadest dimension.

The CNA recently submitted a brief to Industry Canada’s 2014 Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy Consultation. In it we laid out why nuclear technology matters for Canadians’ living standards; how nuclear is an integral part of Canada’s engineering and manufacturing capacity; and the extent of Canada’s nuclear science and technology ecosystem.

Canada has a world-class knowledge base and talent pool in nuclear technology and its many applications. We must recognize this – and capitalize on it as a knowledge economy.

The second perspective is the Low Carbon Economy. Let me go out on a rather small limb and say: the current generation talks about a much-reduced carbon economy; the “Next Generation” will be living it. A price on carbon will come – indeed already has come to two Canadian provinces. And with it will come even more displacement of greenhouse gases than what nuclear power is already contributing. 89 million tonnes of CO2 are already displaced out of Ontario’s emissions annually, thanks to nuclear power. A significant contribution to clean air in this province!

Highly credible environmentalists and climate-change scientists have come to recognize the essential role of nuclear power in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions soon enough to prevent very damaging global temperature increases. The documentary Pandora’s Promise, which we will show here tonight, helps to widen this circle of understanding.

Moreover, there is significant research and development – right here in Canada – on small modular reactors which, once proven and licensed, could be part of a low-carbon economy.

Here at the CNA we are engaged in a detailed comparative study of the life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions from various sources of power: nuclear, natural gas, wind. It is important that when we in the industry speak, we speak from evidence-based fact.

My point is one shared by many of the world’s more eminent environmentalists: if one is seriously thinking about a low-carbon future, then nuclear should be part of that thinking.

The third perspective is the Energy Economy. This is the one most of us are familiar with. Most recently, Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan was renewed, seeking to “achieve balance” in the province’s energy supply mix.

The CNA prepared a detailed submission to the Ontario government in the lead-up to the LTEP and actively participated in many of the public sessions that prepared the way.

Whatever one might think of renewable energy sources, one can state with certainty that introducing and piloting new sources on the electricity grid can only be done – and still give Ontarians the electricity they need daily, winter and summer – thanks to the reliable base-load role provided by nuclear power. In this sense, it is the vital “enabler” – a fact that many rate-payers and consumers seem to overlook.

The energy economy is where we encounter nuclear power in our daily lives – at least in some parts of Canada. Affordable, reliable, GHG-free base-load electricity to light and heat our homes and businesses. Comprising nearly 60% of our power here in Ontario, a fact that too few of our fellow citizens realize.

The nuclear component of the energy economy is more than this. It is also about refurbishment and new build and jobs; about skilled workers and operators; about new means of supplying energy to oil sands and remote communities; about mining and export of uranium; about the international CANDU-reactor supply chain; about waste management and de-commissioning; about the materials science, robotics and multi-disciplinary teamwork involved in our excellent reactor fleet performance.

As you can see, nuclear’s role in the energy economy goes beyond electricity generation alone. It broadens to include the government’s Global Market Action Plan and prosperity agenda. It becomes an ineluctable part of Canada’s foreign policy, which includes technology and resource exports; a regulated industry which stands as an example internationally for other countries to follow.

Well, that’s enough from me. I will be back later this afternoon to speak about the “International Opportunities for Canadian Knowledge”.

Now a word or two about what’s in store for you today and tomorrow.

The program is fantastic – chock full of great and wise speakers on the subject of “Developing the Next Generation”. We’ve already had the “How I Started My Career in Nuclear” event. Others events, panels and talks are coming our way all day today and right up to noon tomorrow.

We are absolutely delighted to welcome the Federal Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, who will deliver the keynote address to the Conference – once I get off the stage. Tomorrow morning we will have the honour of welcoming Ontario Minister of Energy, Bob Chiarelli, who doesn’t need a lot of introduction to an Ottawa-based audience. And we will have the privilege of hearing Federal Minister of State for Finance, Kevin Sorenson, speak on the skills shortage in the nuclear industry and what the government can do about it.

Our featured speakers from outside of government circles include Duncan Hawthorne of Bruce Power; Dr. David Foot, who has made the science of demographics more fascinating and relevant than most would ever have imagined. We have Gwyneth Cravens, the writer, environmentalist and recent co-star of Pandora’s Promise, who will speak to us at lunch. Tomorrow morning, we’ll hear from Taylor Wilson, who exemplifies the “Next Generation” and its capacity for initiative and innovation.

In between and around these featured speakers we will have great panel presentations and discussions. I won’t list all of the topics treated – you can find them in your program. But I would just say here how thrilled I am that so many knowledgeable and expert panellists have given of their time to join us at our Conference and to give us, as we might say, a piece of their minds.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This whole Conference and Trade Show would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors. I won’t mention them in detail now; this will be done throughout the program. But I would encourage you to look carefully at the sponsorship panels and logos and remember them. Thanks to them, we can enjoy the discussions, the networking, the new friendships and the business and career opportunities that come with a Conference such as this.

With that, let me again thank you all for coming and participating. And ENJOY THE SHOW!

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