Speech at the 2014 CNA Conference and Trade Show
Speech by Dr. John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
at the 2014 CNA Conference and Trade Show
February 27, 2014
My presentation this afternoon consists of two parts.
The focus of this Conference is “Developing the Next Generation”. So I would like to offer some observations regarding international opportunities for finding positions abroad in the nuclear sector.
In the second part, I would like to talk about international opportunities to use Canada’s nuclear knowledge as an instrument to influence and shape our foreign policy environment.
But first: Let’s assume you’ve started your nuclear career in the Canadian nuclear industry. Now you’d like to live abroad and further pursue your career in nuclear technology and its applications.
Frankly, it’s a competitive world, and we’re in an important business for the world’s future. Don’t go out there unless you’re very good at what you do.
Canada is a great place to get good in the nuclear industry.
So, having established yourself at home as a specialist in nuclear safety, safeguards or security – or in nuclear infrastructure – this background could take you to an international organization like the International Atomic Energy Agency.
It could also take you to international companies seeking to provide services to countries wishing to expand their existing nuclear fleet or to those who are newcomers to nuclear power.
Another area for you to apply your expertise is regulation. Becoming a specialist in regulation, licensing, safety and safeguards (or non-proliferation) could land you positions abroad.
For example, the IAEA verifies the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty through inspections, safeguards and monitoring. Regulation also covers other areas of expertise which are in demand internationally – notably nuclear safety and nuclear security, a growing field within the Agency.
Other possibilities include reactor and fuel cycle technologies, as well as the non-power applications of nuclear technology.
Finally, one should not overlook the policy or political-diplomatic route to overseas employment. Becoming expert in areas of nuclear non-proliferation, export controls, nuclear security, counter-proliferation, threat-reduction, nuclear cooperation agreements and legal arrangements could pave the way to a career in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development. It could also get you to international think tanks devoted to nuclear-related issues.
My point essentially is this. International opportunities arise once you have armed yourself with the appropriate skills and experience.
And this has been proven on many occasions. Which brings me to the second part of my presentation.
Canada has a strong reputation internationally in nuclear matters. As Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the International Atomic Energy Agency, I saw this first hand.
We have considerable expertise in uranium mining, production and export; in reactor technology; plant manufacturing and operations; research and development; environmental and safety standards; and in regulatory affairs.
This reputation has provided Canada a permanent seat, with 13 other advanced nuclear countries, on the IAEA’s Board of Governors. We are also a member of the select “Friends of Nuclear Energy” at the Agency.
It is a reputation further recognized and enhanced by the work of prominent Canadians in the field.
Recognized and enhanced by Michael Binder’s chairmanship of the Senior Regulators Group, which pushes for stronger safety and emergency management standards around the world.
By Tim Gitzel’s chairmanship of the World Nuclear Association.
By Tom Mitchell’s chairmanship of the Atlantic Centre of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO).
By Duncan Hawthorne’s presidency of WANO and forthcoming chairmanship of a nuclear security panel at next month’s Amsterdam Nuclear Industry Summit.
By the presence and impact of numerous Canadian experts from government and industry who have chaired or led international meetings on civilian nuclear issues.
The list goes on.
Reputation is a great currency to have. It gives you credibility and access. People listen when you speak on nuclear matters, whether these be technical, regulatory or indeed political in nature.
In this sense, reputation can become – indeed often is – an arm of foreign policy. It is an asset in relationship-building with other countries.
Our relations with China, for example, may be complex and on many levels; but the fact remains, China operates Candu reactors and uses Canadian technology in producing nuclear power. And it buys Canadian uranium for fuelling its reactor fleet.
This meeting of interests contributes to the relationship between our two countries. One could say the same in other countries where Canadian nuclear technology is producing safe and safeguarded nuclear power for peaceful uses.
Our nuclear industry thus makes an important contribution to Canada’s international standing and foreign policy.
How can we build on this? How can we find creative ways of enhancing the connection between our nuclear industry and our foreign policy, such that both sides – industry and government – find themselves in partnership?
Let me suggest four areas that could be explored or further built upon for mutual benefit. Areas where government needs the nuclear industry’s expertise and innovation; and where industry needs the government’s authority and political heft.
One area is the innovative technical work being developed in Canada in support of nuclear safeguards, nuclear safety, and nuclear security, which contribute directly to Canada’s security.
Safeguards stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons; safety prevents catastrophic releases of radiation and protects human health; security ensures that radiological sources of any kind cannot be used for criminal or terrorist purposes.
A quick example for each.
Safeguards. Canadian research developed the Cerenkov Viewing Device Technology. This device is used by safeguards inspectors to quickly verify spent nuclear fuel and confirm that diversion to non-peaceful or prohibited uses has not taken place. It is thus a contribution to support the non-proliferation of nuclear material; a contribution to Canada’s security.
Safety. Canadian research developed the Passive Autocatalytic Recombiner. It neutralizes hydrogen build-up that occurs in nuclear reactor accidents – such as what we saw at Fukushima Daiichi when the containment roof blew off. The “Recombiner” is passive, needs no electrical power to work, and combines the released hydrogen with oxygen in the air to produce harmless water vapour.
Another example. Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commission has led the charge – as I can personally testify – to drive up international nuclear safety standards as high as possible. Our domestic nuclear safety expertise and record put us at the forefront when it comes to international nuclear safety – for Canada’s sake.
Security. Canada’s nuclear research is developing a Muon Tomography-based scanner, which will allow the quick, non-intrusive scanning of cargo truck and sea containers to detect the presence of radiological material. Once installed at ports and other cargo-handling centres, it will contribute significantly to Canada’s security – and to international security.
Just a few examples. There are more. But this shows how Canadian nuclear research and expertise dovetails with Canada’s foreign policy interests.
A second area of potential partnership between industry and government is where Canada has concluded Nuclear Cooperation Agreements with other countries. NCAs provide a new avenue of market access for the nuclear industry, subject to specified conditions and regulations. A deeper understanding of NCAs could help Canada’s nuclear industry identify potential opportunities for its nuclear knowledge.
A third area is medical support in providing for maternal and child health to less-developed countries, as part of Canada’s development assistance policies.
The IAEA is involved in the International Malnutrition Task Force, active in sub-Saharan Africa, which is conducting nutrition research using nuclear sciences to treat malnourished children. Stable (non-radioactive) isotope techniques provide information on how children’s bodies absorb nutrients. Similar techniques are being used in infant nutrition. The nuclear-based techniques are non-intrusive, quicker and more accurate than conventional measurement.
Canada could help to fund such advances in understanding and overcoming mal-nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa. It would be a significant contribution to maternal and child health in Africa; fit closely with Prime Minister Harper’s 2010 G8 initiative; and be a prominent feature of our development assistance. And yes, it is based on nuclear research and techniques.
A fourth area is environmental sustainability and resource utilization. More efficient use of uranium fuel in advanced reactors will result in less nuclear waste and fewer greenhouse-gas emissions. Small modular reactors may play in role in greater efficiency, smaller environmental footprint, less waste to manage.
Overseas markets may be where the growth potential of such technologies can be realized. Development of such markets would have beneficial impact on the Canadian nuclear supply chain, producing jobs at home and commercial success for Canadian companies.
These four international opportunity areas share a number of advantages. They stimulate innovation; they depend on research and development capabilities; they dovetail with government foreign policy requirements; they build on and leverage our nuclear technology and expertise; they have real social and economic benefits, both at home and abroad; and they take us deeper into the knowledge economy.
They also could advance significantly through enhanced industry-government partnership. Let me cite just a couple of examples.
This April, the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCI) will lead a Canadian trade mission to China in April, with the support of the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. This follows a similar-type mission to India last year, supported by the Canadian High Commission in Delhi. Discussions will be held on Canadian nuclear products and services, including CANDU reactor technology.
This is the kind of partnership we need between the nuclear industry and Canadian government’s new economic diplomacy: relationship-building, along with practical assistance on the ground.
In addition, CNA is working with Export Development Canada to set up an export-financing workshop for potential exporters among our members – another example of where government and the nuclear industry can mutually benefit.
To conclude: there is strategic advantage in seeing the nuclear industry not as a purely domestic resource, but more broadly as part of a network of international relations and interests. It can be a valuable asset when coupled with the government’s foreign policy agenda and its political authority in relationship-building.
To overlook this would be to miss the opportunities that could be developed; and to miss the positive impact such opportunities would provide at home in Canada.