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Jobs and the Canadian nuclear industry

September 10, 2015

Canada’s nuclear industry powers a lot more than the electrical grid. It also powers the economy through job creation.

Employment in and supporting the industry

According to a 2012 study by Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), Canada’s nuclear industry directly employs tens of thousands of people. Their jobs are found in the 19 operating reactors across Canada, as well as in 30 universities and six major research centres, uranium mines and mills, and related sectors. Because those jobs require special skills, companies pay employees well.

These jobs are only half of the ones created by the nuclear industry, says Martin Lavoie, who led the CME study. “I was surprised by the number of indirect jobs the industry creates, especially in the manufacturing aspect of nuclear – but there is also administration, human resources, and many other direct employers and contractors.” A conservative estimate of these “indirect” jobs, he says, is equal to the number directly employed. “We’re looking at 42,000 direct jobs by 2017. Add the indirect jobs, and you have at least 80,000 jobs.”

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An economic chain reaction

The nuclear industry also serves as a driver for Canada’s economy. Canada is a lead exporter of uranium and medical isotopes. Export deals and the sale and refurbishment of Canadian-designed reactors bring still more jobs and revenue.

The provinces that harness nuclear energy for their power grids find that cheap, reliable electricity helps other parts of their economies. As a 2014 study commissioned by Bruce Power found, “Bruce Power’s role is a ‘one-two punch’ for our province to achieve balance in generating affordable, stable electricity prices… while securing investment that will be a key source of job creation and economic growth for the province.” Mr. Lavoie agrees: “Manufacturing is the first sector that benefits from cheap energy prices. Ontario couldn’t replace nuclear tomorrow if it wanted to.”

Looking ahead                                                 

Ontario will want to keep nuclear power. The province is about to begin refurbishing 10 of its nuclear reactors – replacing major components, and modernizing equipment and systems. This task will create many more jobs for about a decade and, according to the CME study, support many more jobs for decades as the plants continue to operate.

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