Nuclear energy is reliable. It works day and night, at all times of the year. It also contributes stable pricing, which is important to businesses and residents.
Electricity demand rises and falls as offices draw power to run lighting during work hours, residents turn appliances on when they get home from work and so on. There are seasonal fluctuations too as buildings need more heating or air conditioning during extreme temperatures.
To avoid brownouts, grids must be designed for peak load — the highest point of demand. It would waste a lot of electricity and money to run a grid at that level all the time. This is where nuclear power comes in.
Once a nuclear reactor turns on, it generates a stable level of electricity with very few interruptions for decades. CANDU (Canadian deuterium uranium) reactors are designed so they do not have to be shut down for refuelling.
Nuclear power is reliable and inexpensive, so utilities use it as baseload power — that is, the power needed to meet the lowest level of demand. To make up the difference between the baseload and peak load, utilities use a combination of fossil fuels (which can be turned on and off quickly) and renewables (which depend on whether the sun is shining or the wind blowing). Future nuclear reactors will be better able to be turned on and off quickly.
Without nuclear power, grids would have to rely much more on fossil fuels, generating more pollutants and carbon emissions.
Stable electricity pricing is vital for businesses that are energy intensive or operating on small profit margins, as well as for residents who are living cheque to cheque. Because fuel costs for nuclear plants make up a small amount of generating costs, fluctuations in the market price of uranium have little effect on the cost of nuclear power.
Canada has some of the largest uranium reserves in the world. As of 2017, this was estimated at 514,400 tonnes, behind only Australia and Kazakhstan. The energy content in Canada’s uranium reserves is about four times greater than the energy contained in all known Canadian conventional oil reserves.
This abundance gives Canada considerable energy security in the face of worldwide fluctuations in prices of energy sources — as well as from embargoes, regional instabilities and conflicts that can block transportation of fuel sources or shut production down.