Nuclear is an Important Part of Canada’s Clean Energy Portfolio

September 10, 2011

This editorial was recently submitted to the Toronto Star. Please read and share it, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Canada is a diverse country with diverse energy needs. Yet there remains one constant: When the light switch is flipped, all Canadians expect the lights to come on.

We have important decisions before us as a country. As provinces look to phase out their reliance on coal-fired plants in favour of cleaner, lower emitting sources, we have an opportunity to invest in new generation capacity to shoulder the needs of today and tomorrow.

Effective energy policy is not about choosing some energy sources and excluding others.  Energy policy is about choosing an appropriate balance. And nuclear is an essential element in that equation.

Today, nuclear generation provides fifteen percent of the electricity produced in Canada.

Nuclear energy is a safe, affordable, and reliable form of generation. What people often overlook is that it’s also an integral part of the clean energy portfolio. Nuclear power plants produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions, and do not contribute to either climate change or smog.

In fact, if we were to replace the electricity generated by nuclear power plants in Canada today with the same amount of electricity generated by fossil-based sources, it would add about 90 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions annually.

As we seek to reconcile our energy needs with a proactive and pragmatic approach to environmental stewardship, the benefits of nuclear power beckon.

While there is certainly a place for renewable sources such as wind and solar in the electricity supply mix, these sources are not at a point yet where they can replace more reliable, established forms of energy generation. As we all know, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. It would be irresponsible to rely upon intermittent generating capacity.

Our nation’s critical infrastructure relies on a consistent, predictable supply of electricity. Businesses and homes depend on cost certainty. Nuclear generating stations produce a constant, stable amount of energy. Canada’s rich supply of uranium provides security with respect to the availability and long-term price certainty of nuclear fuel.

It also provides security with respect to safety. Our stations use natural rather than enriched uranium, which is cooled with heavy water and, as a result, is much safer in the long run.

Canada’s nuclear power operations have a track record among the safest in the world. Safety is, and has always been, our number one priority. In more than 45 years of operation, not once have we experienced a significant incident, largely due to our reactors’ robust design, as well as the industry’s unwavering commitment to a “safety first” culture. As part of this commitment, we continue to look beyond our borders to experiences and lessons learned about safety around the world, in particular Japan following the Fukushima tragedy, and identify opportunities where we, as an industry, can improve.

It’s time we took a moment to consider Canada’s energy future. It’s time we make an investment in our future. It’s time to re-invest in nuclear.

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Denise Carpenter
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

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