Remarks by Dr. John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources
November 17, 2016
Mr. Chairman (James Maloney), Members of the Committee, good morning.
The Canadian Nuclear Association is a national industry association founded in 1960 to raise awareness of the many benefits that civil nuclear technology brings to Canadians.
Those benefits are around us every day – in the form of life-saving medical diagnosis and treatment, sterile medical supplies, safer food, greater engineering and manufacturing quality, stronger materials, better consumer products – and, not least, the benefit of 20% of Canada’s clean electricity that comes from nuclear power.
We would like to offer some insights into how nuclear technology can help Canada achieve ambitious climate change objectives, within the context of sustainable development; how we can use its innovative potential to improve the quality of life of Canadians; and how Canada’s own brand of nuclear technology brings economic opportunities for communities and high-skilled jobs for those seeking a demanding, but rewarding, future in the nuclear sector.
First, as I mentioned, nuclear energy generates about 15% of Canada’s electricity – and 20% of its low-carbon electricity. This is not well known. It shows that nuclear’s capacity to deliver baseload, scalable low-carbon energy is a fact. It is not intermittent. It is not backed up by fossil fuels.
In Ontario, nuclear energy provides, on any given day, approximately 60% of the province’s electricity – again, not well known. Without this contribution, Ontario wouldn’t have the generating capacity to substitute clean energy for coal and there would still be smog days in the Greater Toronto Area and southern Ontario. The Green Energy Act did not do it. Four reactors at Bruce and 2 at Pickering were brought back on line – and coal was finished.
Ontario has now embarked on the biggest single investment in North America – and probably most of the world (except China) – in large-scale clean energy. $25 billion in refurbishment of 10 reactors will guarantee a significant supply of clean electricity to 2040 and beyond. This is a huge contribution to the government’s aim to create a low-carbon economy.
Second, sustainable development. Nuclear technology meets 9 of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This too is not well known.
Goal #2: Zero Hunger: Nuclear science, through isotope work, helps to protect plants and grow crops that are more resilient to disease and climate change. (Nuclear innovation is helping to protect the world’s coffee crops from coffee leaf rust which has already cost the global coffee industry billions. Some of the world’s poorest rely on coffee income to feed their families.)
Goal #3 Good Health and Well-Being: Nuclear medicine provides precise diagnosis and treatment of various cancers, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and various infections. Medical Cobalt is used worldwide for cancer treatment and radiation therapy, particularly for complex brain tumours. No other energy technologies bring so much benefit to people’s health.
Goal #6 Clean Water and Sanitation: Desalination and use of neutron beams to break down chemical bonds of wastewater contaminants – two ways in which nuclear science can help preserve the world’s freshwater supplies.
Goal #7: Affordable and Clean Energy: Clean, reliable and affordable energy is critical to the health and economic well-being of communities around the world. Nuclear power provides that. At the same time, its consumption of fuel resources is very low. Its environmental footprint is extremely limited – certainly by comparison with other energy sources – both fossil fuel and renewable.
Like all energy systems, nuclear energy generation produces waste products, including fuel that still has energy that could be used. No other energy system takes care of its waste as nuclear does. It is controlled, managed, accounted for, paid for, regulated, documented – and limited in Canada to 7 sites in total. What other energy system can claim this?
Goal #9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Small modular reactors are an innovative approach to delivering clean electricity to under-served markets around the world. Meanwhile, nuclear innovation is providing for a more sustainable way to travel through development of lighter-weight vehicles, thanks to advanced materials made possible through neutron-beam analysis and testing. Lighter and safer cars means more fuel efficiency, fewer GHGs, and less strain on our natural resources.
Goal #13 Climate Action: Nuclear power is one of the lowest-carbon sources of electricity on the planet. This is a fact recognized by all serious life-cycle analyses of energy systems. What’s more, nuclear power is scalable and can produce rapid and real de-carbonization in an economy. France and Sweden testify to this.
Goal #14: Life Below Water: Nuclear techniques are providing a window into ocean health so that we can better assess the health of our oceans and thereby protect them for future generations.
Goal #15: Life on Land: Nuclear science provides accurate assessments of land conditions helping to promote sustainability, manage forests and reverse biodiversity loss.
Goal #17: Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals: In Canada, Cameco’s 25-plus years of partnership with indigenous communities in Saskatchewan has provided a sustainable economy for some of Canada’s most northern communities.
Third point– nuclear energy’s economic impact. Construction, operations and refurbishments provide good jobs and economic benefits. The supply chains are Canadian; the knowledge requirements are high.
Studies by Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, by KPMG and by others have demonstrated the important positive economic impact of nuclear power generation — in local Ontario communities and beyond via the extensive supply chain. The fuel comes from Canadian mines, mainly in Saskatchewan; it is refined and fabricated into fuel bundles in Ontario.
This, along with building, refurbishing, operating and servicing, brings “made-in-Canada” economic success to Canada, unlike other sources of energy technology, where the manufacture – and resultant income and jobs benefits – take place off-shore.
Fourth, it is a strategic asset for our country.
No other Canadian source of clean energy has the same international impact as nuclear. Our nuclear technology expertise gives us the credibility and standing to play a strong and active role in international security issues. As I can personally testify, examples can range from Iran’s nuclear program, to UN expert meetings on arms control and disarmament verification, to negotiations on a cut-off of fissile material.
Our bilateral relations with countries utilizing Canadian nuclear technology – China, India, South Korea, Pakistan, Argentina, Romania – have a qualitatively different character because of our long-term nuclear cooperation.
In addition, Canada’s nuclear reactor technology and uranium exports have, over the last 30 years, contributed globally to the avoidance of at least a billion tonnes of CO2 (in displacing fossil fuel sources). No other Canadian energy source can make this claim.
Fifth, there is an exciting vista ahead of us and within our grasp, if we are bold and innovative.
It is the possibility of bringing electricity and energy to remote indigenous communities – in the north or remote places far off the electricity grid. These communities need non-fossil energy resources sufficient to power electricity needs, as well as water purification and public health needs.
A very small modular nuclear reactor, inherently safe and simply to operate, would be a real option. That possibility is coming closer as the SMR technology develops around the world and right here in Canada.
Importantly, there is a key enabling role for the federal government in this endeavor to bring virtually limitless clean energy to remote communities. In a recent paper called “Northern Lights”, we set out the various stages of host community support, industry partnership, technology demonstration and licensing that would ready SMRs for deployment within a decade.
SMR development also has applications in the resource extraction sector. Mining operations (current and potential) occurring in remote areas and would benefit enormously from SMR-generated clean electricity and heating.
Oil sands extraction requires enormous energy. Today, that energy is provided by fossil fuels. Were steam to be produced by clean electricity from an on-site SMR, the situation would be dramatically changed. Canada’s upstream GHG emissions would be radically reduced.
In all the areas described above – the single feature that unites them is INNOVATION.
To this end, the industry is putting the finishing touches on a “Nuclear Innovation Roadmap”. This roadmap sets out the aspirations of the industry – and the policy and investment steps needed – to continue and expand Canada’s innovative nuclear energy future.
How can we best manage this ambition and opportunity? We are proposing creation of a Nuclear Innovation Council, with the participation of industry, federal and interested provincial governments.
Such a Council would bring together key stakeholders to align the nuclear industry’s Nuclear Technology & Innovation Roadmap to the Canadian Energy Strategy and to a pan-Canadian framework for clean growth and climate change – as outlined in the Vancouver Declaration.
Moreover, it would give strategic direction to nuclear’s role in the Government’s “Mission Innovation” and the new Low-Carbon Economy Trust.
We strongly believe that Canada’s nuclear sector should be recognized and supported as strategic infrastructure, and as a key contributor to the Government’s “Inclusive Innovation”. The aims and objectives of many of the Government’s importance policy and investment objective are, in our view, squarely met by the nuclear sector.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee:
We are bringing these ideas – the Nuclear Technology Roadmap, the Northern Lights SMR project, and the proposal for a Nuclear Innovation Council – to various stakeholders, and will be pursuing them at federal and provincial levels in the coming weeks and months.
We hope very much that this Committee will lend support to them and to the future of the nuclear sector, with all that it promises for our economy, our energy security, our environmental, and our international engagement and leadership.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have, if there’s time available.