Remarks by Malcolm Bernard, Director of Communications, Canadian Nuclear Association
to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s Standing Committee on General Government
on the subject of Bill 9, the “Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act, 2015”
October 7, 2015
Good afternoon, and thank you for this opportunity to address this important piece of legislation, the Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act 2015. I am Malcolm Bernard, the CNA’s Director of Communications. I am pinch-hitting for Dr. John Barrett, our president, who fell ill overnight. He sends his best regards.
The Canadian Nuclear Association represents approximately 100 diverse member organizations involved in improving Canadians’ lives through civilian nuclear technologies. Two of our members, OPG and Bruce Power, produced more than 62 percent of Ontario’s electricity last year through clean, reliable, and affordable nuclear generation.
We are proud of the role that our members have played in helping Ontario rid itself of coal-fired generation. Reaching this milestone is widely recognized as the single greatest climate-change achievement in North America. Nuclear technology played a key role in supporting Ontario policy, as it has since its earliest days.
CANDU reactor technology was born and raised in this province, has its supply chain in this province, is an integral part of our engineering and manufacturing base, has been a successful technology export to six other countries including China, Korea and India, and has been running safely for over sixty years now. And that’s why Ontario trusts it to provide the foundation of our power supply.
Ontario has a solid Long Term Energy Plan, and the nuclear industry supports it and wants to help the province achieve its goals. LTEP sees nuclear as the backbone of the supply mix in Ontario. Refurbishment of ten of the province’s eighteen generating units will assure that that support for the province’s electricity needs are met for another twenty-five years or more. It will also be a fantastic economic driver for Ontario growth and jobs, given that nuclear’s supply chain is right here in the province.
Not only will refurbishment create an estimated 65-thousand person-years of work, but it will enable thousands more jobs at the nuclear power plant to continue for decades.
But we’re here today to talk about the environment. The Province of Ontario has been making important strides toward cleaner air, and the results show in the reduction of the number of smog advisories in recent years. With a payoff in the health of Ontarians and our neighbours in other states and provinces.
While Canada’s nuclear industry encourages this work, we know that we are all shifting our focus to a global challenge – climate change. And that means further reducing greenhouse gases. Unlike other pollutants that can be processed and absorbed to some extent, GHGs accumulate and persist in the atmosphere. When we put them there, they remain for centuries. This implies that, unless we accept inexorable heating of the planet, our net emissions must eventually go to zero, or even negative, later in this century.
That’s a very different challenge from traditional emission measures. It’s not just about emitting less. It’s about not emitting at all.
That means three things.
It means electrifying activities that currently use fossil fuels. Cars are the most visible requirement, but industry must also decarbonize so that we reach Ontario’s GHG targets. Let’s not deceive ourselves: we’ll need more electricity in the future, not less.
It means generating that electricity without GHGs.
And it means having an electricity supply that’s competitively priced and very reliable – or people won’t make the switch away from fossil fuels. Expensive power will make the shift much harder.
What does all this mean? It means both more renewables and more nuclear. Not one or the other. Both.
Nuclear is the 24/7 base load for an Ontario that wants to be both growing and clean. Nuclear is the platform on which we can shift our transport fleet away from fossil fuels toward electricity.
It’s the platform on which we can build more renewables while keeping our grid stable and affordable. That makes it the unique platform that allows Ontario to lead in decarbonisation. To continue the leadership that Ontario has already established by getting off of coal.
The exit from coal, which Bill 9 seals and protects, only happened because of the successful re-start of the nuclear units at the Bruce and Pickering nuclear power plants and the improved performance of Ontario’s nuclear fleet. This added close to 4,000 Megawatts of clean electricity to the grid. Those units affordably and reliably picked up the power load that coal was leaving behind – cleaning up the air that we breathe, and saving millions in health care costs and lost output related to respiratory ailments and lifespans.
That is the reality which has given Ontario its remarkable success story in ending coal-generated electricity. Renewables could not have done that alone. As important a part of the supply mix as renewables are going to be to this province in future, wind and solar cannot approach the scale, the continuity, or the affordability that nuclear energy delivers. Nuclear got us off coal, while giving us the time and opportunity to develop other carbon-free options.
Nuclear also gives us freedom from GHG emissions and the real possibility and confidence in meeting Ontario’s crucial GHG reduction targets for 2020, 2030 and 2050. It underpins Ontario’s continued leadership on climate change and environmental protection.
It is a model that could be brought to other parts of the world where nuclear energy exists or is being developed as a baseload source of clean electricity. Think of the jurisdictions also considering how to increase affordable electricity for economic development – but who wish to have clean electricity at the same time. Nuclear reliably meets demand without creating GHG emissions.
Even better yet, nuclear is an Ontario-grown technology, and is an integral part of Ontario’s engineering and manufacturing capability. Keeping nuclear at the centre of our energy mix means continued investment in Ontario science and technology; in Ontario engineering; Ontario pipes, valves, pumps, electronics, robotics, quality control; and in durable, well-trained jobs for Ontarians.
And that, Mr. Chairman, means continued leadership for Ontario – not only in this province, but also in Canada and beyond.