June 16th, 2024

Canada’s clean energy plan must include nuclear

By Krystle Wittevrongel on July 23, 2021.

In 1950, Canada faced a difficult choice between the desire to be a leader in the development of nuclear energy technology and the fear that such technology would bring the end of the world a little closer.
 Despite concerns related to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Canada elected to be in the vanguard.
 As a result, world-class Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) reactors were developed in this country and exported around the world. The Chalk River nuclear facility in Ontario, where the CANDU model got its start, became a global contributor to many international nuclear technology projects. Today, Canada’s nuclear sector includes 19 reactors powering approximately 15 per cent of the country. Ontario, with 95 per cent of the country’s reactors, generated 60 per cent of its own electricity from nuclear power plants in 2020.
 Yet today, this positive narrative has largely been flipped on its head. Due, in part, to anti-nuclear messaging from activists and certain politicians, the development of this technology has stalled, and with it, so has Canada’s capacity to compete as a global leader in the development of clean nuclear energy.
 This is unfortunate when we consider some of the challenges we face today that were poorly understood in the post-war era. Nuclear energy represents one of the cleanest, most sustainable sources of power in a context in which reducing emissions has become a universal goal. But whereas nuclear energy once seemed to be the next logical step in Canada’s energy policy despite warnings about its destructive potential, today, nuclear power ironically gets a bad rap even though it may offer a way of avoiding destructive climate-related effects.
 In 2050, Canada’s future leaders must see nuclear as more friend than foe. Ignoring its potential as a fast track to adapting away from greenhouse gas-emitting technologies and resources would be a missed opportunity.
Turning a blind eye would also be increasingly unpopular as more and more people are becoming convinced of the dangers of climate change.
 Admittedly, there are drawbacks to nuclear power, such as waste disposal. While manageable today, this will present more of a challenge as nuclear infrastructure grows to supply more than just 15 per cent of our electricity. Still, with Ontario already relying on nuclear for most of its power generation, Canada has only produced enough total spent fuel waste to fill the equivalent of a half-dozen hockey rinks to the height of the boards.
 For the second-largest country on earth by land area, this is an infinitesimally small amount of space, which lends further support to the idea that Canada is relatively well-positioned to lead the world in developing this green energy source.
 Many experts also believe that the technology is still in its infancy and may present risks when exported to countries that are not bound by international treaties which limit their capacity to produce nuclear weapons (think of China, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and North Korea in the 20th century).
Yet these concerns seem marginal at best when we consider that Canada has a unique profile on the world stage: a reasonably high GDP per capita, a large pre-existing system for nuclear waste disposal, and a peace-oriented foreign policy guided by nuclear non-proliferation treaties.
 Not only should there be flexibility for the government to invest in nuclear projects from now until 2050, but regulations should be relaxed to allow for the development of ever-smaller reactors. These could become the new frontier of capital investment in a more consumer-friendly energy market of the future.
 And indeed, Canada has already started to invest in the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). This is an exciting way for this clean energy technology to avoid the enormous state-subsidized start-up costs associated with larger reactors. With most experts pointing to cost as the largest barrier to a nuclear future, shrinking reactors could be a significant part of the solution.
 Recent developments in Western Canada may point the way forward. With Saskatchewan set to phase out coal by 2030, the government has committed to funding its next stage of investment in alternative energy development projects. Currently focused on solar, the opportunity for nuclear in Saskatchewan is there.
 If SMR technology continues to develop rapidly, Saskatchewan – with only a little over 10 per cent of Ontario’s real GDP but with a low incidence of natural disasters of concern for nuclear reactors – could become a Canadian leader in this technology. If so, it may be Saskatchewan that guides Canada on the path that it ultimately must take to produce ubiquitous clean energy by 2050 and cement its place as an exporter not only of goods but of good ideas.
 In addition, nuclear energy can also potentially save lives in the immediate future. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed Canada’s lack of capacity and capability when it comes to producing pharmaceuticals domestically.Therapeutic radionuclides produced here could offer a path forward and allow Canada to escape some of its current dependence on other countries for life-saving treatments.
 There is so much to hope for in a nuclear future for Canada, and so much to lose if we give in to old fears and new distractions.
 When looking ahead to 2050, Canadians should not be afraid of what the country would look like with more nuclear power generating capacity, but what it would look like without it.
 Krystle Wittevrongel is a public policy analyst at the Montreal Economic Institute. This commentary was co-authored by Eric Seguin.
© Troy Media

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seems the crux is now less nuclear meltdown concerns, but still, the stirring up of toxic substances through the necessary mining, and the disposal of toxic substances. “Admittedly, there are drawbacks to nuclear power, such as waste disposal. While manageable today, this will present more of a challenge as nuclear infrastructure grows to supply more than just 15 per cent of our electricity. Still, with Ontario already relying on nuclear for most of its power generation, Canada has only produced enough total spent fuel waste to fill the equivalent of a half-dozen hockey rinks to the height of the boards.” as recognised by the writer, we remain caught in a conundrum, with all harvestable forms of energy, thus far. Each form we use has significant drawbacks. As for the 6 rinkfuls to the boards of spent nuclear the writer admits to, that may not be a lot of water, but it is a lot when we are talking about highly toxic stuff that remains highly toxic for a good many thousands of years.
our future most depends on us being sustainable: significant restraint when it comes to wants. two challenges emerge: 1) people feel they are entitled to do/buy/discard whatever their wishes and their money allow; 2) our current economy not only depends on as many people as possible seeking to fulfill the goal of their unlimited wants being satisfied, it coaxes and coerces us to do as much through wickedly effective marketing/advertising techniques. and, as if that is not nefarious enough, the system has learned it makes even more money selling products that are of negligible quality: rather than things being made to last, they are made with a calculable shelf life that ensures we dump stuff with haste, and buy new replacements asap.
our biggest issues then, are consumerism/garbage/pollution/toxicity…all of which undermines the health and existence of the diversity and the systems of our planet that are essential for sustaining life here. i have stumped on this point numerous times: even if we were to discover tomorrow the universe’s most perfectly clean and cheap – from harvest through use to finish – energy form, we still remain with our biggest issue. wants driven consumer society is our collective undoing. the general principle is as follows: the more population on the planet, the less wants we can have (or, the more strictly needs based we must be). as proof, we need only look at the state of the living planet – that we depend on for life – today v. 50 years ago v. 100 years ago v. 200 years ago. alas, so much more stuff today, so many more people, so much more pollution in the earth, air and water, and so much less diversity with regard to the flora and fauna and ecosystems/habitats that would otherwise safeguard the balance and health that sustains life here. it is quite obvious that we are not on a sustainable or a respectful path.

Last edited 2 years ago by biff
Dennis Bremner

The SMRs that would be used in Native Communities instead of Diesel units etc all can run on a depleted U3O8 rod. Which means the 1000s of Rods that are presently sitting in a heavy water pool can be used by SMRs. They contains about 5% enrichment. A small SMR can run on 5% and over time deplete that rod (which is converted into Uranium tennis Balls coated with Graphite) to less than 1%.
1% uranium no longer requires heavy water pools and can be stored in 45 gallon drums albeit in a secure facility

Last edited 2 years ago by Dennis Bremner

Let’s build another poisoned legacy?

Dennis Bremner

More people have been killed by electricity then by Nuclear, perhaps the problem is that darned Electricity thing?
I am of the opinion that we embarked on Nuclear far to early in our Technical Evolution. We have grown since then by leaps and bounds. Time to exploit this new evolution of something far better than solar and windmills.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dennis Bremner