How the Nuclear Industry Works for Better Wildlife Habitat

By Heather Kleb
Vice President
Canadian Nuclear Association

I appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development last week to talk about a side of the nuclear industry that many people don’t know about. We’re doing our part not only to protect, but also to improve wildlife habitat.

I welcomed the opportunity to provide three good examples: AECL’s work with chimney swifts, OPG’s attention to northern redbelly dace at its Darlington generating station, and Cameco’s initiative to further our knowledge about the boreal woodland caribou in northern Saskatchewan.

Chimney swift
Chimney swift

AECL came across the chimney swifts’ housing issue as it was planning to decommission a stack that hadn’t been used in 25 years. Swifts like stacks, but as companies innovate and heating systems change, stacks are disappearing. This habitat loss is threatening the species.

AECL sought out a chimney swift specialist at Trent University and launched a research program to find out more about the species, and what could be done if the stacks were torn down. The knowledge they gained will not only help them understand the species, it will also provide solid information for making decisions about the maintenance, or decommissioning of the stacks. They will also gain valuable information on how to build replacement habitat.

Northern redbelly dace
Northern redbelly dace

OPG, meanwhile, has been working to make life better for the northern redbelly dace, a fish the size of a minnow whose preferred waters are calm and clean. Those aren’t qualities you’d normally associate with a construction waste landfill. Recognizing the opportunity to enhance the environment, OPG developed the pond in a way that gave the dace a new home.

Woodland caribou
Woodland caribou

And then there’s Cameco’s work to help us to understand woodland caribou, which moved onto the threatened species list a decade ago. The federal government’s recovery strategy, published last year, brought to light some significant gaps in what we know about the species. Cameco stepped up and developed a woodland caribou monitoring program in northern Saskatchewan, and sponsored a larger provincial research initiative.

These three projects demonstrate our industry’s commitment to environmental protection, our experience in environmental restoration and our willingness to enter into partnerships in carrying out such projects. They also demonstrate how we need to find new opportunities for partnerships and projects to offset environmental effects.

 

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