On Sunday evening, at the Opening Reception of the Canadian Nuclear Society 2011 Conference in Niagara Falls, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver addressed the crowd of mostly engineers and scientists who are the “backbone of this industry,” as Mr. Oliver said.
The Minister acknowledged the key role that nuclear has played in Canada’s energy mix for over 40 years, as well as the value the industry brings by way of direct and indirect jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. He said the new Conservative government is committed to managing the nuclear file and addressing key issues such as legacy waste management and the restructuring of AECL; he says AECL must be “repositioned for success,” starting with the CANDU Reactor Division, then turning attention to AECL’s nuclear laboratories. AECL will be more competitive and benefit Canadian taxpayers.
The AECL labs are huge in Canada’s nuclear history – and really where it all began. Mr. Oliver reminded the CNS conference audience that the labs are where Nobel Prize-winning neutron scattering technology was pioneered, where Canada advanced medical isotope technology and where CANDU technology was created. Mr. Oliver said the Government of Canada recognizes nuclear technology’s contributions in meeting our energy, environmental, and health care needs. He said the Government supports AECL’s work to re-license the NRU at Chalk River to 2016 to ensure the supply of medical isotopes. In fact, you’ll recall the government committed $35 million over two years towards research and development of non-reactor based technologies for isotope production, specifically technetium-99m.
In addressing nuclear safety, the Minister offered words to those affected by the events of March 11 in Japan. He said the effects of the earthquakes and tsunami on the Fukushima nuclear plant are a reminder of the importance of maintaining and constantly improving the industry’s safety culture. The events certainly have strengthened our commitment to the health, safety and security of Canadians and our environment, the Minister said.
Canadian nuclear safety is paramount. From the independent regulator (the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission), to Canada’s highly-trained skilled operators, to the robust design of Canada’s reactors, proven to be among the safest in the world – Canadian nuclear means safety!
The Minister of Natural Resources is also tasked with overseeing the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which is currently in the process of selecting a site for a long-term management facility. Responsible waste management is part of the Government’s commitment to a strong nuclear industry, which is why the government supports the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program which addresses accumulated waste from the early years of research and development conducted on behalf of the Canadian Government, as well as the Port Hope Initiative to secure the low-level waste in that community.
In closing Minister Oliver reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to ensuring an industry that is competitive, strong and safe, as a foundation for high-paying jobs and growth. We’re with you, Mr. Oliver!