Category Archives: Nuclear Policy

Environment Nuclear Energy Nuclear Outreach Nuclear Policy

Let’s be clear — It’s clean: Nuclear is critical to fighting climate change

Portrait of John Gorman
By John Gorman President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

If the world is serious about reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, electricity will have to play a much bigger role. That is only achievable with nuclear in the mix. But the world will not accept that until nuclear is clearly and consistently defined as the clean energy source that it is.

According to the International Energy Agency, despite the remarkable growth of solar and wind power, the overall share of clean energy sources in total electricity supply is roughly the same as it was 20 years ago. This can be explained in large part by the premature closure of nuclear power generation in western nations — a trend perpetuated by politics and public perceptions over science.

Germany is a stark example of this phenomenon. Antinuclear politics led to the premature closure of nuclear power plants, leaving Germany with limited options for replacing a significant source of clean electricity. The result: Germany is producing an additional 36 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, about a five per cent increase in emissions. Even worse, burning more coal led to increases in particle pollution and sulfur dioxide and is estimated to have killed an additional 1,100 people per year from respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses.

I am a long-time environmentalist. I am a former solar industry advocate. And I am a self-studied convert to nuclear.

Nuclear delivers carbon-free, reliable energy 24 hours a day and has historically been one of the largest contributors of carbon-free electricity globally.

Despite that, nuclear is not consistently and clearly being defined as the clean energy source that it is. That’s perpetuating misconceptions, shaping politics and hindering urgent environmental progress.

Nuclear energy is clean energy

To quote Bill Gates, “Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day.”

But nuclear is more than non-emitting. It’s the lowest land-use way to generate electricity. Per kilowatt hour, it consumes less materials and generates less waste than other clean energy sources.

A comparison of direct greenhouse gas emissions (red bars) and full-life-cycle emissions (blue bars) produced by different energy technologies. Marcus, GH. How green is nuclear energy? Physics World, April 2017. Available at http:// live.iop-pp01.agh.sleek.net/physicsworld/reader/#!edition/editions_Nuclear_2017/article/page-19316

Strata. The footprint of energy: land use of U.S. electricity production, June 2017. Available at: https://www.strata.org/pdf/2017/footprints-full.pdf

The world needs nuclear

Nuclear power has historically been one of the largest contributors of carbon-free electricity globally, providing about one-third of the world’s emissions-free electricity. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says nuclear has significant potential to contribute to power-sector decarbonization. A doubling in annual nuclear capacity is needed to be on track with the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario.

Energy experts agree that nuclear energy contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and more nuclear is needed to transition the world to clean energy.

“The use of nuclear power reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about two gigatonnes per year,” Acting International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Cornel Feruta said. “It is difficult to see how the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved without a significant increase in the use of nuclear power in the coming decades.”

Canada’s position

The federal government says nuclear energy is an important part of Canada’s current clean energy mix and will continue to play a key role in achieving Canada’s low-carbon future.

“I have not seen a credible plan for net zero without nuclear as part of the mix,” Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said.

In December 2018, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance recommended that the Government of Canada develop and deliver a National Energy Strategy, which would consider all forms of low-carbon energy to help realize the goal of a clean environment and a strong economy through the deployment of new technologies, including nuclear power.

Nuclear must be included

Nuclear must be included in all clean energy definitions in all government programs across all departments. We need it to fight climate change. We need it to stimulate the economy post-COVID. We need it for the electrification of our systems.

Despite that, nuclear is often excluded, either explicitly or in practice, from formal definitions of clean or sustainable energy. The implications of this are not small. Misconceptions are perpetuated, clean businesses aren’t financially supported, and environmental progress is limited.

What could be holding governments and other prominent organizations back? The CNA recently conducted qualitative research with Canadian thought leaders in policy, climate change and energy to gauge their perceptions about nuclear. While 82 per cent of these high-profile respondents said they support nuclear, 65 per cent thought the public’s perception of nuclear was negative. These conflicting views put Canadian influencers in a difficult position, with more than half reporting that they feel uncomfortable openly supporting nuclear energy given public perception.

That needs to change.

We have a role to play in this. The nuclear industry needs to better address misconceptions about nuclear safety, spent fuel and byproducts. We need to do a better job of telling our story, so Canadians can see the connection between nuclear innovation and a cleaner climate, cancer detection and treatment, water desalination and so much more.

And we need educated and prominent citizens and governments to continue to stand strong and bold in their knowledge and understanding of the value of nuclear to the economy and the environment.

Naming nuclear what it is — clean — is what it will take to ensure our thinking is defined by evidence, not prejudice or misconception.

Environment International Nuclear Policy

All may not be Lost on Global Heating

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

The UN’s 69th General Assembly opened today in New York. On the agenda is “stemming the existential threat of climate change,” along with a litany of other crises from Ebola to ISIS.

I commented six months ago that only a “Poland moment” – the arrival of real, widespread fear for our way of life – might get climate change recognized as an “existential threat.” Let alone get it “stemmed.” I doubt that we are there yet.

But as catastrophic as the outlook seems on carbon emissions, I am not completely pessimistic. Governments do face up to, and act to mitigate, grave threats, even at times when doing so is costly and defies electoral arithmetic. The record of improving air and water quality in developed areas of the globe since the 1960s attests to this. So do many other international efforts to improve human health and security.

While it takes time, our governments have shown they can act to address environmental challenges. Source: http://www.ec.gc.ca/air/default.asp?lang=En&n=8ABC14B4-1&offset=2&toc=show
While it takes time, our governments have shown they can act to address environmental challenges. Source: Environment Canada.

How hopeful can we dare to be that a child born today will not witness hundreds of millions of people being displaced by rising seas and desertification due to climate change? Or at least, that he or she will live to see a substantial turnaround of this process?

Here are what I see as the negatives that support a pessimistic view:

  • Lack of action by major national governments so far – except for grasping at fake “solutions” that are politically expedient (such as farm subsidies dressed up as “biofuels”), are subsidy-based and therefore inefficient and unsustainable (much wind and solar). All of which create new vested interests faster than they decarbonize our lifestyles. Slightly less bad is watching government jump into solutions that may work out, but are too far down the road to be useful in the near-term climate battle (such as technology development funds).
  • A global policymaking environment of crises upon crises – to take just a few examples: for Europeans, the Eurozone economic crisis followed by Ukraine; for Arabs, the Arab Spring followed by Egypt and Syria; for Americans, financial crisis followed by politico-fiscal paralysis, military withdrawals, and now a new war.
  • The long financial crisis and sluggish world economy – putting a continuing drag on governments’ fiscal capacity, and also slowing the rate at which infrastructure can be rebuilt on lower-carbon technologies.

On the other hand, here are some major positives, raising hope that something can be done:

  • Real concern at the top – the UN Secretary-General, the US President, and many other top political, business and intellectual leaders appear to recognize the threat posed by climate change.
  • Steps forward by smaller players – large companies, industry associations and sub-national governments have been willing to be early movers, and some of those moves seem to have worked well.
  • Leadership in the high-growth regions – while dense emerging markets like China and India may remain far behind the West in many aspects of environmental quality, their high rates of infrastructure investment give them once-in-a-century opportunities to build lower-carbon systems in electric power, transportation and urban design. In fits and starts, they are seizing it.

The ecosphere will benefit if high-growth countries make good choices (as China does when it invests in fifty or seventy nuclear power plants instead of coal-fired units), and stable economies such as ours continue to rely on nuclear.

Weighing the scales, my own view is that the odds that we can still act to mitigate climate change are better than bleak.

Nuclear Policy Uncategorized

Speech from the Throne Reaffirms Key Elements of Pre-Election Budget

By George Christidis
Director, Government Affairs
Canadian Nuclear Association

On July 3, 2014, the recently re-elected Liberal government opened the 41st Ontario Parliamentary session with a new Speech From the Throne (SFT) titled ‘Building Ontario Up.’ Premier Wynne’s government outlined the priorities that will flow into the next provincial budget. The government has announced it will table this budget on July 14, 2014.

The key messages in the SFT reaffirm the key elements of the pre-election budget that triggered the last provincial election. Premier Wynne has publicly stated that the Ontario government will be re-tabling the previous budget which formed the basis of the provincial Liberal election platform. This included a commitment for strategic investment to create jobs and opportunities while eliminating the debt by 2018. External factors such as the provincial credit rating and public service union negotiations will be important factors to monitor in future government  initiatives and policies.

Key messages in the SFT included:

Education

  • The building of new university campuses to meet enrollment demands
  • The expansion of the Youth Jobs Strategy to help connect young people to jobs

Infrastructure

  • A 10-year $29 billion investment in transportation infrastructure, with $15 billion dedicated to the Greater Toronto – Hamilton region

Business Climate

  • A predictable, stable corporate tax rate
  • Participation in trade missions to create access and new markets for Ontario products and attract investment

Fiscal Outlook

  • The elimination of the deficit in three years
  • An increase in income taxes for the top 2% of income earners, and no increase in the HST or gas tax
  • No additional money for compensation
  • Actions to get returns from Crown assets

Natural Resource Development

  • The establishment of a Ring of Fire development corporation within 60 days and the commitment of $1 billion for infrastructure to support development, as well as a search for federal participation (outside the New Building Canada Fund)

Energy and the Environment

  • The appointment of the new Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to work on adaptation measures
  • The development of a Canadian Energy Strategy in conjunction with other provinces
  • The desire to export knowledge and products associated with renewables and energy innovation in order to take advantage of opportunities created by climate change initiatives in other provinces and other countries around the world

Social Policy

  • The introduction of a poverty reduction strategy
  • The introduction of legislation to increase minimum wages and link future increases to the rate of inflation

The House is adjourned until Monday, July 7, 2014.

On July 14, 2014, the budget that was originally tabled on May 1, 2014, will be re-introduced.

Nuclear Policy Uncategorized

EDC Talks Nuclear Export Opportunities

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

OCI President Ron Oberth and CNA staff recently participated in a detailed and constructive conversation about export financing with knowledgeable experts.

On June 5, Export Development Canada, along with the CNA and OCI, hosted Successful Exporting for Canadian Nuclear Companies, an informative two-and-a-half hour presentation and luncheon discussing how companies can grow their business by exporting abroad.

About 20 guests took part in the event at EDC’s downtown Toronto office. It is part of the CNA’s efforts to promote members’ awareness of international opportunities.

The conversation covered EDC’s general mandate and role, client eligibility and the nuts-and-bolts of EDC’s services. To access EDC’s services, companies need not export directly. They only have to be part of an export supply chain.

EDC officers Line Charbonneau, Chris Evans and Richard Ross participated, as did Louie DiPalma of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, who described services available from the provincial level.

The CNA hopes to host another event like this in the months to come.

Nuclear Energy Nuclear Policy

Harper Skeptical of Germany’s Goal to Phase Out Nuclear

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

You can add Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the list of skeptics of Germany’s decision to phase out its nuclear power plants.

During a question-and-answer session at a business event in Germany on March 26, Canadian Press reported Harper had this to say when asked about Germany’s energy policy.

He expressed skepticism that Germany would be able to meet its goal of phasing out fossil fuels and nuclear while having a scant supply of hydro power.

“I do not know an economy in the world that does not rely heavily on at least one of those, so this is a brave new world you’re attempting; we wish you well with that,” he said to seemingly nervous laughter from the crowd.

He said it would be very challenging for Germany not to rely on some combination of fossil fuels, nuclear and hydro, but said Canada was ready to help.

Germany plans to phase out all of its nuclear plants by 2020 and its so-called “Energiewende” calls for the country to have 80 per cent of its energy supplied by renewables by 2050.

Renewables, nuclear and hydro are the only energy sournces that release no emissions during generation. But only nuclear and hydro can provide a stable baseload of energy supply.

So far the transition to renewables has not reduced greenhouse gas emissions and German industry figures published in January 2014 show that bituminous coal and lignite together contributed 45.5 percent of Germany’s gross energy output in 2013, up from 44 percent the previous year.

The German government has defended its decision to phase out low-carbon nuclear as a baseload and increase its reliance on coal in the short term. Germany’s environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, even told a reporter in January, “We must not demonize coal. We still need to transition to a guarantee security of supply.”

Nuclear Energy Nuclear Policy Nuclear Safety

CNA and Members Among World Leaders at 2014 Nuclear Industry Summit

By Erin Polka
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Canadian Nuclear Association members will be among the world nuclear industry leaders participating at the third Nuclear Industry Summit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from March 23 to 25.

The summit is organized in conjunction with the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. Leaders from 58 countries will attend the security summit, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama.

The industry summit is a high-level event for global nuclear CEOs focused on the security aspects needed to ensure that the nuclear industry is seen by society as valuable, now and in the future.

Canada will be well represented at the industry summit with Bruce Power CEO Duncan Hawthorne chairing one of the summit’s working groups on security governance and Cameco president Tim Gitzel is a featured speaker.

Ken Ellis, a long-time Bruce Power executive and current World Association of Nuclear Operators managing director, will also address the summit.

CNA president Dr. John Barrett will be in attendance as an observer, along with AECL CEO Dr. Robert Walker, Candu Energy senior VP of engineering Dezi Yang and and Canadian Nuclear Partners president Pierre Tremblay.

The industry summit will focus on promoting a strong security culture throughout the global industry, cooperation in dealing with cyber security threats and continuing to reduce the use of highly-enriched uranium in research reactors and radiological isotope production.

The conference will have three working groups – Strengthening Security Governance, Dealing with Cyber Threats, and Managing Materials of Concern. The chairs of these groups, including Hawthorne, will report later to the Nuclear Security Summit with recommendations on how the industry can help further enhance nuclear security.

Industry participation in global nuclear security is important. Industry operates facilities such as nuclear power plants and is responsible for safety and security of nuclear or radiological sources at such facilities.

Canada is not only a major player in all aspects of the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, but it is also a world leader in nuclear safety.

This year, the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative ranked Canada second behind only Australia in securing its nuclear materials for peaceful purposes.