Tag Archives: John Stewart


Nuclear industry eyes more federal support of ‘small modular reactors,’ as advocates push for Ottawa to hit pause

By Jolson Lim
Originally published in The Hill Times, December 3, 2018

The Canadian nuclear industry is looking for more federal government involvement in supporting the development of a new generation of reactors, after Natural Resources Canada put out a “roadmap” report earlier this month, spelling out steps different players in the sector could take.

The small modular reactor (SMR) roadmap was published on Nov. 7, and was co-developed between different public and private sector stakeholders. It recommends that federal, provincial, and territorial governments, along with utilities, industry, and the federally-funded national laboratory support demonstration of the use of SMR technology.

It also proposed: financial risk-sharing between the different players to support early deployment; the modernization of legislative and regulatory requirements to make development economically viable and timely; the development of a “robust knowledge base” for SMR technology; and for commitment to proactively engage with Indigenous communities.

SMRs are typically defined as nuclear reactors generating less than 300 megawatts of energy, and proponents see it as a promising source as the world struggles to fight climate change.

In Canada, backers see SMRs as a way to phase out diesel power for remote and Northern communities. However, to make it economically feasible within a small window of time for it to become a tool in reducing emissions, it would require demonstration soon, and eventually would require a fleet of reactors so manufacturers could benefit from more efficient and financially stable production.

But there is strong opposition to new nuclear energy development based on both environmental and safety concerns.

Nevertheless, any future development would likely have to involve government funding to support demonstration, on top of a regulatory review and placing a stronger emphasis on such technology in climate change plans.

“What would be so important now is for the government to show its policy support,” said John Barrett, president and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA). “But that kind of holistic policy statement is not available yet.”

Mr. Barrett’s association submitted a letter addressed to Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.) following the release of his fall economic update in November.

The letter calls for the extension of clean technology and clean infrastructure funding and support programs, such as the ability to expense of 100 per cent of capital investments and loan guarantees, to nuclear technology in the next budget.

It also asks the federal government to recognize nuclear as part of Canada’s suite of clean energy technologies and to create a funding mechanism for applied research and development of the next generation of reactors.

“Such measures would go a long way in creating the supportive business innovation climate needed in Canada today to encourage clean technology developers and start-ups in the nuclear sector,” it reads. “Only with a significant scale-up of such sources can Canada meet its Paris climate targets.”

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is currently partnering with small-reactor proponents to get a prototype built at one of its sites by 2026 for future demonstration. The company wants to prove the commercial viability of such reactors, and position Canada as a global hub for testing and development.

The company is aiming for it to occur at its Chalk River research facility, which sits about 200 kilometres northwest of Ottawa. CNL manages and operates the two research laboratories in Canada for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the crown corporation that owns such facilities.

Interest in SMRs is particularly strong in New Brunswick, where the local utility, NB Power, has partnered with an American firm to develop a small reactor in the province.

Mr. Barrett said Canada is in a commanding place with the development of SMRs, given its good regulatory and research environment and interest from different players. Globally, it makes the country an attractive place for development.

However, he said more federal focus is needed on nuclear energy.

“Nuclear is one of the tools that is sitting in the box and government hasn’t really pulled it out and taken a good look at what it can do,” said Mr. Barrett, adding it has a lot of export potential as well.

Concerns with SMRs

There are concerns that nuclear’s advantage as a low-carbon energy source is offset by serious safety and other environmental concerns.

Ole Hendrickson, a researcher for the advocacy group Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area—where the Chalk River facility is located—said proponents of nuclear energy ignore other emissions, including various noble gases, iodine, and radioactive waste that has to be expensively and carefully managed. Such waste remains dangerous long after its use, and disposal remains a major concern and question.

“We don’t see small modular reactors as any different,” he said.

Earlier this month, the group appeared on Parliament Hill alongside Green Party leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) to voice their concern over SMRs ahead of the release of the roadmap report.

Lynn Jones, a member of the citizens’ group, also questioned whether federal government funding is worth it, given there are concerns about its economic viability that has recently seen nuclear power struggle to grow globally.

“They can’t possibly succeed without significant government subsidies, the private sector has backed away from them all over the world,” she said. “They’ve come to Canada to try and get the government to subsidize them.”

Her group recently submitted two petitions to the Auditor General of Canada, with the first voicing concerns that any investment in future nuclear power would tie-up funds that would otherwise go to other proven renewables that could more quickly and effectively reduce carbon emissions. The second petition asks federal ministers to provide a justification for considering nuclear power to be a form of clean energy.

“It would take way too long to develop SMRs, apart from the fact there’s lots of other concerns about them,” she said.

The road ahead

John Stewart, director of policy and research at the CNA—speaking as the project manager of the SMR roadmap—said the report makes recommendations to a wide range of players, including governments, waste management organizations, industry, researchers, and the regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

He said the “logical next step” is for one facilitating player to survey all those players to see what commitments they’re willing to make to further SMRs development.

“You need someone to do all that and elicit offers from the different players, get them to make specific commitments and eventually translate that into sort of national action plan,” he said.

He said he was pleased to see Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi (Edmonton Mill Woods, Alta.) attend the roadmap launch last month, despite not seeing a “lot in the way of signals” for nuclear power from the federal Liberal government.

Mr. Stewart said if the federal government offers a strong signal that SMRs can be a serious energy source, other players will follow up with tangible commitments.

“That would be a positive signal for other players to step up,” he said.

Nuclear energy accounts for almost 15 per cent of all electricity generated in Canada, particularly from two massive power plants in Ontario providing power to the Toronto region.

Mr. Stewart said nuclear power’s outlook has improved, but attitudes toward the severity of climate change haven’t matured fast enough that would see countries move quickly on SMRs.

“It looks better than it has in the past. Good would be going too far,” he said.


Canada thinks big about small

By John Stewart, Director of Policy and Research, Canadian Nuclear Association
Originally published in Nuclear Engineering International, December 2018

Canadians are thinking about how to dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions from a modern economy like Canada’s, without destroying economic activity and living standards.

According to those who have seriously studied this problem, like the Trottier Energy Futures Project (TEFP), there are two steps. First, you convert many energy applications – lawn mowers, boat motors, building heat, and other fossil fuel burners – to electricity. Then, you generate electricity for that while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

In this article, we’ll see that generating electricity in a reliable and economical way, without setbacks in incomes and living standards (and therefore lifespans), requires much more nuclear energy. TEFP scenarios, for example, see nuclear power generation growing by more than 200% in Canada.

Where in Canada do we need to build all this electrical generating capacity?

The answer is, pretty well everywhere. Particularly as long as power transmission lines remain as unpopular and as hard to build as they are today, generation will have to be physically close to the demand, and power demand will grow just about everywhere.

That being said, growth in demand for low-emissions power looks to be concentrated in certain types of locations:

  • where fossil-fuel-burning power plants reach the end of their lives (notably coal plants in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and perhaps Nova Scotia) and need replacing with something cleaner;
  • at energy-intensive industrial sites, particularly oil sands operations (which often burn natural gas in large quantities) and remote mining sites (which generally use diesel fuel for heating, vehicles, and power generation); and
  • in communities that currently use diesel-fuel-burning generators – of which there are hundreds across Canada’s provinces and territories.

No, wind and solar won’t do it here.

So what clean energy source can help meet this demand?

Biofuels aren’t the option they’re made out to be, partly because they can’t be scaled up to the extent that would be required (we need land to grow food and other crops), and partly because, on a full life-cycle basis, they’re really not very low-carbon.

Hydro power is wonderful, where dams can be built. It’s clean (at least once the dam is constructed), and stations can be run on a schedule that fits demand. But only so many places have undeveloped hydro sites, and the public and Indigenous acceptance challenges are usually large.

Other renewables have severe limitations. In remote communities, for example, accumulating experience is suggesting that, even when generously subsidized, wind and solar only dent the use of diesel by 20% or so, and then only at the expense of building triple infrastructure (diesel, renewables, and storage) in one place to carry the same small load.

Similar conclusions apply to larger power grids, due to the variability of wind and solar over time. When their contribution gets above something like 20-25% of the power supply, grid stability becomes a serious problem – one that’s hard to mitigate, even with large-scale storage.

So, even with contributions from each of these options, there’s a large need for another low-carbon energy source that can be sited close to demand. That includes urban areas, where a small land footprint will be essential, and also very remote locations, where the unit should be modular, transportable when new, and re-locatable later.

And in many cases, particularly in Canada, the source should supply heat (such as piped steam) in addition to electricity, so it can help heat a building complex, smelt metal from ore, cook wood pulp, or melt bitumen out of oil sands.

Nuclear reactors – on a much smaller scale in size but covering a wider area than today – could deliver low-carbon power to homes, offices, and businesses. They could also deliver process heat to industry and heat to buildings, and support clean fuels through battery charging or hydrogen generation for vehicles.

The industry making the nuclear reactors could:

  • streamlinethe servicing and refuelling;
  • achieve economies of scale in design, construction, and operation (the reactors may be smaller, but could be more standardized);
  • simplify designs and add many inherent safety systems;
  • ideally, move the reactor location if customer needs require it;
  • locate reactors underground, increasing security; and
  • supply fleets of many identical modules, with units that need refuelling or servicing being swapped out and returned to the factory.

Most nuclear power reactors are built to a certain scale (600-1400 megawatts of electricity, or MWe) mainly to achieve economies of scale in power production. But nuclear reactors can be orders of magnitude smaller than this.

Reactors that currently drive marine vessels (submarines, aircraft carriers, and icebreakers) are much smaller than most power plant reactors.

These propulsion reactors have a 60-year record of operating in hundreds of moving vessels that spend long periods in remote places.

Canadians have designed small or very small reactors for research, electricity generation, and district heating.

Demonstration units (Canada’s early NPD and Douglas Point reactors) and research units (currently operating at six Canadian universities and at research institutes around the world) are also small, extremely low-power, very safe, easy to regulate and operate, and easily secured.

There’s plenty of precedent for small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada.

How close is the vision of widespread, commercial SMR deployment in Canada, and what does the path forward look like?

A pan-Canadian team recently roadmapped the path through a 10-month multi-stakeholder process. More than 180 individuals representing 55 organizations across 10 sectors and sub-sectors were engaged in workshops and Indigenous engagement sessions. Five expert groups looked at issues related to technology, economics and finance, Indigenous and public engagement, waste management, and regulatory readiness.

Canada’s SMR Roadmap, released in early November 2018, charts a path forward across four thematic areas:

  • Demonstration and deployment – The Government of Canada and provincial governments interested in SMRs would help pay for demonstration projects with industry.These governments would share the risk with private investors as incentive for the first commercial deployment of SMRs in Canada, with the potential of exporting SMR technologies and related innovations developed in Canada to international markets.
  • Indigenous engagement – Building on the helpful dialogues launched under the Roadmap, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, together with utilities interested in SMRs, would have meaningful, two-way engagement with Indigenous communities about SMRs, well in advance of specific project proposals.
  • Legislation, regulation, and policy – The Roadmap includes recommendations on federal impact assessment, nuclear liability, regulatory efficiency, and waste management. For example, the Government of Canada is asked to make sure that changes to its federal impact assessment process don’t get in the way of initiatives to develop and deploy infrastructure like SMRs that can help deep de- Another recommendation is asking key players to make sure future waste streams from SMRs are part of waste plans.
  • International partnerships and markets – The federal government, with support from industry, laboratories, and academia, would continue strong and effective international engagement on SMRs, in particular to influence international

What’s the SMR Roadmap’s vision?

SMRs are a source of safe, clean, affordable energy – opening opportunities for a resilient, low-carbon future and capturing benefits for Canada and Canadians.

What’s the CNA’s take on all this?

The CNA, as just one of the organizations involved in the Roadmap, has this view:

  • SMRs are real and they are happening now. Utilities in Canada have begun to consider SMRs as a low-emissions replacement for fossil-fuelled electricity generation.
  • Decisions made in 2018-19 could lead to SMRs supplying power to Canadian electricity grids by around 2030, particularly where coal plants need to be replaced.
  • Mines and oil sands operations could be using SMRs for heat and power around the same time (2030) or soon thereafter, if technology decisions were made soon. These reactors would be different in scale and technology from those deployed on public electricity grids.
  • Application of SMRs in small, remote communities has great potential to improve energy supply, local air quality, and emissions by replacing the burning of diesel fuel – potential that has attracted attention from Canadian governments and others. While we too are excited by this opportunity, strong stakeholder engagement processes (including capacity-building in many cases) are needed to build understanding. Also, many of these communities are small, so the commercial business case is very constrained. These factors could put these applications on longer time-lines, depending on the extent of policy-level support.
  • Canada is one of only a few countries that have built up their investments in the full spectrum of civilian nuclear capabilities, from uranium mining, to fuel design, to manufacturing, to power generation, to life sciences and nuclear medicine, and to world-class excellence in regulation and governance. These strategic assets matter.There is an opportunity for Canada to lead the world on SMRs.

In summary, small modular reactors aren’t another over-hyped or far-away technology – some are based on reactors that have been operating for decades. SMRs are under construction now in at least three countries. In Canada and worldwide, these reactors have the potential to meet real, growing needs. What’s more, SMRs draw on skills that Canadians excel in. Because strategic partnerships are key, Canada’s SMR Roadmap has a plan of action that will engage many players. The CNA will continue reaching out to share information and help the players work together.

More on the SMR Roadmap can be found through www.cna.ca or www.smrroadmap.ca.


The Thousand Islands Energy Research Forum

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

The Thousand Islands Energy Research Forum took place at the University of Ottawa this past weekend. CNA took advantage of this great opportunity to present the recent Hatch life cycle emission study, which had been launched on October 8 at our Toronto fall seminar.

John Stewart presentation

TIERF, an annual academic event that mixes energy policy and technology, drew about 40 university, government and industry participants this year. They brought presentations and technical posters on energy technology research, ranging from shale gas to geothermal to nuclear.

CNA director of research and policy John Stewart delivered a summary of the Hatch study along with CNA’s key messages from it. While nuclear is roughly as clean-emitting as wind for power generation, wind cannot stand alone due to its intermittency, and any assessment of wind’s environmental effects must include the impact of managing that intermittency.

In Ontario today, new wind farms are only generating about 20% of their capacity, and when the wind fails to blow, the difference is generally made up by burning natural gas, a fossil fuel. This means that building new wind capacity means building in more, not less, GHG emissions to Ontario’s supply mix – undoing some of the benefits of the province’s successful exit from coal.

CNA’s presentation on October 25 was preceded by an excellent analysis by u of O’s Olayinka Willliams on “The Integration of Wind Power Generation with Hydroelectricity in an Electric Grid,” which expounded the many problems of bringing randomly intermittent wind power into a grid, even when hydro is available to back it up.

GHG emissions by energy type

According to the Electric Power Research Institute, “the existing electric power grid, especially its distribution systems, was not designed to accommodate a high penetration of distributed energy resources while sustaining high levels of electric quality and reliability.” (“The Integrated Grid,” February 2014). Bollen and Hassan’s 2011 engineering text Integration of Distributed Generation in the Power System says the problems include increased risk of overload and increased losses; increased risk of overvoltages; increased levels of power-quality disturbances; and impacts on power-system stability and operation.


CNA Attends Classroom Energy Diet Challenge

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Energy literacy and correcting public misperceptions were key topics at a July 16 educational event in Ottawa that brought together 15 teachers from all provinces and territories to talk and learn about Canada’s energy systems.

CNA Policy and Research Director John Stewart (back right in photo below) represented nuclear on a two-hour panel that also included representatives from petroleum, wind power and hydro producers.

The annual Classroom Energy Diet Challenge is sponsored by Shell Canada and organized by Canadian Geographic Magazine to raise awareness about energy literacy.

The panel members from the differing industries were collegial, and corrected misconceptions about their respective energy sources.

Also discussed was the importance of energy sources and the need to decarbonizes and make our energy systems greener.

ohn Stewart at the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge
The CNA’s John Stewart (back right) speaks up at the annual Classroom Energy Diet Challenge.

Canadian Chamber of Commerce Podcast: Nuclear Power and the Environment

CANADIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PODCAST: Nuclear Power and the Environment
Host: Katrina Marsh, Director of Environment and Natural Resources Policy
Experts: Dr. John Barrett, President, CNA, and John Stewart, Director of Policy and Research, CNA

Air Date: May 6, 2014

SUMMARY: Host Katrina Marsh sits down with Dr. John Barrett, President, CNA, and John Stewart, Director of Policy and Research, CNA, to talk about how Canadian nuclear technology fits into the global push for cleaner energy. Canadian nuclear reactors not only have lower life-cycle emissions than solar panels or geothermal systems, but can also act as fuel ‘recyclers’ by re-purposing waste made by other reactors.

Listen to the podcast on the Chamber site.

Or read the transcript below.

Announcer: Hello and welcome to “The Voice of Canadian Business”, The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly podcast. In 15 minutes or less we discuss the key issues facing the Canadian economy and businesses across the country.

Katrina Marsh: Hello, my name is Katrina Marsh. I’m The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Natural Resource and Environmental Policy and I’m hosting today’s podcast. So welcome. Nuclear power is a fascinating part of the world’s current energy mix. On the one hand, it provides a reliable source of low carbon energy; Canada has a strong home grown industry that includes uranium mining, production of medical isotopes or even the design of nuclear reactors. On the other hand, many people are deeply concerned about the safety of nuclear power, particularly in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. So today my guests are going to be speaking about Canada’s nuclear industry and its role in Canada’s energy mix. On the one hand I have Dr. John Barrett who’s President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association and then John Stewart who’s the Canadian Nuclear Association’s Director of Policy and Research. Thank you both for joining me today.

John Barrett: You’re very welcome.

John Stewart: Thanks, Katrina.

Katrina Marsh: So just a start, can you give us a brief primer on the nuclear industry in Canada? Who are the main players and firms?

John Stewart: Katrina, it’s really been a progression over six or seven decades from the public sector to more players and more private investment. This technology, power generation in particular, really started as a collaboration of three different public sector firms; an Ontario Crown Corporation, a Saskatchewan Crown Corporation and a Federal Crown Corporation. There have been more applications over the years; nuclear medicine started getting developed in a big way in Canada in the sixties. Canada pioneered that technology, and since then we’ve had food sterilization and many other applications, and we’ve had the creation of Bruce Power, which is running the largest nuclear plant in the world. We have a lot of players now; our membership is a lot of engineering firms, laboratories, testing outfits, there’s some human resource organizations. We’re seeing more and more private engagement and more and more players.

Katrina Marsh: How does nuclear power currently feed into Canada’s energy mix?

John Stewart: Essentially the electricity sectors’ base load carrier, particularly post coal and particularly in Ontario, which is the largest and most industrialized province with the highest electricity demand. Nuclear reactors run very steadily and consistently around the clock. That’s why their economics are so good. One of the reason’s so they provide the supply for the power demand that’s there day and night, summer and winter, as opposed to things like natural gas and hydro that can be ramped up and ramped down over the daily demand cycle.

Katrina Marsh: So it kind of provides electricity that’s always on, day or night, doesn’t move. It just kind of provides what’s called the base load?

John Stewart: Right.

John Barrett: You know if you look at a couple of websites you can get a good insight, visual insight, into what is the energy mix in Ontario at any given time. One of the websites is IESO and that is an independent electricity supply market but what they have is an up-to-date within-the-hour presentation of what exactly in Ontario is that mix so you see how much of the electricity is being supplied by nuclear power generation, how much by hydro and by others. That will give you a very clear idea that nuclear power is shouldering in Ontario at any given time at least fifty per cent. It sometimes dips to under forty per cent but it’s up to sixty at various times and as John Stewart says that’s why it makes it so reliable: it carries the base load for Ontario. Without that, as Duncan Hawthorne, who’s head of Bruce Power, likes to say, “You’ve got a huge gap and what would fill that gap?”

Katrina Marsh: One aspect of nuclear power, I think, that’s been getting a lot of attention is the fact that it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gas emissions. I personally was pretty surprised to learn that on a life cycle basis nuclear power actually had less emissions than photovoltaic solar panel systems as well as geothermal systems. Could you comment on the role nuclear power is expected to play in Canada or the global fight against climate change?

John Stewart: You’re absolutely right. It’s very low emitting, Katrina, and not just AGHGs but also in particulates and sulfur oxides and nitrous oxides so the things that actually make the air dirty and bad to breathe as well as the stuff that makes the climate heat up. One of the trends that’s going on in the electric power system, particularly with more rechargeable devices, and this will really happen with a smarter grid and more electric cars, is that the tops are being clipped off of the daily cycle of demand so that the demand cycle is being leveled out and flattened and that favours base load and makes it easier to use things like nuclear that run around the clock and less necessary to fill in the spikes in demand with fossil fuels. If you’re ramping up and ramping down with hydro each day, that’s less of a problem. But if you’re using natural gas, that’s half the emissions that coal would have, that’s a lot less than coal but that’s vastly more than solar, wind or nuclear. So the more we move towards rechargeable devices, the more we move to a smarter grid, the more tendency you’re going to have for base load to be a higher percentage of the overall output and if that base load is nuclear you’ll have a cleaner electricity system overall.

Katrina Marsh: So by rechargeable devices you’re talking about electric cars?

John Stewart: Anything you plug in at night basically. If you’re charging things at night when power demand is low and using them during the day, if there are more devices on rechargeable batteries, you tend to have a flatter demand cycle and that’s a good thing on average.

Katrina Marsh: So nuclear power is well suited to what the future of electricity demand is going to look like in Canada in terms of just a flat line all the time rather than these spikes up and down that you see in seasonal variations and day and night variations?

John Stewart: Well, flatter, and particularly if you picture a world with a lot of electric vehicles. We’re some way away from that but electric vehicles that have large batteries in them and that are being driven in the day and charged at night make a big, big difference to what the daily demand cycle is going to look like. And a very positive one. It’s one of the overlooked but very important advantages of going to electric cars.

Katrina Marsh: Obviously climate is a big environmental issue but it’s of course not the only one. Nuclear power does have other environmental impacts associated with it, particularly in relation to the wastes and, some cases, water. What do you think is the benefit of such a low greenhouse gas generating source of emissions compared to some of these other environmental impacts?

John Stewart: I can say pretty much without a lot of qualification that nuclear wins on every count. I mean SOx and NOx emissions and particulates are very, very low and we’re getting data right now that will confirm that one more time. But more importantly, and this is especially important in a lot of densely populated countries and it’s even important in Southern Ontario, land use is very small for nuclear. The land footprint of a plant like the Darlington plant is a tiny fraction of what you’d need to put renewables in of the same capacity for that kind of power, and we’re talking about gigawatts of power to supply Ontario. You can’t get so much power out of such a small piece of land and often out of so little water use as you can with nuclear. Now on the waste front, it’s often said that this industry has a waste challenge, but that’s only true because our waste is solid. If we could grind – I say this semi-jokingly – if we ground our waste and blew it in the atmosphere like other fuels have been known to do, and still do, nobody would say we have a waste problem. We produce solid fuel, of which we account for every kilogram, and which we pay in advance for storing and decommissioning.

John Barrett: And it is stored on the sites of the power generators so it’s not being distributed across the country. It’s right there on the site.

John Stewart: Right. If the waste that comes out of burning natural gas didn’t go into the atmosphere but was packaged up in little cylinders which the natural gas industry had to subsequently manage indefinitely, the natural gas industry would have a bigger waste problem than we do. But it goes into the earth’s atmosphere instead.

Katrina Marsh: So Canada has its own nuclear technology, the CANDU reactor. Could you just describe a bit how this particular reactor differs, maybe in terms of its environmental impact from some other technologies?

John Barrett: Yes it is. It’s a homegrown technology and a very interesting one that has a number of years since it first saw the light of day. One of the important things about it is that it uses natural uranium so we don’t have to enrich it. In fact, all of the light water reactors used in many other countries require enrichment. Now why is that important? Well having been the Ambassador at the Atomic Energy Agency, we spent a lot of time there, Canada and other countries, dealing with the existence of enrichment capabilities in a country in which the credentials for non-proliferation, nuclear non-proliferation, are particularly strong. That country is Iran. They were developing a very highly sophisticated enrichment capability for no particular uses that could be justified. Enrichment is also the way that you, if you want, and you have to go through a number of hoops and hurdles over hurdles, but you can get to weapons’ grade materials. CANDU reactors don’t have to do any of that, so we in Canada don’t have an indigenous enrichment capability. So there’s one sort of environmental and non-proliferation dimension. And the other thing that’s interesting about the CANDU reactor is that there’s a lot of work now, and interest in, what they call advanced fuels. So you use unprocessed, I mean unenriched, natural uranium, but it’s not the only fuel you can use in these reactors. Now they’re looking at can you use uranium that has been passed through a reactor and then can be recycled through. So you’re getting a recycling component which is a good reduction of waste product. Another thing is it can burn plutonium mixes. So the British, for example, are interested in it because they have plutonium from their naval propulsion and weapons’ programs. They want to get rid of this. Plutonium’s not a nice product for sure. If you mix that in with other oxides you can produce a fuel that the CANDU can burn. And going even into the future there’s a possibility of not using uranium but thorium. And thorium does not produce deficient products in the same way as uranium does. And the CANDU can burn that too, so China’s quite interested and India because they have thorium.

Katrina Marsh: So if I get this straight the CANDU reactor is basically a fuel recycler for the nuclear industry. You can take spent fuels or even alternative fuels and use it in the CANDU reactor, which isn’t the same as some of the other technologies out there. Are there any places in the world currently using the technology that way or is that more future looking?

John Stewart: Yeah, there are. The Chinese are currently using CANDU reactors to burn mixed oxide fuels that have old plutonium, you know, and other materials in it. But the real future is in fuel re-use. The way we currently run nuclear reactors, we only get a little bit of the energy out of the fuel bundle. And there’s a remark made in the US Department of Energy and elsewhere that there’s really no such thing as nuclear fuel waste; there’s just nuclear fuel that we haven’t learned how to use properly. The potential to get the other 95 per cent of the energy out of that fuel is enormous. Right now, uranium’s relatively abundant and relatively affordable and probably will be for quite a while. But if we wanted to make a practice of reusing that fuel and reducing our waste stream, we could. And there’s quite a bit of work being done in that area, and CANDUS are one of the best ways to do that.

Katrina Marsh: In terms of what’s happening in Canada, what are some of the key policy issues that are facing the nuclear industry in Canada today?

John Barrett: Well, probably we should start with the province in which the nuclear power is used the most, and that’s Ontario. The two provinces using nuclear power are New Brunswick and Ontario but the lion’s share of reactors that the utilities have are based in Ontario. The Ontario government has its Long Term Energy Plan and it updates that Plan. And it is within that, that the members of our industry, particularly those who are the utilities, sort of make their decisions and shape their future. And so one of the policy decisions that has come from the Ontario government fairly recently at the end of last year was to refurbish; to re-service and redo the existing reactors, ten existing reactors, to get longer life out of them and have them going for another 20-25 years and beyond that. So that’s a very important policy framer we can start with. Another question is that of liability. It’s always been on the cards: the question of what happens should there be any type of accident and there is damage. Who pays for it? Etc. In Canada it’s always been the operator. The operator has to, that is the utility power operator, has to put money aside, funds aside, for the possibility that they may be liable for something. And what’s going before Parliament now, the government has introduced to raise that limit. I think a part of that is just a recognition that in the reality of today you need a higher limit and the utilities are quite in favour of it. They’re okay with it. They see the merit of that and are prepared to pay their premiums for their insurance and raise the liability so that people feel as if there is this industry is covering all aspects of its work, from waste, decommissioning reactors, waste liabilities, all aspects, safety, regulation. It’s the most regulated industry probably in Canada, maybe since, beside the airline and aerospace industries, for having to get it right and be watched all the time and having to account for everything that one does.

Katrina Marsh: Well, we’ve come up to our time. We promised our audience fifteen minutes or less.

John Barrett: If the listeners do want to know more about the Canadian Nuclear Association, about our members, and what we do, and some of the research that John Stewart is involved in; we’re looking at fuel cycles and greenhouse gas emissions, we look at the socioeconomic impact of the industry, the jobs that are created, the work created, especially in Ontario, please go to: www.cna.ca.

Katrina Marsh: Well, thanks so much for sitting down with me today.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to “The Voice of Business” The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s podcast. For more information on this or any other issue please visit: chamber.ca.