Tag Archives: 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.

Nuclear Policy

Kicking Off the Discussion for a Policy Exercise

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

A policy development forum recently asked CNA to identify a few key factors that shaped the development of Canada’s nuclear industry. We came up with eight. They range from the Western allies’ war needs in the 1940s (which invested us in uranium-based fission reactor technology) to Canada’s advanced cultures of medicine, public health and safety (which give us a culture of reactor safety, leadership in medical applications of nuclear, and leadership in irradiation and food safety).

The interesting thing about this analysis is how many advantages it reveals. Our industry faces challenges (notably cheap natural gas, lack of carbon pricing, and the problems of sustaining top-notch science and technology infrastructure). But the list of strengths is strikingly longer and more impressive than the list of challenges.

Even in a world where many reactor technology options are in development, it’s hard to beat a design series like the CANDUs that are familiar to regulators, with long track records of safety, reliability, and affordability. Then there’s the proliferation-resistance advantage of these designs, which is not diminishing and is probably growing as an asset in the 21st century. Canadian reactors offer the developing world an ideal combination of affordable, minimal-carbon electricity plus proliferation safety. And that Canadian nuclear brand is further strengthened by Canada’s reputation in safety, medicine and public health internationally.

Which brings up another asset on the list: Canada’s perennial and recognized openness to worldwide investment, technology and talent, and the tens of thousands of highly educated newcomers here who have links to foreign markets and practices. While this is a strength across the board in Canada’s economy, it’s especially powerful in a sector like nuclear that depends on global best practices and global market reach.

These thoughts are a very early step in a policy exercise that we’ll look forward to blogging about over the next few months.

Nuclear R&D

Canada’s Innovation Puzzle: Is our National Conversation Missing a Piece?

John Stewart – CNA Director of Policy and Research

Canadians have been concerned for decades about their country’s level of research and development activity, which is presumably related to productivity and living standards. However, recent major national studies and policy efforts related to R&D have focused almost exclusively on business performance of R&D. As policy-makers in the US and other major innovator countries recognize, public institutions such as national laboratories are an integral part of national science and technology performance, as they concentrate many diverse researchers together, offer training opportunities for highly qualified personnel in many fields, and can supply R&D facilities and services that may not be offered by private institutions, regardless of incentives. Policy efforts must look at the full ecosystem of public, academic and private institutions to have a complete picture of national science and technology performance.

Access the entire article here (PDF)

This article is featured in the September issue of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP)’s Policy Options magazine.  This month’s focus is on innovation.

Policy Options > Innovation Issue – September 2011
Nuclear News Nuclear Pride

Germany’s Nuclear Phase Out

Germany announced yesterday plans to phase out nuclear by 2022. German Environment Minister
Norbert Röttgen said:

“It’s definite: the latest end of the last three nuclear power plants is 2022. There will be no clause for revision.”

While we can’t comment on the specifics of Germany’s most recent decision (Germany has changed its nuclear policy three times in 15 years), the Canadian industry is watching international developments with great interest.

One thing is clear – 23% of Germany’s electricity will have to be replaced with another source.

According to this Reuters article, cutting nuclear in Germany will add 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year. One analyst says:

“We will see a pick-up in German coal burn. Longer term, they will be using more renewables and gas but this year and next, we should see a lot of support for coal burn.”

This hardly seems like a victory worth celebrating, as many German anti-nukes are, especially considering the how damaging the burning of fossil fuels, like coal, is. But as Bill Gates said recently,

“Coal kills fewer people at one time, which is highly preferred by politicians.”

Here in Canada, nuclear has been a pillar of our electricity system for more than 50 years – and let’s not forget all of the products and services that nuclear medicine and R&D has contributed to all Canadians, plus the highly-skilled jobs that come out of those sectors. Nuclear also contributes to safety and research in other major sectors, such as our auto and aerospace industries. Nuclear is also one of the most cost-effective of the large-scale energies and, aside from hydro, no other source of energy can produce so much clean, baseload power at such sustained levels as nuclear.

Yeah, we’re pretty sure that support for nuclear energy in Canada will continue for a long time.