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Nuclear industry faces challenges

The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers has issued a statement in support of the nuclear energy indust...


The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers has issued a statement in support of the nuclear energy industry. The statement issued February 5, says nuclear power is a “clean energy source” that “provides low cost and dependable power.” The society says that nuclear is the best power source in the province to supplement the growing renewable power industry since nuclear provides a counterbalance to the intermittent generation of solar and wind power.
The nuclear industry has employed thousands of engineers in Ontario since it began in 1968. Currently over half the province’s power comes from 16 operating CANDU reactors, and Atomic Energy of Canada has exported the technology around the world.
In recent years, however, the industry’s expansion plans have been stymied by plant refurbishments that have not gone well. Projects to overhaul aging reactors in Ontario and New Brunswick have cost millions over budget and been subject to extensive delays.
Ontario Power Generation is, however, said to be moving ahead with plans to “tune up” 1980s-era reactors at the Pickering B station east of Toronto, and a refurbishment of the 1990s reactors at the Darlington plant further east, which would extend their life to 2050. The Darlington refurbishment would create 3,000 jobs.
On February 4, one day before the OSPE made its statement, a think tank in Ottawa published the results of a three-year study that was not good news for those involved in the international nuclear power industry.
The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) initiated the study in 2006 to investigate the implications of any nuclear revival for safety — especially the proliferation of nuclear weapons and terrorism. In this regard it recommended five steps for the international community to take to increase security.
But the report also noted that the industry in general faces too many challenges for it to enjoy a significant expansion before 2030. Trevor Findlay, the director of the CIGI project and author of the report, said: “Despite some powerful drivers, a revival of nuclear energy faces too many barriers compared to other means of generating electricity.” The barriers included unfavourable economics compared to other sources of energy, fewer government subsidies, and unresolved problems with nuclear waste.
The safety and security issues were also a constraint on the industry, but according to Louise Frechette, chair of the CIGI Nuclear energy Futures Project, solving the security challenges represent an opportunity for Canadian nuclear experts: “Canada, as an exporter of nuclear technology and the world’s leading uranium producer, is well placed to promote improvements in the system of global nuclear governance which it helped to develop from the very beginning of the nuclear era.”
The report is entitled “Nuclear Energy and Global Governance to 2030.” It was prepared by CIGI in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Treaty Compliance at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.
The Centre for International Governance Innovation was founded in 2002 by Jim Balsillie, who is the chair of CIGI and co-chief executive officer of Research in Motion, Waterloo, Ontario.
A copy of the report is available at www.cigionline.org.