Opinion piece appeared in the June 7, 2021 Hill Times Policy Briefing on the environment.
Achieving Canada’s climate action and GHG emission reduction goals will be challenging.
It will require a diversity of options, existing and emerging ones.
There is a need to bring to bear all technology options – renewables, nuclear, hydrogen and more. We need all of them to be successful. This is not a question of renewables versus nuclear – it is a question of using both, and indeed, using nuclear alongside renewables in markets where renewables alone are not viable.
In Ontario, for example, we have seen what diversifying the energy environment can accomplish. In the 1950s, Ontario chose to diversify its sources of electricity production by partnering with AECL to pursue the development of nuclear technology. Several decades later, when oil and coal became too costly and detrimental to the environment, Ontario had the choice to transition away from these sources.
To reduce today’s emissions across Canada and get to net zero, we will require new clean energy production to meet electricity demand, including increased demand from electrification. We will also need to reduce emissions for resource extraction, enable carbon capture, and support reducing fossil fuel use in the transportation sector. All of this means more clean energy will be needed.
Nuclear reactors and small modular reactors (SMRs) are technologies that do not emit greenhouse gases. Canada’s existing nuclear fleet of 19 reactors produces roughly 15 per cent of the country’s electricity supply, and represents more than 60% of Ontario’s electricity generation.
These reactors work alongside hydro and renewable production to bring more than three quarters of the country’s emission-free electricity to the grid. Nuclear power is integral to Canada’s performance today and will be integral to meeting our climate action goals going forward.
Research and development undertaken by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and other organizations in Canada has contributed to the ongoing, reliable operation of our current fleet and their refurbishments. CNL’s experience and expertise is now being used to support the emergence of SMRs and advanced nuclear technologies in Canada.
Beyond applicability to the existing grid which is being contemplated in several provinces (Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan recently signed an MOU pledging to collaborate on the advancement of SMRs as a clean energy option), SMRs offer non-emitting energy options in new markets such as mining and remote communities. As such, they position Canada to be at the forefront of addressing energy security and carbon reduction imperatives in markets that have historically had limited options.
Today, Canada is amongst the leaders internationally in advancing SMRs, with the promise of important economic opportunities in being early to market.
With the recent announcement by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that Global First Power’s application for a Licence to Prepare Site for an SMR project at the Chalk River Laboratories is moving into formal licence review, we are one step closer to bringing SMRs to market in Canada.
The climate crisis demands action now to mobilize existing technologies, and it demands action now to mobilize the technologies of tomorrow. Both are necessary, and neither alone is sufficient. To avoid an energy supply crunch, we will need diversity of options: not just hydro, nuclear, wind and solar, but also an optimum mix of different designs of each of these to allow us to adapt to unforeseen events.
In the fight against climate change, all options should be on the table.
Fred Dermarkar is President and CEO of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL). He joined the Crown corporation in February 2021, after spending 40 years in the Canadian nuclear sector.
AECL is a federal Crown corporation with a mandate to enable nuclear science and technology and to protect the environment by fulfilling the Government of Canada’s radioactive waste and decommissioning responsibilities.
Canada’s first small modular reactor project reaches licencing milestone
Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), a federal Crown corporation with a mandate to enable nuclear science and technology, and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, are pleased to congratulate Global First Power (GFP) on achieving an important milestone for their small modular reactor (SMR) project. Earlier today, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), announced that GFP’s application for a Licence to Prepare Site for an SMR project at the Chalk River Laboratories has completed preliminary evaluations, and is now moving on to formal licence review.
“This is a major development towards achieving Canada’s climate change goals,” commented Fred Dermarkar, President and CEO at AECL. “Nuclear energy and SMRs will have to be part of our energy mix if we want to meet our objective of reaching net-zero by 2050. As pioneers of innovative nuclear technology in this country, it is exciting to see continued progress towards the deployment of this promising clean energy technology at our Chalk River site.”
Since its inception in the 1940s, AECL’s Chalk River Laboratories has hosted several first-of-a-kind nuclear reactors and technologies. The campus is home to world-leading experts in nuclear engineering, chemistry, physics and environmental protection, and offers a full complement of other nuclear support services.
“I would like to congratulate the team at Global First Power on reaching this significant milestone,” commented Joe McBrearty, President and CEO at CNL. “The licensing of a new nuclear reactor must be underpinned by a robust scientific understanding, and sound environmental research. The acceptance of this licence application into formal review is evidence of the viability and safety of this project, and the diligence of the GFP team in preparing their application.”
Both AECL and CNL have identified SMRs as one of several strategic initiatives the company is pursuing, with the goal of siting a demonstration project on one of AECL’s sites, which are managed by CNL. Together, both organizations are working to demonstrate the commercial viability of SMRs and have positioned Canada as a global leader in SMR prototype testing and technology development support. As part of the program, CNL issued an invitation in 2018 to SMR developers to apply to site an SMR demonstration reactor at a CNL-managed site. GFP is in stage three of CNL’s four-stage process, and with this recent CNSC announcement, GFP is the most advanced concept towards demonstration.
For more information on CNL, including its SMR program, please visit www.cnl.ca/smr.
Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is a federal Crown corporation with an objective of driving nuclear innovation and cleaning up legacy wastes. AECL delivers its mandate through a long-term contract with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) for the management and operation of its sites.
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is a world leader in nuclear science and technology offering unique capabilities and solutions across a wide range of industries. Actively involved with industry-driven research and development in nuclear, transportation, clean technology, energy, defence, security and life sciences, we provide solutions to keep these sectors competitive internationally.
With ongoing investments in new facilities and a focused mandate, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is well positioned for the future. A new performance standard reinforced with a strong safety culture underscores every activity.
For more information on the complete range of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories services, please visit www.cnl.ca or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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