Remarks to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources

House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources

Testimony by Dr. Ron Oberth

President and CEO

Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries

November 17, 2016

Mr. Chair and Committee Members, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning about Canada’s nuclear industry and its exciting future.

The Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCNI) is an association of more than 200 leading Canadian suppliers to the nuclear industry in Canada and abroad. More than 80% of our members are SME’s (small and medium sized enterprises) located mainly in Ontario with some members from Quebec, New Brunswick, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.   

OCNI member companies collectively employ more than 12,000 highly skilled and specialized people who manufacture major equipment and components and provide engineering services and support to the 19 operating CANDU nuclear power plants in Canada as well as to CANDU and LWR plants in offshore markets. OCNI companies also work on medical and industrial applications of nuclear technology. Over the last three years OCNI has organized and led outgoing and incoming trade mission of Canadian and offshore suppliers to or from Argentina, UK, USA, India, China, Romania, South Korea, South Africa and Poland.

I will frame my remarks this morning around the three main topics and questions that you have asked me to address. 

Nuclear Energy

The Canadian nuclear industry faces challenges and opportunities related to future nuclear energy development in Canada and to the export of Canadian nuclear energy technologies. Our industry must demonstrate superior project performance to earn both investor and political confidence.We have an opportunity to win this confidence through executing the refurbishment and major component replacement projects at Darlington and Bruce.

There is a lack of public understanding about nuclear technology outside of Ontario. We need to work hard to communicate the facts about our industry in those regions where nuclear energy does not currently have a presence.

To compete in export markets, where our industry faces stiff competition from the larger government-backed nuclear vendors, we will need our own government to provide political support and to endorse export financing for our products and service.

Worldwide recognition of climate change threat and the setting of ambitious GHG emission reduction targets has created a major opportunity for non-emitting nuclear generation. Domestically, achieving GHG emission reduction targets will require conversion from fossil fuel to electric technologies in industry, transportation and home heating, driving demand for more zero GHG electricity generation in Ontario and in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Canada’s home-grown CANDU technology has performed very well in Canada, Argentina, South Korea, Romania and China. Ontario has committed to invest $25B to refurbish 10 CANDU units over the next 15 to 20 years. Argentina and Romania are about to commit to more CANDU units.SNC-Lavalin’s Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR) that is designed for uranium recycle and thorium fuels has strong prospects in China – the world’s largest nuclear market.

Looking further in the future, new smaller and innovative nuclear reactors (SMR’s) that are under development in several countries could be used to provide steam for bitumen extraction from the oil sands and provide clean electricity and heating for mining sites in remote northern regions

Research and Development

Future nuclear R&D and innovation will be more commercially focused with the restructure of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to the Government Owned-Contractor Operated (GoCo) model.I expect that CNL leadership will more often demand a clear line of sight from R&D and innovation to commercial application before investing in power sector R&D projects.

While the shutdown of NRU in 2018 could have some negative impacts, the Canadian nuclear industry will engage in more international R&D collaborations to offset this loss of domestic R&D capability

I believe that CNL has a very bright future. We have been pleased to observe increasing collaboration among CNL scientists and technicians and our nuclear suppliers with the intent to take CNL innovations to the commercial market place.

Canada was a pioneer in nuclear medicine by developing and deploying the first Co60 cancer therapy machines in Saskatchewan in the early 1950’s.We hope that Canada can retain the leadership role. The planned shutdown of NRU in 2018 is forcing innovations in the production of medical isotopes such as the use of accelerators and the production in the Bruce reactors of high specific-activity (SA) cobalt for cancer treatment.

Nuclear R&D could also have potential application the resources extraction sector. For example, R&D related to nuclear waste containment in stable rock formations could be applied to the containment of toxic waste arising from certain mining operations.

Waste Management and Decommissioning

Canada began R&D related to the long-term disposal of high level nuclear waste in 1978 and has spent > $1B on this R&D.AECL constructed the world-leading, state of the art, Underground Research Laboratory (URL) in Manitoba near the Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment in the 1980’s. Scientists from the USA, Finland and Sweden have working with Canadian scientists in performing R&D on rock heating and leak-tightness at the URL.

Ontario Power Generation has undertaken geologic testing and container design studies that prove that the proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for OPG’s medium level nuclear near Kinkardine will be safe.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) high level waste site selection process has narrowed the list potential sites to nine host communities that have good geology and have continue to show interest in hosting the high-level waste repository. The exhaustive public consultation and scientific rigour applied by the NWM0 in its “Adaptive Phased Management Program” has been exemplary.

There are unique opportunities and challenges facing the decommissioning of nuclear facilities in Canada and around the world. The Canadian nuclear industry has dismantled and replaced reactor cores (pressure tubes) at Pickering and Point Lepreau and more recently at Bruce and soon at Darlington. This complex procedure in a highly radioactive environment is essentially “partial decommissioning”.This experience will enable our industry to undertake full decommissioning of NRU, Gentilly 2 in Quebec, and Pickering (in 2022 and beyond).

There is a huge opportunity for Canadian companies with special robotic and waste handling experience to take this domestic decommissioning experience to offshore decommissioning markets such as the UK and USA where more than 20 NPP’s are slated for decommissioning over the next 10 to 15 years.

Thank you.


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