May 6, 2019 in Research
Nuclear Industry in Canada


The report describes research on the nuclear industry in Canada. The research seeks to discuss science, technology, and innovation policies in Canada on the issues related to the nuclear energy. The report will discuss the origin and development of nuclear energy. It will describe the science and technology behind the creation of the nuclear energy, as well as, its benefits and effects. The paper will also research the challenges facing the nuclear industry and the benefits that nuclear industry brings about both to the industry and the country. The report will also evaluate Canadian policies on industries and specific policies affecting the nuclear industry in general. These findings will assist in answering the question “How do the Canadian policies affect the nuclear industry in the country?”


The great interest in science and technology drive the current effort put towards researching about the nuclear energy in Canada. Canada is well known for production and exportation of uranium, which is the major input used in the production of nuclear energy. The availability of uranium in the country, therefore, enhances unlimited and uninterrupted production of nuclear energy, which ensures that the nuclear industry remains active. In actual fact, the nuclear industry is responsible for the production of about fifteen percent of all the electricity used domestically in Canada. However, it contributes to climate change through its emissions with devastating consequences to the atmosphere. The nuclear industry in Canada comprises both private and public sector firms. These firms are registered at the federal and regional levels with each having nuclear energy bodies regulating the exercise. 


Development of Nuclear Energy

In the year 1789, Martin Klaproth, a chemist in Germany discovered uranium and named this element after planet Uranus. Further, in the year 1895, Wilhelm Rontgen discovered ionizing radiation, which was produced by passing electric currents through glass tubes to produce X-rays. One year later, Henri Becquerel discovered that a photographic plate darkened after exposure to an ore that contained uranium and radium commonly known as pitchblende. In the same year, 1896, Marie Currie and Pierre gave the phenomenon the name radioactivity and two years later they omitted radium from the pitchblende leaving uranium only. Years later, the discovery of uranium brought about the commercial use of nuclear energy all over the world.


The first commercial PWR of 250MWe was designed in the United States of America with the efforts and innovative technologies of the Westinghouse Company. In the year 1960, Yankee Rowe launched the project, which opened to operations in the year 1992. Canada, however, used a different track from the one used in the United States. With the availability of uranium, Canada used the element as a fuel and water for moderation and cooling, hence, starting up the first unit in the year 1962. The Canadian-developed design was then named Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU). The name is derived from the deuterium-oxide, which is the acronym for water and the natural uranium fuel to generate electric power. These designs continue to be refined as years pass leading to even more effective designs.

Nuclear Facilities in Canada

Currently, Canada is the second leading country in the production of nuclear energy. Being the major producer and exporter, the nuclear energy is an important source of revenue for the Canadian government. There are two types of reactors that operate in Canada namely research reactors and power reactors. The power reactors are essential for generating electricity while the research reactors produce nuclear materials to be used medically and in other industries. In addition, as the name suggests, the nuclear research reactors are used for conducting scientific researches. The country consists of many nuclear plants that supply electricity to various cities in the country. The main nuclear power plants found in Canada are the Hydro-Québec Gentilly-2, NB Power Point Lepreau, OPG Bruce A & B and the OPG Pickering A & B power plant.


The Bruce A& B Nuclear Generating plant is located in Kincardine municipality in Ontario. It is installed with eight CANDU reactors and has a capacity of six thousand two hundred and thirty-two megawatts. Bruce A began its commercial operations between the years 1977 and 1979 while Bruce B began its operations between 1984 and 1987 and remains operational up to now. Both plants underwent licensing early in 1st June 2015, and the licenses will last up to 31st May 2020. They are governed by the Bruce Power, the operator, and the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited takes on the task of distributing the power output from the plant. Bruce A and Bruce B consist of one refurbished unit and two refurbished units respectively.


The Pickering Nuclear Generation power plant is located in Pickering municipality in Ontario. It is owned and operated by the Ontario Power Generation and was licensed on 1st September 2013. The license is expected to expire on 31st August 2018. Pickering units one to four begun their commercial operations between the years 1971 and 1973 while units five to eight begun their operations in 1983 and 1986. Currently, units two and three are used for safe storage while the rest are operational with a capacity of three thousand one hundred megawatts. The CANDU power produced is distributed to the community through the distribution network of the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.


Darlington nuclear plant is owned and operated by the Ontario Power Generation (OPG). It is located in Clarington municipality in Ontario and consists of four operational CANDU reactors. They all produce a total of three thousand five hundred and twelve megawatts, which the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited distributes to Canadian consumers. The plant became operational between the years 1990 and 1993 and underwent licensing on 1st March 2013. The plant’s license was set to expire on 31st December 2015. However, on 13th December 2013, OPG applied for renewal of the license to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) who extended their license validity to 1st December 2028.


Gentilly-2 Nuclear power plant is located within Bécancour municipality in Québec. It consists of one CANDU reactor whose nuclear waste management is owned and operated in collaboration with Hydro-Quebec. Its commercial operations commenced on 1st October 1983 and its license was issued on 1st July 2011. The plant possesses a capacity of six hundred and seventy-five megawatts, and its license is set to remain in effect until 30th June 2016. However, in December 2012, the nuclear plant underwent a permanent shut down. In regard to the shutdown, the CNSC will hold a hearing on 4th May 2016 to decide whether the request for a ten-year license application will be granted to the plant.


The Point Lepreau plant is located within Point Lepreau municipality in New Brunswick. It commenced its commercial operations on 1st February 1983, and underwent licensing on 17th February 2012.  The plant consists of one CANDU reactor that has a capacity of seven hundred and five megawatts, which the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited takes the responsibility of distributing throughout the country. It is owned and operated by the New Brunswick (NB) Power Nuclear and still remains operational up to today after its return following a refurbishment on 23rd November 2012. However, despite the numerous nuclear facilities in Canada, the government targets to increase nuclear power production through the creation more new facilities to boost current power levels.

Nuclear Science and Technology

Nuclear science and technology (S&T) are vital to the safety and success of all Canadians. With the strong history of Canada and nuclear energy, investing in the nuclear industry in Canada is a wise decision. In relation to nuclear science and technology, Canada has won three Nobel peace prizes. In the year 1908, earnest Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize as appreciation for his word on radioactive decay at McGill. In the year 1990, Richard E. Taylor was awarded the Nobel Prize for his knowledge on quarks in physics. Bertram N. Brockhouse was awarded the Nobel Prize for the development of neutron scattering techniques in the year 1994. The nuclear technology plays many roles in just about all technical fields in Canada. These fields include advanced electronics, aerospace technology, automotive technology, mining, food processing, environmental technology, earth sciences, nuclear medicine, and pharmaceutical devices.

Governance of the Nuclear Industry in Canada

The nuclear industry is a risky business for the workers and the surrounding environment. However, being a great source of electric power for Canada, the industry cannot seize the current operations that add a substantial amount of electrical power to the Canadian electrical grid. Therefore, investing in the nuclear industry has to be regulated to ensure minimum negative effects. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission abbreviated CNSC is the body in charge of regulating the nuclear industry. The CNSC oversees all the processes taking place in the nuclear reactors plants to ensure they comply with the rules laid down in the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. The regulatory body consist teams of highly qualified professionals who verify compliance and take measures to remedy operational deficiencies. Also, the CNSC consults with the public and gives licenses to organizations interested in investing in the nuclear industry. Generally, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regulates the whole lifecycle of the power plant. It is involved in all stages of the nuclear plants from assessment and decommissioning to the end of the power plant’s life. Before licensing, the CNSC ensures that the plant is technically and scientifically safe so as to protect the people, as well as, the environment. The license is comprehensive as it covers about fourteen topics listed about the safety and control areas (SCAs). These SCAs are categorized into three functional areas namely management, facility and equipment, as well as care control processes. 


The management is further organized into human performance management, operation performance, and the management system. The management system is involved in establishing programs and processes that guarantee the organization attains the set objectives. It covers specific areas, which include management system, organization, operation experience, change management, records management, configuration management, business continuity and the management of contractors. The human performance management specializes in activities that enhance human performance and ensure the plants have enough staff, skills, and knowledge. The topics reviewed under human performance management include personnel training, human performance program, personnel certification, fitness for duty, work designs, and requalification tests. Finally, operation finance deals with how the licensed activities are conducted. It covers areas like procedures, reporting, trending, accident management, accident recovery, safe operating envelope, and conducting licensed activities.


The facility and equipment functional area are further organized into safety analysis, physical design, and fitness for service. Physical design involves activities that influence how the structures, systems, and components (SSCs) function. Physical design inspects fuel designs, nuclear designs, facility systems, sites, system classification, waste management systems, control systems, cables, fire protection, and master equipment list among others. Fitness or service oversees the activities that influence physical conditions of SSCs hence ensuring their effectiveness over time. It ensures that all equipment is available and that they perform their intended functions. The fitness for service branch mainly oversees the chemical controls, aging management, structural integrity, equipment fitness, periodic inspection, and the maintenance of equipment.


The core controls and processes are categorized into radiation protection, environmental protection, conventional safety and health, fire protection, waste management, security, safeguards, and packaging and transport. Packaging and transport ensure that the nuclear substances are packaged and transported safely to and from the facility that holds the license. It ensures registration for use, packaging designs, packaging maintenance, and transportation. Safeguards and all non-proliferation activities are implemented successfully in accordance with Canada safeguards agreement and the treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It oversees nuclear material controls and accountancy, operational and design information, importation and exportation of nuclear materials, safeguarding equipment and accessing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The security branch covers implementation of licenses, regulations, orders, and expectations of the facility. Also, it oversees facilities and equipment, response arrangements, security practices, and drills and exercises. Waste management covers facility operations and programs that are waste related. It also covers topics like waste characterization, waste minimization, decommissioning plans, and waste management processes. 


The emergency management and fire protection deals with plans that are used in case of fire and other emergencies. The topics covered under emergency management include nuclear emergency preparedness, fire emergency response, and conventional emergency preparedness as well as response. Environmental protection oversees programs that control the release of radioactive substances into the environment. It also covers topics like effluent control, environmental management system, public protection and monitoring the emissions. Radiation protections cover the execution of protection programs against radiation in accordance with Radiation Protection Regulation. It also covers the application of ALARA, worker dose control, estimated dose to the public, radiological hazard control and radiation protection program. Finally, conventional health and safety seek to manage the safety of the people and equipment in the workplace. It also seeks to examine performance, awareness and practices that take place in the power plants.

Benefits and Opportunities of the Nuclear Industry to the Canadian government

The nuclear industry plays a vital role in the Canadian economy. Firstly, the industry acts as leverage and safeguards the strong reputation of Canada enabling it to realize new opportunities in foreign countries. CANDU has sustained the nuclear energy for over six decades providing job opportunities to the country’s population. Secondly, the industry enhances the research and development capacity of the country, hence, exposing people to newer technologies. These new technologies help in the development of new infrastructure and ensure that Canada maintains its significant role of providing nuclear energy. Also, the nuclear industry strengthens the skills and mining labor force all over the country. Being the highest producer of uranium, the nuclear industry expands the expertise in mining, production, and exportation of uranium. In turn, the exportation of uranium generates revenue for the government in the form of taxes. In fact, the nuclear industry contributes about six billion and six million dollars to the GDP of the Canadian economy. 


The industry’s contribution to the production of electricity cannot be forgotten. The nuclear industry contributes about fifteen percent of the electricity power used domestically. Also, due to inventions experienced in the nuclear industry, the country is able to realize more advanced fuels at lower costs. In addition, the nuclear industry has improved the engagement of the public, as well as, the education in the country as many people are studying hard to pursue their careers in departments concerning nuclear energy. Finally, the nuclear industry has replaced the previous form of electricity generation, which used to emit excessive carbon. It has also replaced the carbon-emitting electricity with renewable forms of energy making it economical.

Challenges Facing the Nuclear Industry in Canada

Firstly, the high costs of capital involved in the installation and running of nuclear plants is a major drawback. Building power plants require an enormous amount of financial resources. Further, the maintenance costs remain relatively high throughout the lifecycle of the plant. In fact, research shows that the investment costs are around sixty percent of the total costs incurred during the project lifecycle. Secondly, the industry suffers unclear foreign rules. These rules restrict the country from investing abroad freely since they are not properly defined. For instance, the Canada Investment Act does not discuss the issue on strategic assets yet politicians always emphasize the matter. The discrepancy, therefore, causes confusion within the country and abroad. Also, historically, CANDU has always been a monopoly. The historical background puts the nuclear industry in a niche market. The existence of the Canada Deuterium Uranium reactor as monopoly puts the production together with the value chain at risk. 


In addition, the acquisition and maintenance of the license offered through the CNSC are extremely hard. These challenges, therefore, limit the number of stakeholders who are interested in investing in nuclear power plants. Also, the difficulty in attaining the license limits the development of new power plants. The inability to educate the residents about benefits and effects of the nuclear power plants is yet another challenge. Equipping residents with details about the nuclear energy puts them in better positions to take care of themselves and respond to emergencies better. Finally, the nuclear industry lacks political champions to campaign its benefits. The unavailability of political leaders who encourage the public that the nuclear industry brings about positive effects puts the industry at greater political risks.


The discovery of uranium and its role in the production of nuclear energy is among the greatest things that ever happened to Canada. The nuclear industry has contributed to the rise in GDP, as well as, the production of electricity. Even though the industry faces a couple of challenges, it still is able to bring a lot of benefits to the country. Canada is well endowed with power plants that supply sufficient power to the country. However, the Canadian government still aims at increasing the power production from nuclear energy through the development of more power plants. The nuclear industry of Canada is governed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), which ensures nuclear plants adhere to the existing industry and federal rules and regulations. The CNSC ensures that all the nuclear power plant operates in compliance with the policies that are set. The commission is bestowed with the power to license power plants that follow the policies and close down the nuclear power plants that fail to comply with the policies. The enhancement of these policies by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has a positive effect on the industry. Regular inspection of the power plants ensures that the managers maintain the plants properly in fear of closure. These policies also ensure that every employee handles the sector in which they are fully qualified, hence, reducing accidents that could arise due to lack of information. Finally, these policies have a positive impact since they ensure that the environment and the people are protected from hazardous emissions. Therefore, the policies enforced on the nuclear industry of Canada have positive effects to the industry, country, and the population at large. 

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