Bob Chiarelli: Powering Ontario’s Bright Energy Future
Insight Mediaplanet sat down with Ontario Minister of Energy, Bob Chiarelli, to discuss the bright future of nuclear energy in Ontario and nationwide.
Mediaplanet: What should Ontarians know about the role that nuclear energy plays in their energy mix?
"Nuclear power is also part of Canada’s science and innovation advantage, involving more than 30 universities and six major research centres"
Bob Chiarelli: A major advantage of Ontario’s supply mix is the diversity of our generation: 90 percent of the grid-connected power generated in Ontario in 2014 came from emissions-free sources of energy such as water, nuclear, and renewables. Nuclear provided approximately 60 percent of our round-the-clock, year-round energy in 2014.
The refurbishment of Ontario’s nuclear fleet, for example, represents a multi-billion-dollar investment and our continued support of the province’s nuclear supply chain and operations for decades to come.
Refurbished nuclear is one of the most cost-effective options in the long-term planning of the electricity system, and is creating a strong foundation where Ontario’s nuclear suppliers are in a strong position to market their products and services to a global nuclear industry that could reach over 500 reactors by 2030.
MP: What barriers do Ontario’s nuclear suppliers and generators currently face?
BC: Canada’s nuclear industry consists of over 180 companies, located largely in Ontario, which generate around $6.6 billion in annual revenues and around $1.5 billion in annual federal and provincial tax revenues.
There are seven operating research reactors at facilities across Canada, including reactors at McMaster University and Chalk River, both in Ontario. These reactors are used for education and research, and medical isotope production.
Maintaining Canada’s position as a world leader in nuclear research and development requires that the existing National Research Universal Reactor (NRU) be licensed to operate well beyond 2018.
Retention of a research nuclear reactor at Chalk River is essential to providing the research and development necessary to support Ontario’s long-term strategy of retaining nuclear as the primary source of base load generation in the province.
Since 1952, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) has been a world leader in developing innovative applications from nuclear technology through expertise in physics, metallurgy, chemistry, biology and engineering. The pioneering CANDU reactor invention and AECL’s other applications were developed at Chalk River.
While the CANDU reactor is well established here in Ontario, we are looking to expand this technology and support the export of our home-grown nuclear industry expertise, products and services to international markets.
MP: Ontario is home to world-class nuclear innovation and know-how. What strides can be made to help develop and keep top talent?
BC: We have made important investments in nuclear generation, which continues to be the backbone of Ontario’s supply, and have been successful in exporting Canadian technology such as the CANDU reactor around the world to countries including Argentina, China, India, Pakistan, Romania, and South Korea.
Nuclear power is also part of Canada’s science and innovation advantage, involving more than 30 universities and six major research centres, many of them in Ontario. Ontario strongly supports a long-term strategy that continues to ensure that Canada maintains its national capability and global recognition as a leader in nuclear innovation.
Earlier this year, my ministry launched two requests for bids on studies on advanced nuclear opportunities: one on small modular reactors, and one on the recycling of used CANDU fuel. We are currently evaluating the bids and look forward to seeing the reports.
MP: A commitment has been made to refurbish a number of the province’s existing reactors. What does this mean for Ontario?
BC: Ontario will ensure a reliable supply of electricity by proceeding with the refurbishment of the province’s existing nuclear fleet. The refurbishment of units at the Bruce and Darlington generating stations is expected to begin in 2016 and has the potential to renew 8,500 MW over 16 years.
Ontario’s nuclear industry creates jobs and growth across many sectors. The nuclear industry generates $2.5 billion in direct and secondary economic activity in Ontario annually.
An additional 9,000 jobs are expected to be created as a result of the proposed refurbishment, bringing the total number of people employed in Ontario’s nuclear energy sector to approximately 25,000.
MP: For decades, cities like Peterborough, Pickering and Tiverton have relied on nuclear energy to provide jobs and create economic stimulus. How can we ensure that this continues into the future?
BC: Nuclear power provides approximately 60 percent of the energy used by Ontarians and, through the refurbishment of units at the Bruce and Darlington sites, nuclear will continue to be the single largest generation source in Ontario.
The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters reports that 15,600 people are employed in the operation and support of nuclear plants in Ontario, and 9,000 more would be employed for the refurbishment of the Ontario plants, for a total employment of approximately 25,000 people during the refurbishment period.
The government remains committed to nuclear power, which will continue to be the backbone of our electricity system, supplying about half of Ontario’s electricity generation.