Nuclear Power a Solution to Emissions Reductions, Canada Can Lead the Way

COP28 Says the World Needs More Nuclear Power, Canada Can Lead the Way cover v2

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai has now ended, with parties calling to accelerate the deployment of zero- and low-emission technologies such as nuclear and emission abatement/removal systems like carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) in a bid to advance global sustainability efforts.

It was the first time nuclear energy was formally named as one of the solutions to climate change in a COP agreement, according to the World Nuclear Association.

"This marks a 180° turn-around in the treatment of nuclear energy in the COP process, from the lone technology excluded from the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms to COP28's inclusion among a range of zero and low-emissions technologies," said World Nuclear Association Director General Sama Bilbao y León via reporting by world nuclear news.

COP28 saw 24 countries back a declaration calling for global nuclear energy capacity to triple by 2050 in order to meet sustainability goals. Canada, France, Japan, South Korea, and the United States are among the dozens of signees acknowledging the advantages of nuclear power, such as its small footprint and significant ability to advance decarbonization in especially hard-to-abate industrial sectors.

Canada is the second largest producer of uranium in the world

This spells good news for Canada. Already a global leader in the production of all things nuclear – high-grade uranium, electricity generation, and innovative technologies – this is yet another opportunity for Canadians to support global sustainability efforts while reaping the economic benefits.

Canada is currently the world’s second-largest producer of uranium, accounting for 15 per cent of the world’s supply [1]. Almost all comes from northern Saskatchewan’s McArthur River and Cigar Lake operations, the world’s largest and highest-grade mines. Our country is also the second-largest uranium exporter and home to the world’s third-largest recoverable reserves [2].

But it doesn’t stop there. Canada is also the world’s sixth-largest nuclear power producer. Domestically, non-emission nuclear accounts for 14 per cent of our total electricity needs (nearly 60 per cent in Ontario, the most populated province).

Nuclear power has been integral to Canada’s electricity supply for decades. Our home-grown CANDU (short for CANada Deuterium Uranium) reactors are a unique technology that has benefitted millions of Canadians, but one we’ve also shared with the world. The advantages of CANDUs are numerous, the most apparent being they use up to 30 per cent less fuel (mined uranium) than comparable light water reactors [4]. CANDU reactors are now found across the globe; Argentina, Romania, South Korea, China, India and Pakistan are all home to CANDUs [3], a true testament to Canada’s global leadership in atomic energy and innovation.

global energy supply in 2050 - fossil fuels account for 68 per cent of global energy mix

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are yet another nuclear technology being explored by Canada. SMRs are considerably smaller in size and power output than conventional CANDU reactors but fully scalable, making them ideal to build in non-conventional locations. For example, SMRs could potentially supply non-emission heat and power to oil sands operations, or provide lasting electricity generation to Arctic regions such as Nunavut. Today, several Canadian provinces are actively pursuing SMRs, with the first projected to begin operating sometime in the mid-to-late 2020s.

Canada has everything it needs to be a part of the nuclear power solution COP28 is asking for. We have the raw materials, the technology, the know-how, and the commitment to sustainability.

However, we also have developed a reputation for kicking our feet when it comes to the responsible development of natural resources which would serve to enrich Canadians while providing the world with the low-emission energy it needs (look to liquefied natural gas as a prime example).

It is in the best interests of Canadians to recognize nuclear power for what it is: a safe, reliable and long-term electricity source that can do even more to help us meet our emission reduction goals. Canada’s current SMR plan is a good start, but we need to take action now, be diligent, and not let another significant economy-boosting, environment-improving opportunity fall through our fingers.


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