Electricity Generation Choices
What is the Canadian Nuclear Power Process?
The Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) reactor is the only type of nuclear reactor used in Canada, which reprocesses spent nuclear fuel, enabling the fuel source to last over 10,000 years. CANDU reactors use enriched Uranium as fuel, and heavy water (deuterium) as the moderator. Nuclear power is derived from a nuclear fission reaction through a process in which large amounts of heat are generated. The heat produced from the nuclear reaction is used to generate the steam which rotates the turbines to generate electricity.
- Canada is one of the world’s largest producers of Uranium, supplying more than 17 per cent of the world’s demand. The nuclear power industry in Canada generates direct and indirect employment for 71,000 people. Seventeen CANDU reactors produced 15.2 per cent of the Canada’s electricity generation and 61.8 per cent of Ontario’s electricity generation in 2011. The CANDU reactor is also used in Argentina, Romania, Pakistan, India, China, and the Republic of Korea.
- Nuclear Power is a large scale electricity source, which provides base load electricity generation with relatively low and fairly consistent operating, maintenance and fuel cost. The base load generation has the ability to provide a steady stream of electricity to meet the demand. Nuclear power is one of the few large scale clean electricity sources that does not release greenhouse gas emissions (GHG’s). Canada’s nuclear industry contributes more than $6.6 billion per year in economic activity. The industry brings in $1.5 billion in federal and provincial revenue and is worth more than $1.2 billion in exports.
- If nuclear power is to continue its contribution to meeting Canada’s growing electricity demand, the industry will have to manage high amounts of capital risk and long lead construction times. Furthermore, the industry must maintain a full life-cycle approach in order to safely dispose of radioactive waste and maintain healthy communities. The development of nuclear power plants is highly regulated and requires planning for radioactive waste and fuel management over the span of its technical life. Although radioactive waste is potentially hazardous, it is very well managed through the Canadian nuclear waste management process. Through careful control and storage, the environmental and health risk can be mitigated.
- Nuclear waste fuel is managed over the long-term following its use in the nuclear power production. Spent nuclear fuel from power plants is initially stored in water filled pools at the nuclear station, which provides shielding from the radiation and cooling to remove the heat. After the radioactive material has been eliminated after several years, the fuel is transferred to concrete silos. Nuclear waste and fuel management is critical to ensure that cradle-to-grave environmental protection is fulfilled.
- World Nuclear Association, “World Uranium Mining,” World Nuclear Association website, http://www.worldnuclear.org, accessed August 2012.
- Canadian Nuclear Association, “Overview of Canada’s Nuclear Industry,” Canadian Nuclear Association website, http://www.cna.ca/nuclear_facts/backgrounder/, accessed September 20, 2012.