Canadian nuclear: team work for a shared future

July 2, 2019

By Eve Guilloton

I grew up in France and recently settled in Toronto after working in the UK and the Netherlands, and I love the way things are done in Canada. Canadian people, as far as I can tell, like to get involved, to contribute and to represent their country, their company, and themselves in the most positive way they can. They do this while showing admirable patience, and I have noticed that the same values are shown throughout the nuclear industry they have built.

On an international level, the Canadian industry is right now the most innovative and exciting in the world. On a domestic level, I could only describe it as thriving, as I am working to cement Thomas Thor’s presence with a new office in partnership with my colleague Clarisse Lievre.

Blending the public with the private, and cooperation with competition, the Canadian nuclear sector is rebuilding itself to supply clean energy into the 2050s. There are thousands of jobs in the sector to support a pipeline of nuclear energy work lasting decades.

Common purpose

I could see what I most appreciate in Canada, a sense of equality between people and ease of access at the different events organised by the Canadian Nuclear Association: seeing CEOs of the biggest nuclear companies genuinely enjoying their time together can happen here because the companies they represent have a shared purpose and sense of achievement. Back in 2005 Toronto experienced 53 smog days per year, but in 2014 there was only one. Why? The Asthma Society of Canada puts it down to the provincial government’s move to stop burning coal – something that was enabled by the ramp up of nuclear power to take its place. That required bringing back four laid-up reactors at the Bruce site, near Kincardine on Lake Huron. Now, similar work is taking place to refurbish across a total of ten reactors at the Darlington and Bruce sites in a project that will roll until 2026.

All the reactors are owned by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which itself is owned by the government of Ontario and therefore ministers are authorizing the necessary investments. Having seen these projects overrun on time and budget before, they will be approved one by one, which means it is in everyone’s interest that they meet time and budget targets. The only way to get this done is to make it a team effort. OPG has started with a reactor at Darlington, and Bruce will begin soon.

The next seven years will see two CANDU refurbishments going on at once, needing a total workforce of over 14,000 during the entire project. OPG and Bruce are different organizations and each one has its own joint ventures to do the work, but in part they are relying on the same Canadian ecosystem of smaller companies across a wide landscape of this domestic high-tech industry.

So although they are competitors, the three main power companies as well as their contractors and supply chains have much more in common than divides them. It’s worth noting as well that the nuclear power enterprise also rests on Canada’s huge resources of uranium, the leading firms like Cameco that mine it, and the high quality manufacturing that provides a domestic fuel supply.

Future facing

The same collaborative spirit extends to the future of nuclear in Canada and the roll-out of small and advanced reactors, which could support decarbonization of heat and power, support remote communities and even ‘open the north’ of the country. Backed by supportive investment in and the renewal of the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory and the pro-active attitude of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, there are ten small and innovative designs in pre-licensing and licensing processes. Some of these are also benefitting from support from the main power companies.

Thomas Thor would advise anyone to consider a career move to the nuclear industry in Canada,  as Clarisse and I have done. It’s great to have officially set up our office in Toronto and joined this country’s industry. In Canada nuclear energy is a team effort, to do the right thing now, and to create the right conditions for a shared prosperous future.

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