Country profile: Canada

Summary figures for 2015

The following information is from the NEA publication Nuclear Energy Data, the annual compilation of official statistics and country reports on nuclear energy in OECD member countries.

Country
Number of nuclear power plants connected to the grid
Nuclear electricity generation
(net TWh) 2015
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
Canada
19
102.0
*
15.9
 
OECD America
120
911.2
18.5
 
OECD Total
317
1 878.7
18.4
 
NEA Total
352
2 073.9
18.7
 

* Preliminary data

Country report

Uranium

Canadian uranium production totalled 13 325 tU in 2015, about 22% of the total world production. All Canadian production is from mines located in northern Saskatchewan.
McArthur River, the world's largest high-grade uranium mine, and the Key Lake mill, the world's largest uranium mill, are operated by Cameco Corporation. These two facilities maintained their standing as the world's largest uranium production centre by producing 7 341 tU in 2015.

The Rabbit Lake mine and mill, which are wholly owned and operated by Cameco, produced 1 621 tU in 2015. Cigar Lake is the world's second-largest high-grade uranium deposit. The mine is operated by Cameco Corporation and the ore is processed at the McClean Lake mill which is operated by Areva Resources Canada. Cigar Lake production totalled 4 359 tU in 2015, ranking it as the world's second-largest uranium mine. The mine is expected to be in full production in 2017, producing 6 900 tU annually.

Production from the McClean Lake mill is almost entirely from Cigar Lake ore. A small amount of stockpiled ore from the McClean Lake mine was processed in 2015, producing a total of 4 tU. There are no plans to resume mining at McClean Lake in the near future, however the mill capacity is being expanded.

Nuclear energy development within Canada

Nuclear energy represents an important component of Canada's electricity sources. In 2015, nuclear energy provided approximately 16% of Canada's total electricity needs (over 60% in the province of Ontario) and will continue to play an important role in supplying Canada with power in the future.

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is a federal crown corporation with the mandate to enable nuclear science and technology and fulfil Canada's radioactive waste and decommissioning responsibilities. By enabling nuclear science and technology activities, AECL enables work with benefits and applications in the areas of health, safety, security, energy, non-proliferation, environmental protection and emergency response. AECL's Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario is home to Canada's largest research and development complex.

AECL is also responsible for addressing Canada's radioactive waste and decommissioning responsibilities. These responsibilities stem from decades of nuclear research and development activities at the Chalk River Laboratories, the Whiteshell site in Manitoba, as well as other satellite sites in Ontario and Quebec. AECL is responsible for the proper and safe clean-up, remediation and long-term management of the radioactive waste at its sites. On behalf of the government of Canada, AECL also oversees similar work at sites where the government has assumed responsibility of historic, low-level radioactive waste, such as in Port Hope and Port Granby, in Ontario.

Following a multi-year restructuring process, AECL now delivers on its mandate through a long-term contract with the private sector for the management and operation of its sites, facilities and assets under a government-owned, contractor-operated model. AECL works to monitor performance under this model to meet government objectives. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of AECL's sites, including the Chalk River Laboratories, the Whiteshell Laboratories and the Port Hope Area Initiative Management Office.

Refurbishments

The provincial government of Ontario intends to proceed with the refurbishment of ten reactors between 2016 and 2031: four at the Darlington Generating Station and six at the Bruce Generating Station. These refurbishments will add about 25-30 years to the operational life of each unit. Refurbishment at Darlington is to start in 2016 with one reactor, and commitments on subsequent reactors will take into account the cost and timing of preceding refurbishments, with appropriate off-ramps in place. Refurbishment at Bruce is to start in 2020.

These refurbishments are a major component of Ontario's climate change mitigation strategy and represent a CAD 25 billion investment. The continued use of nuclear energy in Ontario will allow it to and displace approximately 30 million tonnes per year of carbon dioxide, as compared with emissions from natural gas.

Decommissioning

On 28 December 2012, the Gentilly-2 generating station ceased operations. The station has been put in a safe storage state and a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission public hearing is planned for May 2016 to consider an application from Hydro-Québec for a ten-year licence to continue activities related to the preparation for decommissioning.

In August 2013, the University of Alberta announced its intention to decommission its SLOWPOKE-2 research reactor, in service since 1977. The reactor was shut down in late 2015. The contract for decommissioning was awarded to Candu Energy Inc. on 6 April 2016, with a completion target of 2017. There are three other SLOWPOKE-2 reactors in operation at research facilities in Canada: Saskatchewan Research Council, the Royal Military College of Canada, and l'École polytechnique de Montréal.

In February 2015, the government of Canada announced that the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor will operate until 31 March 2018, at which point it will be put into a safe storage state until decommissioning. AECL is also continuing in the process of decommissioning Whiteshell Laboratories in Pinawa, Manitoba, which houses the WR-1 research reactor. The reactor was shut down in 1985.

Modernisation of the Nuclear Liability Act

The Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act (NLCA), Part 2 of the Energy, Safety and Security Act, received Royal Assent on 26 February 2015. The NLCA provides stronger legislation to better deal with liability for a nuclear accident within Canada, and allows Canada to join the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. The NLCA would increase the operator's liability limit from CAD 75 million under the current Nuclear Liability Act to CAD 1 billion. Subject to the approval of the government, the new act could enter into force on 1 January 2017, once regulations are completed and Ministerial decisions are taken on insurance and government financial cover.

Nuclear fuel waste

Long-term management of nuclear fuel waste1 produced in Canada

Canada is progressing towards implementing a plan for long-term management of the nation's nuclear fuel waste.

In 2007, the government of Canada selected the adaptive phased management (APM) approach which involves isolating and containing Canada's nuclear fuel waste in a deep geological repository (DGR), in a suitable site in an informed and willing host community. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) – established by the nuclear energy corporations pursuant to the 2002 Nuclear Fuel Waste Act – is responsible for implementing the APM approach. As of 31 December 2015, nine communities are currently participating in an NWMO site selection process to determine whether they would like to host a future DGR.

For information about Canada's plan and the NWMO, see www.nwmo.ca.

DGR for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste (LILW)

Through its crown corporation, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), the province of Ontario is proposing to prepare the site, construct and operate a DGR on the Bruce nuclear site in Kincardine, Ontario. The DGR would be designed to manage OPG's LILW waste produced during the operation of the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear power plants in Ontario. On 24 January 2012, the Federal Minister of the Environment and the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announced the establishment of a three-member joint review panel (JRP) to review the environmental effects of OPG's proposed project. The JRP held a total of 33 days of public hearings in Kincardine and Port Elgin between 16 September and 30 October 2013 and again between 9 September and 16 September 2014. On 18 November 2014, the JRP announced that it had closed the public record for the environmental assessment.

On 6 May 2015, the JRP delivered its report to the Federal Minister of the Environment for review and decision under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, which included a total of 97 recommendations. The JRP concluded that the DGR Project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, provided the mitigation measures proposed and commitments made by OPG during the review, and the mitigation measures recommended by the Panel, are implemented. If the project is authorised to proceed to the next phase of the permitting process, the Minister's Environmental Assessment Decision Statement will include conditions related to the project that will be legally binding on the proponent. The Minister's decision was delayed until 1 March 2016. On 18 February 2016, The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change requested additional information and further studies on the environmental assessment for the DGR Project. OPG has been asked to provide the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, by 18 April 2016, with a schedule for fulfilling the information request. The Minister will contact the JRP at a future date regarding its role in the review of the additional information and studies.

For more information about this project and the environmental review, see www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/details-eng.cfm?evaluation=17520.

International activities

Nuclear liability

Canada signed the IAEA Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage on 3 December 2013, and it was tabled in parliament on 6 December 2013. Once Canada's new domestic nuclear liability legislation enters into force, anticipated in January 2017, Canada would be in a position to ratify the convention.

Bilateral agreements and initiatives

In November 2014, Canada and China signed an expanded memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Nuclear Energy Cooperation, which broadens co-operation in a wide range of nuclear energy activities, including nuclear energy policy, research and development, and resource utilisation for civilian purposes. Additionally, the MOU encourages collaboration between Canadian and Chinese industries in third markets. Canadian and Chinese officials are currently working to establish a work plan to guide engagement under this MOU, as well as to elevate the focus on nuclear issues in existing bilateral energy fora.

In January 2015, Canada and the United States signed a bilateral implementing arrangement (IA) under the Trilateral Energy Science and Technology Agreement (TESTA). Building on a history of bilateral nuclear co-operation between the two countries, this IA will facilitate science and technology co-operation in the field of civilian nuclear energy. An inaugural meeting was held in May 2015, with a work plan of projects for collaboration currently under development.

In June 2015, Canada and the United Kingdom signed a bilateral MOU on nuclear energy co-operation, which seeks to strengthen and enhance collaboration between the two countries in a range of nuclear energy activities, including advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies, research and development, policy issues of mutual interest, and all aspects of the nuclear reactor lifecycle, including design, construction, maintenance, operation, and decommissioning. Canadian and UK partners are developing a work plan of concrete activities under the MOU, with activities expected to take place in 2016. The first annual meeting under the MOU took place in November 2015.

Canada participated in the third annual Canada-India Joint Committee Meeting under the Canada-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, which was held in India in October 2015. The joint committee serves as a means for Canada and India to deepen co-operation on nuclear energy issues, including through information sharing and planning for engagement on policy issues, research and development, and industry co-operation. The fourth annual meeting is being planned for late 2016 in Ottawa.

The CNSC, as Canada's independent nuclear regulator, establishes and maintains regulatory co-operation arrangements with its counterparts in other countries to share information and best practices, with a view to further enhancing nuclear safety and security in Canada and abroad. While these arrangements are not legally binding, they nonetheless represent strong commitments by the participating regulatory agencies. The CNSC currently has memoranda of understanding for regulatory co-operation and exchange with 20 counterpart regulatory authorities in 19 countries, including new arrangements signed in 2015 with India, Japan and Switzerland.

Generation IV International Forum (GIF)

In 2015, Canada's national GIF programme held two reviews of the Canadian supercritical water-cooled reactor (SCWR) concept to assess it against the goals set by the GIF for the generation IV reactor concepts. The first review was done by prominent Canadian nuclear industry experts in February 2015. Expert reviewers included leaders in Canada's private nuclear sector, as well as provincial and federal government stakeholders. The reviewers were impressed by the technical advancements and the innovative features of the concept. The second review was an international review held in October 2015. International members participating in the SCWR system of GIF were invited to the international expert review of the Canadian SCWR concept. These members are subject matter experts from China, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands, and have been participating in developing the SCWR concepts in China, the European Union and Japan. Canadian researchers provided presentations on various technology areas to the reviewers in the two-day meeting. Details on the concept and technical issues were discussed thoroughly. Reviewers praised the report on the Canadian SCWR concept and the organisation of the meeting. Through both the national and international reviews, the Canadian SCWR concept was demonstrated to align to the GIF technology goals on enhancing economics, safety, proliferation resistance, and sustainability.

1. Alternatively referred to as spent fuel, irradiated fuel, or used nuclear fuel..

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2016

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Last reviewed: 21 December 2016