Country profile: Canada

Summary figures for 2017

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) Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
Canada 19 96.1 (b) 14.9
OECD America120911.818.0
OECD Total 3111 856.817.6
NEA Total 352 2 062.6 17.9
(b) Preliminary data.

Country report


Total Canadian uranium production was 13 127 tU in 2017, approximately 22% of world production. All Canadian production is from high-grade uranium deposits located in northern Saskatchewan.

In 2017, the Cigar Lake mine, operated by Cameco, reached full operating capacity and was the world's largest uranium mine in terms of annual production, with an output of 6 925 tU. All Cigar Lake ore is processed at the McClean Lake mill, which is operated by Orano Canada Inc. (formerly Areva).

Production from the McArthur River mine, operated by Cameco, was 6 156 tU in 2017, a reduction of 11% from 2016 production of 6 945 tU. McArthur River was the world's second largest uranium mine in 2017 in terms of annual production. All McArthur River ore is processed at the Key Lake mill, also operated by Cameco. A small amount of production (48 tU) was obtained from processing Key Lake special waste rock and from processing wastes transported to Key Lake from Cameco's Blind River, Ontario uranium refinery.

The Rabbit Lake mine and mill facility, which is wholly owned and operated by Cameco, has been closed since mid-2016 as a result of low uranium prices. In November 2017, Cameco announced it would suspend operations at the McArthur River mine and Key Lake mill for a period of ten months in 2018 because of continued low uranium prices and excess inventory of uranium concentrates in storage at the mill. Operations are expected to resume after this inventory is depleted.

Nuclear energy development within Canada

Nuclear energy represents an important component of Canada's electricity sources. In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, nuclear energy provided 14.7% of Canada's total electricity supply (approximately 57% in the province of Ontario), and will continue to play an important role in achieving Canada's target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

In June 2017, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources tabled a report entitled The Nuclear Sector at a Crossroads: Fostering Innovation and Energy Security for Canada and the World. The report found that the nuclear sector in Canada is at a crossroads following the recent restructuring of Atomic Energy Canada Limited and made seven recommendations to advance the viability and competitiveness of Canada's nuclear industry with respect to regulatory and safety practices, research and innovation, leadership in nuclear power generation, and the development and commercialisation of next-generation nuclear technologies. In October, the government of Canada responded to the report agreeing to all of the recommendations.

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. AECL's Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario is home to Canada's largest research and development (R&D) complex.

Following a multi-year restructuring process, the 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. The contractor, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), is responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of AECL sites, including the Chalk River Laboratories, Whiteshell Laboratories and the Port Hope Area Initiative Management Office.

On behalf of the government of Canada, the AECL is investing more than CAD 1.2 billion to revitalise the Chalk River Laboratories and build new world-class science facilities. Recent infrastructure investments have included: over CAD 55 million for a new hydrogen lab complex in 2015, a new materials science lab worth over CAD 100 million in 2016, CAD 40 million for a new tritium lab currently in the final commissioning stage and another CAD 190 million directed to other major infrastructure projects that began in 2017.

Small modular reactors (SMRs)

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has been approached by a number of small modular reactor (SMR) vendors to initiate an optional preliminary step before the licensing process, called a vendor design review (VDR). The VDR is completed at a vendor's request and expense to assess their understanding of Canada's regulatory requirements and the acceptability of a proposed design. As of 31 December 2017, eight SMR companies have started the VDR process with the likelihood that others will follow in the near term.

In Canada's October 2017 response to the House of Commons Standing Committee report on Natural Resources (RNNR), the government committed to use its convening power to bring together a dialogue to develop a Canadian roadmap for SMRs. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has convened a process to develop a Canadian roadmap for the potential development and deployment of SMRs in Canada. The SMR roadmap was formally announced in February 2018.
The process began with provinces, territories and utilities, and has grown to include all essential enabling partners, including national laboratories, the regulator, the waste management organisation, industry and academia. Demand-side stakeholders have also been engaged, including mining and oil sands industry stakeholders, as well as Indigenous and northern people.

In 2017, the CNL launched a Request For Expressions Of Interest (RFEOI) on SMRs, which formally declares the CNL as "open for business" and seeks to get feedback from the SMR industry on the role that the CNL can play in bringing SMR technology to market. The CNL issued a report summarising the findings, entitled Perspectives on Canada's SMR Opportunity. Responses to the report explored the possibilities of SMR technology beyond the generation of electricity, integrating SMRs as part of a more diverse energy strategy, with applications as varied as district heating, co-generation, energy storage, desalination or hydrogen production. The CNL has identified SMRs as one of seven strategic initiatives the company intends to pursue as part of its long-term strategy, with the goal of siting an SMR on its Chalk River site by 2026.


The Canadian province of Ontario has 18 of Canada's 19 operating nuclear power reactors across three power plants: Pickering, Darlington and Bruce (the largest operating nuclear power plant in the world). Ontario's 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) confirmed the intent to refurbish ten reactors over the 2016-2031 period, including four at Darlington owned and operated by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and six units at Bruce operated by Bruce Power. These projects, which will enable the plants to operate for an additional 25-30 years, represent a combined investment of approximately CAD 26 billion by OPG and Bruce Power.

The refurbishment of Darlington began with the first reactor in October 2016 and is expected to be completed by 2026. In 2017, the Ontario government confirmed commitment to proceed with the Unit 3 Refurbishment at Darlington. Unit 2 Refurbishment remains on budget and schedule with approximately 50% of the refurbishment completed by the end of 2017. The Bruce refurbishment is expected to begin in 2020.

The Pickering power plant was planned to close in 2020; however, Ontario has approved a proposal to continue operating to 2024, subject to licensing approval by the CNSC. Under the LTEP, nuclear energy is expected to continue to be Ontario's largest source of electricity after refurbishments and the retirement of Pickering.


On 28 December, 2012, the Gentilly-2 generating station ceased operations. The station has been put in a safe storage state, and in June 2016, the CNSC announced its decision to issue a power reactor decommissioning licence to Hydro-Québec for the facility, valid from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2026.

In December 2016, the University of Alberta (U of A) submitted an application to the CNSC, to request authorisation for the decommissioning of its SLOWPOKE-2 reactor facility located on the U of A campus in Edmonton, Alberta. The U of A's SLOWPOKE-2 reactor is a 20-kW thermal sealed-container-in-pool type research reactor that has been in operation since 1977. In September 2017, the CNSC approved the application and amended the licence to authorise its decommissioning. The amended licence is valid until 30 June 2023. The U of A intends to decommission the SLOWPOKE-2 reactor facility with the goal of restoring the facility to an end state that would enable the U of A to apply for a licence to abandon the facility and regain its unrestricted use.

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. The CNL is continuing decommissioning of the Whiteshell Laboratories in Pinawa, Manitoba. The CNL has proposed in situ decommissioning of the WR-1 research reactor at Whiteshell Laboratories, which was shut down in 1985. The CNL has also proposed closure of the Nuclear Power Demonstration facility site, which consists of a shut-down prototype reactor, near Rolphton, Ontario. Project descriptions for both of these initiatives were submitted by the CNL to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and both proposals require environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.

Nuclear Liability Act Compensation Act

The Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act establishes a compensation and liability regime in the unlikely event of a nuclear accident resulting in civil injury and damages. This new law entered into force on 1 January 2017 and replaces the Nuclear Liability Act, legislation which dated back to the early 1970s.

Under the new law, the operator of a nuclear power plant will now be responsible for paying up to CAD 1 billion for civil damages resulting from an accident at that plant. This is a major increase from the CAD 75 million that operators were required to pay under the former law. The CAD 1 billion amount will be phased in from CAD 650 million in 2017 to CAD 1 billion beginning in 2020.

The new legislation allowed Canada to ratify the IAEA Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage on 6 June 2017, and it entered into force for Canada on 4 September 2017. Canada signed the Convention on 3 December 2013.

Nuclear fuel waste

Long-term management of nuclear fuel waste1 produced in Canada

Canada is progressing towards implementing a plan for the 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), at a suitable site in an informed and willing host community. The Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) – established by Canada's nuclear electricity producers pursuant to the 2002 Nuclear Fuel Waste Act – is responsible for implementing the APM approach. As of 31 December 2017, seven communities are currently participating in an NWMO site selection process to determine whether they would like to host a future DGR.

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

Through its Crown corporation OPG, the province of Ontario is proposing to site a DGR on the Bruce nuclear site in Kincardine, Ontario. The DGR would be designed to manage OPG LILW waste produced during the operation of the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear power plants in Ontario.

Prior to making the environmental assessment decision, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change requested additional information and further studies on the environmental assessment for the DGR project on 18 February 2016. On 28 December 2016, OPG submitted the additional information pertaining to the Minister's request, and following a conformity review, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency initiated a public comment and technical review period on additional information from OPG. In August 2017, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change requested OPG to submit an update on its analysis for the potential cumulative effects of the DGR project on the physical and cultural heritage of local Indigenous communities, the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON). The SON will conduct community-based consultation, and provide their findings to OPG, who in turn will report to the minister. The minister will then make a decision on the project.

International activities

Bilateral agreements and initiatives

In 2017, Canada is co-lead with the United States and Japan in preparing a proposal for the "Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future (NICE Future)", a new initiative under the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) to encourage formal discussion between member countries about nuclear energy options for both electric and non-electric applications in integrated clean energy systems of the future. Canada will host the 10th CEM Meeting in 2019, where progress on the NICE Future will be reported.

The CEM is a high-level global forum, composed of 25 member countries and the European Commission, to promote policies, programmes and best practices that will encourage the transition to a global clean energy economy. CEM is based on a distributed leadership approach where any government interested in pursuing a clean energy initiative is encouraged to identify willing partners and go forward with it.

Canada participated in the fifth annual Canada-India Joint Committee Meeting under the Canada-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, which was held in Mumbai in November 2017. 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, R&D and industry co-operation. The sixth annual meeting is expected to take place in the autumn of 2018 in Canada.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, 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.

Generation IV International Forum (GIF)

Canada is a member of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), which enables the co-ordination of advanced nuclear research among major nuclear countries. As part of this initiative, the CNL continues to work towards the development of the supercritical water reactor (SCWR) concept.

In 2017, Canada signed the amendments to the Project Arrangements for Thermal-Hydraulics and Safety as well as Materials and Chemistry of the GIF SCWR System as part of its continued active participation.

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

Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2018