Nuclear power in Canada

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Nuclear power in Canada is provided by 19 commercial reactors with a net capacity of 13.5 Gigawatts (GWe), producing a total of 95.6 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, which accounted for 16.6% of the nation's total electric energy generation in 2015.[1] All but one of these reactors are located in Ontario where they produced 60% of the province's electricity in 2015 (92.3 TWh).[2] Seven smaller reactors are used for research and to produce radioactive isotopes for nuclear medicine.

Canadian nuclear reactors are a type of pressurized heavy-water reactor of indigenous design, the CANDU. CANDU reactors have been exported to India, Pakistan, Argentina, South Korea, Romania and China.


The nuclear industry (as distinct from the uranium industry) in Canada dates back to 1942 when a joint British-Canadian laboratory, the Montreal Laboratory, was set up in Montreal, Quebec, under the administration of the National Research Council of Canada, to develop a design for a heavy-water nuclear reactor. This reactor was called National Research Experimental and would be the most powerful research reactor in the world when completed.

Experimental reactors[edit]

ZEEP (left), NRX (right) and NRU (back) reactors at Chalk River, 1954.

In 1944, approval was given to proceed with the construction of the smaller ZEEP (Zero Energy Experimental Pile) test reactor at Chalk River, Ontario and on September 5, 1945 at 3:45 p.m., the 10 Watt ZEEP successfully achieved the first self-sustained nuclear reaction outside the United States.[3]

In 1946, the Montreal Laboratory was closed, and the work continued at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories. Building partly on the experimental data obtained from ZEEP, the National Research Experimental (NRX)—a natural uranium, heavy water moderated research reactor—started up on July 22, 1947. It operated for 43 years, producing radioisotopes, undertaking fuels and materials development work for CANDU reactors, and providing neutrons for physics experiments. It was eventually joined in 1957 by the larger 200 megawatt (MW) National Research Universal reactor (NRU).

In the late 1960s (1967–1970), Canada also developed an experimental miniature nuclear reactor named SLOWPOKE (acronym for Safe LOW-POwer Kritical Experiment). The first prototype was assembled at Chalk River and many SLOWPOKEs were subsequently built, mainly for research. Many SLOWPOKEs are still in use in Canada; there is one running at École Polytechnique de Montréal since 1976, for instance.

Nuclear power plants[edit]

In 1952, the Canadian government formed Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), a Crown corporation with the mandate to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy. A partnership was formed between AECL, Ontario Hydro and Canadian General Electric to build Canada's first nuclear power plant, called NPD for Nuclear Power Demonstration. The 20 MWe NPD started operation in June 1962 and successfully demonstrated the unique concepts of on-power refueling using natural uranium fuel, and heavy water moderator and coolant. These features formed the basis of a fleet of CANDU power reactors (CANDU is an acronym for CANada Deuterium Uranium) built and operated in Canada and elsewhere. Starting in 1961, AECL led the construction of 24 commercial CANDU reactors in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

Bruce B (front) and Douglas Point (white dome) nuclear power plants.

The first full-scale CANDU reactor officially entered service on September 26, 1968 at Douglas Point on the shore of Lake Huron in Ontario. Two years later a reactor of comparable power but of different design became operational along the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec. Gentilly-1 was a prototype CANDU-BWR reactor with features intended to reduce its cost and complexity. After only the equivalent of 180 on-power days over nearly seven years Gentilly-1 was closed in November 1981. Douglas Point, also suffering from unreliability with a capacity factor of 54%, was deemed a financial failure and shut down in May 1984.

In August 1964, Ontario Hydro decided to build the first large scale nuclear power plant in Canada at Pickering on Lake Ontario, 30 kilometers only from downtown Toronto to save on transmission costs. To reduce cost the reactors share safety systems including containment and the emergency core cooling system. Pickering A station started operations in 1971 at a total cost of 716 million dollars (1965). It was followed by the Bruce station, build in 1977 adjacent to the Douglas Point reactor. Beginning in 1983 four B reactors were added to the Pickering existing ones, all sharing common infrastructures. The final cost for these four new reactors was 3.84 billion dollars (1986). Likewise for 6 billion dollars, four new reactors were added to the Bruce site starting in 1984 but in a separate building. After a loss of coolant accident occurred at Pickering reactor A2 in August 1983 all four reactors had their pressure tubes replaced over a ten-year period (1983-1993) for 1 billion dollars (1983).[4]

Gentilly-1 (right) and 2 (left) nuclear reactors.

As most of the development of nuclear energy was taking place in Ontario, Quebec nationalists were eager to benefit from a promising technology. Hydro-Quebec planned as much as 40 reactors to be build in the province but the government chose to pursue hydroelectric mega-projects instead (James Bay Project). At the end of the 1970s the opinion toward nuclear energy shifted and only one new reactor at Gentilly was operational by 1983. The same year another reactor began operation at Point Lepreau, New Brunswick, a province longing to diversify its energy sources since the oil crisis of 1973.[5]

In 1977, a new plant close to Toronto, Darlington, was approved for completion in 1988 at an estimated cost of 3.9 billion dollars (1978). After much controversy the last unit came into service five years late and by then the cost had ballooned to 14.4 billion dollars (1993).[6] In the wake of this price tag a Darlington B plant was cancelled. At this point the operating Canadian reactors fleet was made of eight units at the Pickering site, eight units at the Bruce site, four at the Darlington site, one at Gentilly in Quebec, and one at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick for a 14.7 GWe net installed total capacity.

Refurbishment or closure[edit]

By 1995 the Pickering and Bruce A units needed refurbishment as after 25 years effective full power years of operation the embrittled fuel channels face an increased risk of rupture and must be replaced. The first reactor to close was Bruce A unit 2 in November 1995 due to a maintenance accident.[7] After critics of Ontario Hydro plants management and a series of incidents,[8] on December 31, 1997 the four A reactors at Pickering and unit 1 at Bruce A were stopped at once. They were followed by the remaining two Bruce A units three months later. Over 5 GW of Ontario's electric capacity was abruptly shut down but at this point the reactors were supposed to restart at six month intervals starting in June 2000.[4]

In 1999, indebted Ontario Hydro was replaced by Ontario Power Generation (OPG). The next year OPG leased its Bruce A and B nuclear stations to Bruce Power, a British Energy led consortium. Pickering's A4 and A1 reactors were refurbished from 1999 to 2003 and from 2004 to 2005, respectively. To prevent a power shortage while phasing out Ontario's coal-burning plants, Bruce A units 3 and 4 were returned to service in January 2004 and October 2003 respectively and then units 1 and 2 were completely refurbished for 4.8 billion dollars (2010).[9] Of the eight units laid down, four were refurbished, two were restarted without refurbishment and two (Pickering A2 and A3) were definitively shut down.

In April 2008, refurbishment began at Point Lepreau and was originally estimated to be completed in September 2009 at a cost of 1.4 billion dollars. Plagued with delays, the work was finalized three years late and largely over budget.[10] Hydro-Quebec had decided in August 2008 to similarly refurbish Gentilly-2 starting in 2011. In the light of delays with the Point Lepreau rebuild and for economic reasons in a province with hydroelectricity surpluses the plant was permanently shut down in December 2012[7] and should remain dormant 40 more years before being dismantled.[11]

Following the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) ordered all reactor operators to revisit their safety plans and report on potential improvements by the end of April 2011.[12] The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) later conducted a review of the CNSC's response to the events at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and concluded that it was "prompt, robust and comprehensive, and is a good practice that should be used by other regulatory bodies".[13]

Planned massive refurbishment[edit]

In 2012, OPG decided not to refurbish the six poor performing[14] Pickering reactors and to permanently turn them off by 2020.[15] Instead the more recent Darlington reactors will gradually undergo a 12.8 billion dollars complete refurbishment scheduled to take place between October 2016 and 2026. Bruce Power will follow the same plan for its six not yet refurbished Bruce units 3 to 8. This even more massive undertaking should start in 2020 and cost 13 billion dollars.[16] The ten revamped reactors should then be operating until at least 2050. To compensate for the programmed shut down of numerous reactors the Government of Ontario decided in January 2016 to push the retirement date of the Pickering plant to 2024.[17]

New reactors Proposals[edit]

Rising fossil fuel prices, an ageing reactors fleet and new concerns about reducing greenhouse gas combined to promote the building of new reactors throughout Canada during the years 2000. However, what was seen as a nuclear renaissance petered, with no new construction yet started.


Bruce Site[edit]

In August 2006, Bruce Power applied for a license to prepare its Bruce site for the construction of up to four new nuclear power units. In July 2009, the plan was shelved as a declining demand for electricity did not justify expanding production capacity. Bruce Power prioritized refurbishing its A and B plants instead.[18]

Darlington Site[edit]

In September 2006, OPG applied for a license to prepare its Darlington site for the construction of up to four new nuclear power units. The reactor designs being first considered for this project were AECL's ACR-1000, Westinghouse's AP1000 and Areva's EPR. In 2011 the Enhanced CANDU 6 entered the competition and soon became OPG's favorite.[18][19] On August 17, 2012, after environmental assessments, OPG received a License to Prepare Site from the CNSC.[20] In 2013 the project was put on hold as OPG decided to concentrate on refurbishing the existing Darlington units.[21]


Energy Alberta Corporation announced 27 August 2007 that they had applied for a license to build a new nuclear plant in Northern Alberta at Lac Cardinal (30 km west of the town of Peace River), for two ACR-1000 reactors going online in 2017 as steam and electricity sources for the energy-intensive oil sands extraction process, currently using natural gas.[22] However, a parliamentary review suggested placing the development efforts on hold as it would be inadequate for oil sands extraction.[23]

Three month after the announcement, the company was purchased by Bruce Power[24] who proposed expanding the plant to four units for a total 4.4 gigawatts.[25] These plans were upset and Bruce withdrew its application for the Lac Cardinal in January 2009, proposing instead a new site 30 km north of Peace River.[26] Finally, in December 2011, the controversial project was abandoned.[27]


New Brunswick[edit]

In August 2007, a consortium named Team CANDU began a feasibility study regarding the installation of an Advanced CANDU Reactor at Point Lepreau, to supply power to the eastern seaboard. July 2010, the Government of New Brunswick and NB Power signed an agreement with Areva to study the feasibility of a new light water nuclear unit at Point Lepreau but a newly elected government two months later shelved the plan.[28]

Other technologies[edit]

A number of Canadian startups are developing new commercial nuclear reactor designs.[29] In March 2016, the Oakville, Ontario based company Terrestrial Energy was awarded a 5.7 million dollars grant from the Government of Canada to pursue development of its small IMSR Molten Salt Reactor.[30] Thorium Power Canada Inc., from Toronto, is seeking regulatory approvals for a Thorium fueled compact demonstration reactor to be build in Chile that could be used to power a 20 million liters/day desalination plant. Since 2002, General Fusion, from Burnaby, British Columbia, raised 100 million dollars from public and private investors to build a fusion reactor prototype based on magnetized target fusion starting in 2017.[31]


Nuclear electricity production, nationally and by province, per year[32]
1980 1985 1990 1995[33] 2000[34] 2005 2010 2015[1]
TWh %Total TWh %Total TWh %Total TWh %Total TWh %Total TWh %Total TWh %Total TWh %Total
 Canada 35.8 9.8% 57.1 12.8% 68.8 14.8% 92.3 17.2% 68.6 11.8% 86.8 14.5% 85.5 14.5% 95.6 16.6%
 Ontario[2] 35.8 32.6% 48.5 40% 59.3 45.9% 86.2 58.5% 59.8 39% 77.9 49.2% 82.9 55% 92.3 60%
 Quebec[35] 0 0% 3.21 2.3% 4.14 3.1% 4.51 2.6% 4.88 2.7% 4.48 2.5% 3.76 2% 0 0%
 New Brunswick 0 0% 5.43 47.5% 5.33 32% 1.57 12.5% 3.96 21.1% 4.37 21.6% 0 0% 3.3

Power reactors[edit]

Nuclear plants in Canada (view)
Location dot red.svg Active plants
Location dot purple.svg Closed plants

Beginning in 1958, Canada built 25 nuclear power reactors over the course of 35 years, only three of them outside Ontario. Making the southern part of this province one of the most civilianly nuclearized area in the world with 12 to 20 operating reactors at any given time since 1987 inside a 120 kilometer radius.

All of the Canadian reactors are concentrated in only seven different sites, two of them (Pickering and Bruce) thus being the largest nuclear generating stations in the world by total reactor count. The Bruce site, with 8 active reactors and one shut down (Douglas Point) is the largest operating nuclear power station in the world by total reactor count and number of operational reactors and net capacity (since 2011).

All of the reactors are of the PHWR type. Because they can be refueled while operating, Pickering unit 3 achieved the then highest capacity factor in the world in 1977 and Pickering unit 7 held the world record for continuous operation without a shutdown (894 days) from 1994 to 2016.[36][37] Overall, PHWR had the best lifetime average load factor of all western generation II reactors until being superseded by the PWR in the years 2000.[34]

Canada's nuclear power reactors Timeline[38]

Darlington Nuclear Generating Station Darlington Nuclear Generating Station Darlington Nuclear Generating Station Darlington Nuclear Generating Station Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station Bruce Nuclear Generating Station Bruce Nuclear Generating Station Bruce Nuclear Generating Station Bruce Nuclear Generating Station Bruce Nuclear Generating Station Bruce Nuclear Generating Station Bruce Nuclear Generating Station Bruce Nuclear Generating Station Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Gentilly Nuclear Generating Station Gentilly Nuclear Generating Station Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station Nuclear Power Demonstration Shippingport Atomic Power Station Darlington Nuclear Generating Station Point Lepreau Bruce Nuclear Generating Station Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Gentilly Nuclear Generating Station Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station Nuclear Power Demonstration


Table of active nuclear reactors in Canada[1]
Station Name Community Reactor Name No Type Model Capacity User Builder Constr.



Grid connect.







Electric (MWe)
Gross Net
Bruce Tiverton,




8 PHWR CANDU 791 2575 830 760 Bruce Power OH/AECL June 1971 jan 1977 sept 1977


9 PHWR CANDU 791 2456 800 730 OH/AECL dec 1970 sept 1976 sept 1977


10 PHWR CANDU 750A 2832 830 750 OH/AECL July 1972 dec 1977 feb 1978


11 PHWR CANDU 750A 2832 830 750 OH/AECL sept 1972 dec 1978 jan 1979


18 PHWR CANDU 750B 2832 872 817 OH/AECL June 1978 déc 1984 mar 1985


19 PHWR CANDU 750B 2690 891 817 OH/AECL jan 1978 June 1984 sept 1984


20 PHWR CANDU 750B 2832 872 817 OH/AECL May 1979 feb 1986 April 1986


21 PHWR CANDU 750B 2690 872 817 OH/AECL aug 1979 mars 1987 May 1987
Darlington Bowmanville, Ontario DARLINGTON


22 PHWR CANDU 850 2776 934 878 OPG OH/AECL April 1982 dec 1990 nov 1992


23 PHWR CANDU 850 2776 934 878 OH/AECL sept 1981 jan 1990 oct 1990


24 PHWR CANDU 850 2776 934 878 OH/AECL sept 1984 dec 1992 feb 1993


25 PHWR CANDU 850 2776 934 878 OH/AECL July 1985 April 1993 June 1993
Pickering Pickering, Ontario PICKERING


4 PHWR CANDU 500A 1744 542 515 OPG OH/AECL June 1966 April 1971 July 1971


7 PHWR CANDU 500A 1744 542 515 OH/AECL May 1968 May 1973 June 1973


13 PHWR CANDU 500B 1744 540 516 OH/AECL nov 1974 dec 1982 May 1983


14 PHWR CANDU 500B 1744 540 516 OH/AECL oct 1975 nov 1983 feb 1984


15 PHWR CANDU 500B 1744 540 516 OH/AECL mar 1976 nov 1984 jan 1985


16 PHWR CANDU 500B 1744 540 516 OH/AECL sept 1976 jan 1986 feb 1986
Point Lepreau Musquash, New-


POINT LEPREAU 17 PHWR CANDU 6 2180 705 660 NB Power AECL May 1975 sept 1982 feb 1983

Permanently Shut Down[edit]

Table of permanently shut down nuclear reactors in Canada[1]


Community Reactor Name No Type Model Capacity User Builder Constr.



Grid connect.





Shut Down


Electric (MWe)
Gross Net
Gentilly Bécancour, Québec GENTILLY-2 12 PHWR CANDU 6 2156 675 635 Hydro-Québec HQ/AECL April 1974 dec 1982 oct 1983 dec 2012


792 266 250 HQ/AECL sept 1966 apr 1971 May 1972 June 1977
Pickering Pickering, Ontario PICKERING


5 PHWR CANDU 500A 1744 542 515 Ontario Hydro OH/AECL sept 1966 oct 1971 dec 1971 May 2007


6 PHWR CANDU 500A 1744 542 515 OH/AECL dec 1967 May 1972 June 1972 oct 2008
Douglas Point Tiverton, Ontario DOUGLAS


2 PHWR CANDU 704 218 206 Ontario Hydro OH/AECL feb 1960 jan 1967 sept 1968 May 1984
Nuclear Power Demonstration Rolphton, Ontario NPD 1 PHWR CANDU


92 25 22 Ontario Hydro CGE jan 1958 June 1962 oct 1962 aug 1987

Research reactors[edit]

Table of research reactors in Canada[39]
Place Reactor Name Reactor Type Thermal Power (kWt) Const. start First critical Status Notes
Chalk River Laboratories ZEEP Heavy Water 0.001 1945 1945-09-05 Decommissioned


First nuclear reactor in Canada, and first outside the United States.
NRX Heavy Water 42 000 1944 1947-07-22 Shut down


One of the highest flux reactors in the world. Research and medical isotope production.
NRU Heavy Water 135 000 1952 1957-11-03 Operational

(until 2018[40])

Research and medical isotope production.
PTR Pool 0.1 1956-05-01 1957-11-29 Shut down


Pool Test Reactor. Research.
ZED-2 Tank 0.2 1958-12-01 1960-09-07 Operational Zero-power research reactor.
SLOWPOKE 5 1970 Moved 1971 Prototype. Moved to University of Toronto.
MAPLE I Tank in pool 10 000 1997-12-01 2000 Cancelled 2008 Medical isotope production reactors.

Program terminated before operations.

McMaster University MNR MTR 5 000 1957-09-01 1959-04-04 Operational Operating at 3 MWt.
Whiteshell Laboratories WR-1 CANDU 60 000 1962-11-01 1965-11-01 Shut down


Organic cooled prototype. Plant had coolant leak of 2,739 liters in November 1978.[41]
SDR SLOWPOKE-3 2 000 1985 1987-07-15 Shut down 1989 Slowpoke Demonstration Reactor for district heating.
Tunney's Pasture SLOWPOKE 20 1970 1971-05-14 Shut down 1984 Prototype.
University of Toronto SLOWPOKE 5 1971 1971-06-05 Dismantled 1976 Power increased to 20kWt in 1973.
SLOWPOKE-2 20 1976 1976 Shut down 2001
École Polytechnique de Montréal SLOWPOKE-2 20 1975 1976-05-01 Operational Converted to Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel.
Dalhousie University SLOWPOKE-2 20 1976-04-15 1976-07-08 Dismantled 2011
University of Alberta SLOWPOKE-2 20 1976 1977-04-22 Operational
Saskatchewan Research Council SLOWPOKE-2 16 1980 1981-03-01 Operational
Kanata SLOWPOKE-2 20 1984-05-14 1984-06-06 Shut down 1989
Royal Military College SLOWPOKE-2 20 1985-08-20 1985-09-06 Operational First Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) fueled.

Notable accidents[edit]

Chalk River[edit]

  • On December 12, 1952, the world's first major nuclear reactor accident (INES level 5) happened at Chalk River Laboratories, 180 kilometers north-west of Ottawa. A power excursion and partial loss of coolant led to severe damages to the NRX reactor core resulting in fission products being released through the reactor stack and 4.5 tonnes of contaminated water collecting in the basement of the building. The future US president Jimmy Carter, at time a U.S. Navy lieutenant, was among the 1,202 people involved in the two-year-long cleanup;[42][43]
  • 24 May 1958, a fuel rod caught fire and ruptured as it was being removed from the NRU reactor leading to the complete contamination of the building. As in 1952, the military was called in to aid and approximately 679 people were employed in the clean-up.[44]


In November 1978 a loss of coolant accident affected the experimental WR-1 reactor at Whitshell Laboratories in Pinawa, Manitoba. 2,739 liters of coolant oil (terphenyl isomer) leaked, most of it into the Winnipeg River, and three fuel elements broke with some fission products being released. The repair took several weeks for workers to complete.[45]


  • In August 1, 1983, pressure tubes — which hold fuel rods — ruptured due to hydriding at the Pickering reactor 2. Some coolant escaped, but was recovered before it left the plant, and there was no release of radioactive material from the containment building. All four reactors were re-tubed with new materials (Zr-2.5%Nb) over ten years;[44]
  • On August 2, 1992, a heavy water leak at Pickering reactor 1 heat exchanger released 2,300 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium into Lake Ontario, resulting in increased levels of tritium in drinking water along the lake shoreline;[4]
  • On December 10, 1994, a pipe break at Pickering reactor 2 resulted in a major loss of coolant accident and a spill of 185 tonnes of heavy water. The Emergency Core Cooling System had to be used to prevent a core meltdown.[46] It has been called "the most serious nuclear accident in Canada" by The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources in 2001.


In 2009, more than 200,000 liters of water containing trace amounts of tritium and hydrazine spilled into Lake Ontario after workers accidentally filled the wrong tank with tritiated water. However the level of the isotope in the lake was not enough to pose harm to residents.[44][47]

Point Lepreau[edit]

On December 13, 2011, a radioactive spill happened at New Brunswick's Point Lepreau nuclear generating station during refurbishment. Up to six liters of heavy water splashed to the floor, forcing an evacuation of the reactor building and halt of operations. Then, on December 14, NB Power issued a news release, admitting there had been another type of spill three weeks earlier.[48]

Fuel cycle[edit]

CANDU type reactors operating in Canada have the particularity of being able to use natural uranium as fuel due to their high neutron economy. Therefor the costly fuel enrichment step required by the more prevalent light-water reactor types can be avoided. However this comes at the cost of heavy water usage which, for example, represented 11% (1.5 billion dollars) of the total capital costs of the Darlington plant.[49]

The low uranium-235 density in natural uranium (0.7% 235U) compared with enriched uranium (3-5% 235U) implies that less fuel can be consumed before the fission rate drops too low to sustain criticality, explaining why fuel burn-up in CANDU reactors (7.5 to 9 is far lower than in PWR reactors (50 GW.d/t).[50] Therefore, a lot more fuel is used and consequently a lot more spent fuel is produced by CANDUs for a given quantity of energy produced (140 t.GWe/year for a CANDU vs 20 t.GWe/year for a PWR).[49] Yet mined uranium utilization is lower by almost 30% in a CANDU because there is no wasteful enrichment step during the ore processing into fuel. Paradoxically heavy-water reactors in Canada use less uranium but produce more spent fuel than their light water counterparts.

Uranium mining[edit]

In 2009, Canada had the 4th largest recoverable uranium reserves in the world (at a cost of less than 130 USD/kg)[51] and was up until that date the world's largest producer. The only currently active mines and most prominent uranium reserves are in the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan. Cameco's McArthur River mine, opened in 2000, is both the largest high-grade uranium deposit and the largest producer in the world.[52]

Approximately 15% of Canada’s uranium production is used to fuel domestic reactors, the rest being exported.[53]

Fuel production[edit]

CANDU fuel bundles.

Uranium ore concentrate (yellowcake) from mines in Canada and elsewhere is processed into uranium trioxide (UO3) at Cameco's Blind River plant, the world’s largest commercial uranium refinery.[54] This purer form of uranium is the raw material for the next stage of processing happening in Port Hope, Ontario. There, Cameco's conversion facility produces uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for foreign uranium enrichment facilities and uranium dioxide (UO2) for local fuel manufacturers. Cameco's Port Hope and BWXT's Peterborough and Toronto[55] fuel manufacturing facilities turns uranium dioxide powder into ceramic pellets before sealing these into zirconium tubes to form fuel rods assembled into bundles for CANDU reactors in Canada and elsewhere.[56]

Waste disposal[edit]

Like in the USA or Finland, the policy of Canada is not to reprocess spent nuclear fuel but to directly dispose of it for economic reasons.

In 1978, the government of Canada launched a nuclear fuel waste management program. In 1983 an underground laboratory was constructed at Whiteshell Laboratories in Manitoba to study the geological conditions associated with the storage of spent nuclear fuel. The 420 meters deep facility was decommissioned and deliberately flooded in 2010 to perform one final experiment.[57] In 2002 the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was founded by the industry to develop a permanent waste strategy.

Low- and intermediate-level waste[edit]

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) plans to build a 1 million m³ Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) at the Chalk River site to dispose of its low-level radioactive waste beginning in 2020.[58]

Low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste produced by the three Ontario nuclear power plants in operation are managed by the Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) located at the Bruce nuclear site in Tiverton, Ontario. OPG is proposing to build a deep geological repository adjacent to the WWMF to serve as a long-term storage solution for about 200,000 m³ of this waste.[59] The Deep Geologic Repository would be dug 680 meters below the surface in and argillaceous limestone layer isolated beneath 200 meters of shale.[60]

Spent fuel[edit]

As of June 2015, Canadian reactors had produced 2.6 million spent fuel bundles or around 52,000 tonnes of high-level waste, the 2nd largest amount in the world behind the USA.[49] This number could grow to 5.2 million bundles (103,000 tonnes) at the end of the planned life of the current reactors fleet.

Spent fuel is currently stored at each reactor sites either in fuel pools (58% of the total) or dry cask storage (42%) when it is cool enough.[17] Although more spent fuel is produced by CANDU reactors, dry storage costs for a given electricity production are comparable with costs for PWR reactors because the spent fuel is more easily handled (no fuel criticality). The same is true with the cost and space requirements for the permanent disposal of the waste.[61]

In 2005 the NWMO decided to build a deep repository dedicated to store the spent nuclear fuel underground. The 24 billion dollars price tag of this 500 to 1000 meters underground vault is to be paid by a trust fund backed by the nuclear production companies. The spent fuel bundles would be placed in steel baskets wrapped together 3 by 3 (324 fuel bundles total) in corrosion resistant copper to form containers designed to last at least a 100,000 years. The containers would be encased in the tunnels of the repository by swelling bentonite clay but remain retrievable for approximately 240 years.[62] Since 2010, the process of identifying a proper place for such a long-term facility is ongoing. Out of 22 interested communities, eight located in Northern Ontario and Bruce County are currently being studied as potential sites.[63][64]

Public opinion[edit]

According to a 2012 poll by Innovative Research Group, on behalf of the Canadian Nuclear Association, 37% of Canadians are in favor of nuclear power, while 53% oppose it. Both of these figures represent a drop from 2011 (38% and 56% respectively), and the population that neither supports nor opposes or did not know their opinion has grown to 9%. Support ranges from a high of 54% in Ontario to a low of 12% in Quebec. Other notable demographic details include men being generally more supportive of nuclear power than women, and older populations being slightly more supportive than younger populations. There was not a significant change in opposition to nuclear power in Canada following the March 2011 events at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (from 54% to 56%), and the issue was followed at least somewhat closely by 70% of Canadians polled.[65]

Anti-nuclear movement[edit]

Canada has an active anti-nuclear movement, which includes major campaigning organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. In fact Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver by former Sierra Club members to actively protest nuclear weapons tests on Amchitka Island. Over 300 public interest groups across Canada have endorsed the mandate of the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout (CNP). Some environmental organizations such as Energy Probe, the Pembina Institute and the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) are reported to have developed considerable expertise on nuclear power and energy issues. There is also a long-standing tradition of indigenous opposition to uranium mining.[66][67]

The province of British Columbia firmly maintains a strict no-nuclear policy. The Crown corporation, BC Hydro, upholds this principle by "rejecting consideration of nuclear power in implementing B.C.'s clean energy strategy."[68] Quebec, while having nuclear reactors, is against any permanent radioactive waste dump on its territory.

See also[edit]


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  15. ^ "Pickering nuclear reactors can exceed design operating limit". 2014-06-03. Retrieved 2016-08-19. 
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  17. ^ a b Nuclear Fuel Waste Projections in Canada – 2015 Update. Nuclear Waste Management Organization. 2015. 
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]