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.
Number of nuclear power plants connected to the grid
Nuclear electricity generation
(net TWh) 2016
Nuclear percentage of total electricity supply
* Preliminary data
Canadian uranium production totalled 14 039 tU in 2016, 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 centres by producing 6 945 tU in 2016. A small amount of production at Key Lake (17 tU) was recovered by processing wastes from Cameco's Blind River Ontario refinery.
The Rabbit Lake mine and mill, which are wholly owned and operated by Cameco, produced 428 tU in 2016. Because of low uranium prices, operations were suspended in mid-2016 and the facilities were placed in care and maintenance.
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 6 666 tU in 2016, 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.
Nuclear energy represents an important component of Canada's electricity sources. In 2015, nuclear energy provided 15% of Canada's total electricity supply (approximately 60% in the province of Ontario and 33% in the province of New Brunswick), 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.
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 supports 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 (R&D) complex.
AECL is also responsible for addressing the federal government's radioactive waste and decommissioning responsibilities. These responsibilities stem from decades of nuclear R&D 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 for 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.
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). Together, these reactors provide nearly 60% of Ontario's electricity supply, emissions-free. This accounts for approximately 15% of Canada's total supply, complementing other clean and renewable sources of electricity and making an important contribution to both Canada's and Ontario's emissions reduction targets.
Ontario's 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) confirmed the intent to refurbish ten reactors over the 2016-2031 period, including four at Darlington by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and six at Bruce 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, with the Bruce refurbishment expected to begin in 2020. In addition, Ontario is proposing to postpone the retirement of Pickering from 2020 to 2024, subject to approval by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (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 August 2013, the University of Alberta announced its intention to decommission its SLOWPOKE-2 research reactor, in service since 1977. The contract for decommissioning was awarded to Candu Energy Inc. on 6 April 2016, with a completion target of late 2017. Three other SLOWPOKE-2 reactors are 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. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is continuing decommissioning of the Whiteshell Laboratories in Pinawa, Manitoba. CNL has proposed in situ decommissioning of the WR-1 research reactor at Whiteshell Laboratories, which was shut down in 1985. CNL has also proposed in situ decommissioning of the Nuclear Power Demonstration prototype reactor, near Rolphton, Ontario. Project Descriptions for both of these initiatives were submitted by CNL to the CNSC, and both proposals require environmental assessments (EA) under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
The Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act (NLCA) 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 dates back to the early 1970s.
Under the new law, the operator of an NPP will now be responsible to pay 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 old 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 law reflects modern international principles in the area of nuclear liability. As such, it will permit Canada to join the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. Canada ratified the Convention on 6 June 2017 and officially became a party to the treaty in September 2017.
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 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.
Through its crown corporation, OPG, the province of Ontario is proposing to 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 CNSC announced the establishment of a three-member joint review panel (JRP) to conduct the environmental assessment review of OPG's proposed project.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 Minister's EA decision is positive, which would allow the project to proceed to the next phase of the permitting process, the Minister's EA Decision Statement will include conditions related to the project that will be legally binding on the proponent.
Prior to making the EA decision, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change requested additional information and further studies on the EA 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 OPG's additional information. The deadline for comments was 6 March 2017. Following the comment period, the Agency will prepare a draft report containing its analysis of the additional information and the comments received. The public and Indigenous groups will be invited to review and comment on the Agency's report at a future date. The report and potential conditions will then be finalised and submitted as part of the decision package to the Minister, for consideration when making the EA decision.
For more information about this project and the environmental assessment, see www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/details-eng.cfm?evaluation=17520.
Canada signed the IAEA Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage on 3 December 2013. As Canada's new domestic nuclear liability legislation entered into force on 1 January 2017, Canada has ratified the convention on 6 June 2017.
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, among others, nuclear energy policy, R&D and resource utilisation for civilian purposes. Additionally, the MOU encourages collaboration between Canadian and Chinese industries on joint projects in uranium and nuclear energy fields. 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. A co-operative action plan is currently being developed between the United States and Canada. It is meant to provide deliverables outlining specific R&D activities.
Canada participated in the fourth annual Canada-India Joint Committee Meeting under the Canada-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, which was held in Ottawa in November 2016. 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 fifth annual meeting is being planned for late 2017 in India.
Canada's independent nuclear regulator, the CNSC, 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.
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, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories continues to work towards the development of the supercritical water reactor (SCWR) concept.
1. Alternatively referred to as spent fuel, irradiated fuel, or used nuclear fuel..
Source: Nuclear Energy Data 2017
Last reviewed: 6 November 2017