Nuclear Power in Canada

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Canada has developed its own line of nuclear power reactors, starting from research in 1944 when an engineering design team was brought together in Montreal, Quebec, to develop a heavy water moderated nuclear reactor. The National Research Experimental Reactor (NRX) began operation in 1947 at Chalk River, Ontario, where today the Chalk River Laboratories are the locus of much of Canada’s nuclear research and development. The government established Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) as a crown corporation in 1952 with a mandate to research and develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor was built at Chalk River in 1957. Up to October 2016, NRU produced 40% of the world supply of molybdenum-99, the source of technetium-99 widely used for medical diagnosis, and cobalt-60 for cancer treatment. It was shut down in March 2018, after a remarkable service life.

AECL, in cooperation with Canadian industry, began developing the first Candu (Canada deuterium uranium) reactor in the late 1950s. Candu reactors use heavy water (deuterium oxide) as a moderator and coolant, and are fueled using natural uranium (as opposed to enriched uranium). The advantages of the Candu reactor are savings in fuel cost, because the uranium does not have to go through the enrichment process, and reduced reactor downtime from refueling and maintenance. These savings are partially offset by the cost of producing heavy water. A small (22 MWe) Candu prototype went into operation in 1962 at Rolphton, Ontario, 30 km upstream from the Chalk River facilities. A larger prototype – 200 MWe – began generating power at Douglas Point, Ontario, in 1967. It was the design basis of the first Indian PHWR power reactors, Rawatbhata 1&2.

  • About 15% of Canada’s electricity comes from nuclear power, with 19 reactors mostly in Ontario providing 13.5 GWe of power capacity.
  • Canada had plans to expand its nuclear capacity over the next decade by building two more new reactors, but these have been deferred.
  • For many years Canada has been a leader in nuclear research and technology, exporting reactor systems developed in Canada as well as a high proportion of the world supply of radioisotopes used in medical diagnosis and cancer therapy.

The first commercial Candu reactors began operations in Pickering, Ontario, in 1971. Sixteen of Canada’s 18 commercial reactors are located in Ontario (the others are in Quebec and New Brunswick). In 2008, 53% of Ontario’s electricity production came from nuclear power. The Darlington plant which came on line 1990-93 experienced a major cost overrun in construction largely due to political interference. The overnight construction cost increased about 20%, but the financing costs with high interest rates meant that the overall cost doubled from $6.5 billion estimated in 1981 to $13.5 billion due to government-imposed delays and other charges being debited there. Nevertheless, it provides electricity at about 5 c/kWh.

Read full article here.

World Nuclear Association – August, 2018.

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