Mark Winfield’s recent take on the issues that face Ontario’s electricity sector and ratepayers is puzzling. It mischaracterizes nuclear power as not being part of the solution to climate change, and it ignores the many benefits nuclear is providing and has the potential to supply in the years ahead. Nuclear innovation will support global healthcare workers through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, address energy concerns in rural and Indigenous communities, and help Canada (indeed the world) meet climate change targets and the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Hydrogen, a clean energy tool used to fight climate change, can be produced in a machine called an electrolyser, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using large amounts of electricity. This is most effective when utilizing a reliable non-emitting baseload supply source such as nuclear power.
Let’s get this straight – nuclear power is the anchor keeping down the price of electricity in Ontario and will continue to be for years to come. Refurbishments at Darlington and Bruce Power are proceeding safely and cost-effectively while supporting jobs and economic recovery through our manufacturing supply chain. A 2017 report by Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office stated, “there is currently no portfolio of alternative low emissions generation which could replace nuclear generation at a comparable cost.” The notion that nuclear is somehow hindering affordability for Ontario ratepayers is just plain wrong.
Nuclear has given the province so much more than just affordable electricity – it provides the chance to reach Ontario’s climate change goals. It was nuclear power, not renewables, that drove Ontario’s elimination of coal-powered generation over the past decade. Nuclear was responsible for 89 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions reduction achieved by displacing coal in Ontario. Smog days fell from 53 in 2005 to zero by 2015.
The federal government has been clear over the past year. There is no credible path to net-zero without nuclear power. In fact, our emissions would rise without it. We can leverage the potential that clean baseload electricity from nuclear holds to further innovate, electrify and decarbonize. Whether it’s through small modular reactor development (SMRs) to assist remote communities move away from diesel-powered generators among other applications, or to mass-produce hydrogen fuel for use across Canada, the opportunities stemming from nuclear are immense. Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power both launched net-zero strategies last fall and the nuclear industry is excited to be an innovation leader in this respect.
Canada’s nuclear industry is also a global leader in the supply of medical isotopes, producing 40 per cent of the supply of Cobalt-60, an isotope used to treat cancer and sterilize medical equipment including gowns and swabs. Think about how critical this has been over the past 12 months in helping our frontline workers around the world in the fight against COVID-19.
There are many tangible benefits provided by Ontario’s nuclear industry. And nuclear innovation is poised to revolutionize the fight against climate change and global disease – all while providing the clean, affordable electricity Ontarians need and can rely on.
In summary, Ontario’s nuclear industry is ready and poised to help lead Canada’s post-pandemic recovery and the global clean energy transition in the years ahead. And it will do so while keeping the price of electricity down for ratepayers.