Canada needs a “nuclear renaissance” to reach net-zero, climate group says
Canada needs a “nuclear renaissance” to reach net-zero, climate group says

If the federal government is serious about reaching net-zero by 2050, Canada must go all in on nuclear power, a climate policy group says.

Clean Prosperity, a group that advocates for the “decarbonization of the Canadian economy,” wants policymakers to take a multipronged attack against the “certainty and cost issues” surrounding the country’s move toward clean energy. Switching to nuclear power will bring Canada closer to its international commitments and net-zero carbon emission goal, the organization says in a list of recommendations to federal and provincial policymakers.

The group outlined several issues the nuclear industry faces and summarized them into two categories it wants the government to address: cost and policy uncertainty.

“Solving for both cost and certainty is vital for expanding Canada’s nuclear fleet across three potential reactor classes: large, small, and micro,” the report said.

The group found that currently, nuclear energy generation has high upfront capital requirements and construction costs, longer project timelines than its alternatives, potentially snow-balling effects from one delay cascading into many, and  “market distortions” and “weak price signals” they say are exemplified by “low carbon prices for heavy industry.”

They proposed three solutions for Canada’s provincial and federal governments to adopt, which would help facilitate a nuclear renaissance and move the country toward a future with net-zero carbon emissions.

The first was for the governments of Canada to provide an “ambitious and stable policy” to aid the buildout of a fully-scaled fleet of “dozens or hundreds” of reactors.

One of the proposed solutions was to “fully expose electricity generation to carbon pricing,” making other forms of energy generation more costly while putting nuclear on a “level playing field.” The group urged governments to make clear decarbonization policy objectives to signal to industries with high energy requirements that they must switch to nuclear in the long run.

“Nuclear and nuclear-ambitious provinces should clarify their long-term electrification and decarbonization policy objectives — ideally beyond 2035,” the report said.

Clean Prosperity’s report seeks target dates and clear deadlines that industries must meet to achieve a net-zero grid, also recommending a phase-out of current financial support, which it says rewards efforts rather than results in moving towards nuclear energy.

Clean Prosperity’s final recommendation was for governments to “prioritize fleet-based approaches” when deploying commercial nuclear reactors of all sizes.

“Advanced reactors need to become progressively less expensive to build over time. To accelerate this process, policymakers should prioritize approaches that seek to build as few reactor models on as few sites as possible, in large quantities,” the report said.

Clean Prosperity said Canada should have a  “small portfolio” of different types of large, small and micro-sized reactors.

“This will help new advanced reactors become progressively less expensive to build. The first and best chance for a strong start to a potential nuclear renaissance is the successful completion, on time and on budget,” it said.

“Nuclear reactors are long-lived, large-scale, high-capacity assets that produce zero-carbon electricity with low land-use requirements and manageable risks related to safety, waste and security.”

The report’s authors said nuclear power is valuable for provinces seeking to electrify their economies and decarbonize their grids. Clean Prosperity believes nuclear energy is worth the investment.

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