The Canadian Nuclear Industry and its Economic Contributions

The Canadian nuclear industry consists of a mixture of private sector firms and public sector organizations at both the federal and provincial levels and covers the entire nuclear energy fuel cycle from R&D, uranium mining, and fuel fabrication to nuclear reactor design, nuclear plant construction, maintenance, waste management and decommissioning. The Canadian nuclear energy industry is mainly concentrated in Ontario, but has a presence in Saskatchewan, Quebec and New Brunswick.

Of the 22 reactors nuclear power built in Canada, 19 reactors are currently in full commercial operation. Eighteen of Canada’s 19 operating nuclear power reactors are in Ontario, one is in New Brunswick.  Quebec decided to shut down their nuclear power plant in December 2012.

Canada’s CANDU Reactors
Nuclear Station Province MWe In service date Operator
Pickering A Ontario 4 x 515 1971-73 OPG
Pickering B Ontario 4 x 516 1983-86 OPG
Darlington Ontario 4 x 881 1990-93 OPG
Bruce A Ontario 4 x 750 1977-79 Bruce Power
Bruce B Ontario 4 x 860 1984-87 Bruce Power
Gentilly 2 Québec 1 x 635 1983 Hydro Québec
Point Lepreau New Brunswick 1 x 635 1983 NB Power

Source: NRCan

Nuclear energy is the second largest contributor of non-emitting electricity in Canada. In 2014, nuclear energy provided approximately 16% of Canada’s total electricity needs (close to 60% in Ontario) contributing meaningfully to climate change and other atmospheric emissions objectives. Ontario is investing $25 billion over 2016-2031 to extend the life of 10 nuclear reactors to maintain nuclear power capacity at 9.9 gigawatt electric (GWe). The continued use of nuclear energy in Ontario will displace approximately 30 million tonnes per year of carbon dioxide or 3.8% of expected emissions in 2030 (as compared with natural gas).

The Canadian nuclear industry is a significant contributor to the Canadian economy in terms of GDP, government revenue, and employment.  There are close to 200 companies that supply products and/or services to the utilities and broader nuclear industry. While the industry is concentrated in Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Quebec, nuclear research and development has been undertaken in nine provinces and 37 institutions across the country.  The most recent data indicated that the nuclear industry in Canada provides over 30,000 direct jobs.

The Canadian nuclear energy program makes a major contribution to our economy and society over and above energy benefits. It results in:

  • an industry that generates revenues of over $6billion per annum (this includes value of nuclear electricity produced which represents about $5 billion per annum and over $1 billion in uranium exports per annum). These figures do not take into account the health and environmental benefits of nuclear technology;
  • Canada’s annual uranium exports contain energy equivalent to approximately 1 billion barrels of oil, comparable to Canada’s oil exports in 2015;
  • Federal and provincial revenues through taxes of about $1.5 billion;
  • Canadian companies are important global suppliers of medical isotopes. Canada normally supplies approximately 75% of the world’s supply of Cobalt-60 used to sterilize 45% of the world’s single-use medical supplies.