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Draft Notes for a Speech by

The Honourable Christian Paradis, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Natural Resources

at the

Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA)
Nuclear Industry Conference and Trade Show 2010

February 24, 2010
Ottawa, ON

Check against delivery

Merci. Thanks very much, Roger. [Roger Alexander, President of AREVA Canada Inc.] And thank you to the Canadian Nuclear Association for the opportunity to meet with you tonight. Let me start by congratulating the CNA on its 50th anniversary. Félicitations! I would also like to congratulate Denise Carpenter on her recent appointment as CNA president.

These are exciting and challenging times for the nuclear industry – times that call for strong and creative leadership. I am sure Denise’s experience and success in the energy industry will serve this Association very well.

I am also new as Minister of Natural Resources, but the nuclear file is not new to me. The nuclear industry has been an important issue for our government from the beginning. I know how important this industry is to Canada and Canadians and why it must continue to be of interest to our government. I know that the industry creates thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity.

A new Minister does not mean we have changed course. I am committed to the industry, and to the initiatives that are already in motion. We have stated our key policy objectives. There are three, and they have not changed:

  • Ensuring Canada has the safe, reliable and cost-effective options it needs to meet its energy and environmental goals;
  • Protecting the interests of taxpayers. We will do what we need to do to maximize the return on our investment in this industry; and
  • Ensuring Canada's nuclear industry is in a position to take advantage of the opportunities that are opening in Canada and around the world.

We will also continue to move forward on the policy initiatives to build public confidence in the industry and position it for growth. For example:

  • In the weeks ahead, we will continue to work towards the passage of a modernized Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act.
  • We will continue to monitor the activities of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization as it moves forward with a site-selection process for long-term management of Canada’s spent nuclear fuel.
  • We will also advance our own long-term waste management strategies, which are the Port Hope Area Initiative and the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program.
  • And, we will ensure Canada has the economic and regulatory framework to capitalize on the best quality uranium reserves, and mining know-how in the world. We want to be a leader in providing uranium to the world in the coming nuclear renaissance.

In all of this activity, our first priority is always the health and safety of Canadians. In this, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or CNSC plays a vital role: overseeing this priority at nuclear sites across the country. The Commission makes its own decisions, in the best interests of Canadians. The independence of its decisions is paramount.

The CNSC is a key element in Canada’s nuclear picture. Another key element is Atomic Energy of Canada Limited or AECL. As you all know, this company is a central part of the nuclear industry in Canada. For Canada’s industry to succeed, we need a successful restructuring of AECL’s commercial division.

Like everyone else, our Government could see that the global nuclear industry was being revitalized. We needed to know if AECL was ready for this. And that’s why we conducted a full review. The review made it very clear that the company’s current structure was not suitable for this new environment.

The CANDU Reactor Division needed strategic investors in order to take advantage of the opportunities; to strengthen its global presence; and to reduce the financial risk carried by taxpayers. On December 17 of last year, we invited investors to submit proposals for the CANDU Reactor Division. This process is well underway. We will continue to move forward as quickly as possible because we all know that inaction is not an option.

We have a responsibility to Canadians, and we have a responsibility to the industry. A sound restructuring will put the company on the stronger financial footing it needs to manage recent difficulties, and reduce taxpayers’ financial exposure. It will provide more opportunities to partner and acquire global scale to leverage AECL’s technology, skills, experience and capabilities. And it will put the company and the industry in a better position to compete.

I am sure you will agree that is the right thing to do. Global opportunities won’t wait for us to put our house in order. This industry is too important to the economies of Ontario and Canada to do anything else. As restructuring of AECL advances, we will be very mindful of another critical decision for our energy future and for the future of the nuclear industry: the procurement of new build capacity in Ontario. AECL and its partners have engaged intensely in this competitive process. The Government of Canada has been respectful of the process and the need for Ontario to obtain best value for money. The restructuring of AECL ought not hinder the pursuit of Ontario’s goals, but rather strengthen prospects for solutions that can be delivered competitively, on time and on budget.

Any discussion of our nuclear sector must include our efforts to address both short- and longer-term issues affecting the supply of medical isotopes. AECL, with the full support of the Government, is working to bring the NRU back online as quickly as possible while ensuring the highest standards of safety and security.

As we have seen, assuring a reliable supply of medical isotopes is not only an urgent issue, but it is also a complex issue. It is a Canadian issue and it is global issue. We need to take action in Canada, and we need to take action with the international community. And that’s what we are doing.

In Canada, we continue to work with the heath care community to encourage the best use of available supplies. We are expediting regulatory approvals to make products from other countries available to Canadians quickly. And, we are encouraging the use of alternative isotopes and other imaging methods where appropriate and available.

We are supporting AECL in its work to extend the NRU operating license beyond 2011. Our Expert Review Panel has submitted an excellent report. The Panel has highlighted some new and innovative ways to address the supply issue in the medium and long term. We are looking at the options very carefully.

Internationally, we have been leaders. At the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD we provided the catalyst for a mechanism to pursue cooperative solutions, including coordination of production schedules, and better communication along the global supply chain.

And these initiatives are working. We have seen other suppliers ramp up production during the NRU shutdown. And international collaboration has led to a new source of isotopes. Just last week, Covidien announced an agreement with Poland’s reactor operator to supply isotopes to the global market.

Let me conclude by assuring you that as the new minister, I have hit the ground running. I want to emphasize that this Government is fully committed, engaged and active in every aspect of the nuclear file, with the safety and security of Canadians our over-arching priority.

I welcome the opportunity to work with you to uphold the high standards Canadians have come to expect from this industry. We share a common goal: a strong and growing Canadian nuclear industry. I look forward to working with you and with our partners in government across Canada as we advance toward our objectives.

Merci. Thank you.