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Notes for Remarks by
The Honourable Christian Paradis, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Natural Resources
at a roundtable discussion:
Nuclear power and the energy mix in a sustainable development perspective
International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy
March 8, 2010
Check against delivery
Thank you (moderator).
Let me begin by commending the Government of France for taking the initiative to organize this important conference. I must also recognize the OECD and the NEA for their efforts to ensure its success.
We are here to discuss nuclear power and the energy mix in a sustainable development perspective. If I may say, it is a topic almost custom-made for Canada.
Let me explain.
Nuclear energy provides almost 15 percent of Canada's electricity. Together with large hydro and growing renewable energy generation, Canada meets almost 75 percent of its electricity demand from non-emitting sources.
We want this percentage to grow. Canada is committed to becoming a clean energy superpower. Establishing the foundations for the growth of nuclear as well as other clean energy sources is critical to this commitment.
When it comes to nuclear energy, we speak from experience. Canada's nuclear industry is more than 60 years old. We designed and built our first commercial nuclear plants in the 1960s. We have 17 CANDU reactors operating in Canada, and three more currently being refurbished. CANDUs are also operating in Argentina, Korea, Romania and China – they are among the best performing reactors in the world.
We are one of the world's biggest producers and exporters of uranium. My Government welcomes continued investment in this important resource so that we will continue to be a reliable supplier of uranium to the world in the years to come.
In parallel, we will be looking to our trading partners to reduce barriers to investment and provide market access for Canadian companies.
This broad experience has taught us many lessons – three of which I believe are useful to our discussions today.
First, public confidence is an essential prerequisite to introducing and sustaining nuclear as part of the energy mix. The industry cannot develop without it.
One of the key conditions to support sustainable development in nuclear energy is to have a strong independent regulator managing a transparent regulatory process with ample opportunities for public engagement.
Ideally these systems should be supported by periodic peer review processes. These conditions exist in Canada and in many countries. And, last year, we were pleased to invite an independent review of the Canadian nuclear regulatory framework under the auspices of the IAEA.
Responsible management of nuclear wastes is also essential to public confidence. And Canadians can feel confident because their government is responsible for policy, legislation and regulation. Industry is responsible for funding and implementation.
We need public confidence, and we need investor confidence.
That means a regulatory environment that provides investors in nuclear and other major projects, including uranium mining, with clarity and transparency. In Canada, we are committed to making our regulatory processes as efficient as they are effective.
For example, we have established a Major Project Management Office within the federal government to foster a more accountable and effective approach to federal processes and increase transparency and accountability.
The second lesson: the importance of containing financial risks and costs and delivering competitive solutions.
Let's face it: nuclear is not the only source of clean electricity.
The industry must be able to control costs, and financial risks must be shared between vendors and customers. Investment decisions must be market-driven. We need a choice of technologies in the market-place.
That is why, in Canada, we are inviting investment proposals for the commercial operations of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited – which includes the servicing, refurbishing and design of CANDU reactors.
We believe being a partner in strategic alliances on a global scale will give our nuclear supplier industry the best chance to prosper in an increasingly competitive market.
We hope this competitive environment will be part of the framework we are discussing at this conference.
The third lesson I would like to mention is the importance of international collaboration and cooperation.
Nuclear energy requires big investments, both for research and development and for implementation. Sharing costs and approaches may assist in reducing the risks.
The international dimension also goes back to lesson one – public confidence. Safety and security must be the top priority at all times. We need a strong international framework based on principles of cooperation, transparency and respect for the rule of law.
Canada has been a responsible member of the global nuclear community from the beginning. We believe in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
And we believe nuclear energy can play an important role in meeting the global demand for clean energy.
We can see the benefits of adding more nuclear energy to the global energy mix. But as more nations with the will and the means to develop the technology emerge, we can also see the challenges.
We share a desire to support the growth of nuclear energy. We also share an obligation to ensure that growth is managed in a safe, secure, and responsible way.
Thank you very much. I look forward to our discussions.
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