Speech Article from
Keynote Address by Parliamentary Secretary Kim Rudd, on behalf of the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, at the Canadian Nuclear Association's annual conference and trade show in Ottawa, on February 25, 2016.
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Good morning, everyone. Before I start in to my remarks, I just want to say what a warm welcome I’ve received as a Parliamentary Secretary from the folks in the nuclear sector, whether it's them coming to my office or inviting me to a meeting. And I'm so thrilled to see a number of people from my riding here in this room and, indeed, two mayors from my riding as well. So, love to see people from home, and welcome to Ottawa.
It's wonderful to be here with you today and to bring greetings on behalf of the Honourable Jim Carr, Canada's new Minister of Natural Resources. As some of you may know, Minister Carr has been travelling this week. In fact, he's in Houston. But both he and I agreed it was critical for our government to be here at the nuclear industry's largest gathering of the year. Indeed, I've been looking forward to this day ever since Minister Carr asked me to make the nuclear file my top priority as his Parliamentary Secretary.
The nuclear industry is a natural fit for me and a welcome assignment. Canada's nuclear industry is a strategic asset for the country. It is a key driver of innovation; a leader in international collaboration; an enabler of Canada's contributions to global safety, security, and non-proliferation objectives; and one of Canada's largest contributors to its decarbonized grid and clean energy goals.
As a long-time resident of Cobourg, Ontario, and the Member of Parliament for Northumberland–Peterborough South, I've developed a deep appreciation for nuclear energy. I recognize the importance of nuclear energy as a stable source of clean electricity and its importance to Ontario, where billions of dollars of investments in nuclear refurbishments will make nuclear an important part of Canada's energy mix for decades to come. I also understand and am impressed by the industry's continued commitment to the highest standards of safe, secure and reliable operation. I can see every day how this industry is driving innovation, and not just in power generation. I see it in health, safety and security technologies and in prospects for small, modular reactors — I have started calling them mini-nukes — to serve Canada's North.
I've seen how hard you've worked to promote nuclear energy's comparative advantages. And I know you want to capture the economic opportunities emerging as part of the global fight to combat climate change. And that's why I'm here today, to emphasize our government's commitment to work with you as we engage in important discussions in areas that are strengths of the nuclear industry: innovation and clean energy technology.
So where do we begin today? I don't have to tell anyone here about the enormous contributions the nuclear industry has made to Canada over many, many decades. You've been a driver of research and innovation, a source of thousands of high-paying, high-quality jobs and an important, emissions-free supplier to Canada's electricity grid. But I think it's also important to acknowledge the challenges the industry has faced in recent years, including uncertainties worldwide and at home related to plans for new builds and the temporary pull-back from nuclear in some countries following Fukushima.
That said, the need to combat climate change and encourage innovation are policy drivers that are opening opportunities for the nuclear industry. The Government of Canada is doing its part. We are strongly committed to supporting Atomic Energy of Canada Limited through efforts to revitalize facilities at the Chalk River Laboratories and to address our nuclear waste responsibilities. We are confident that the new governance model for managing the AECL facilities will help leverage Canadian expertise in the nuclear sector.
The Ontario refurbishments are a great starting point, providing a real opportunity to ramp up Canada's supply chain for domestic and international competition. Also very positive is Cameco Corporation's entry into the Indian and Chinese uranium markets, as well as the international opportunities emerging through the memoranda of understanding recently signed with the United States, the United Kingdom and China and the prospects for Candu sales internationally. These are real and significant opportunities for the nuclear industry at home and abroad. And, very importantly, we have a strong regulator in the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which is critical to enable any of these new opportunities in a safe and rigorous way that can foster social acceptance. The nuclear industry can thrive only with the assurances that we continue to work together on safeguarding health, safety, security and the environment.
You certainly have our government's attention, which is why we are eager to look at opportunities where your strengths and our priorities align, in everything from clean technology and innovation to energy infrastructure and engagement with Indigenous communities. Our government was elected on a promise to do things differently. And that includes resource development. We want to see a future where a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. Our government also strongly believes that collaboration at all levels is essential to delivering real change. And that's why we are committed to working with Indigenous communities.
The Prime Minister has said there is no relationship more important to our government than the one with Indigenous peoples. That has enormous implications for developing our nation's abundant energy resources — not just because there is a constitutional duty to consult but because it represents a real opportunity to be inclusive, to make real the promise of a new relationship based on trust and mutual respect.
Canada's uranium mining companies are a longstanding example of just that. For more than 25 years, the uranium mining industry has been a model of how resource sectors and Indigenous peoples can work together on jobs, training and business opportunities, as well as infrastructure development and environmental protection. The result: more than 47 percent of mine site employees are of First Nation or Métis heritage. In fact, Cameco is Canada's largest private sector employer of Indigenous peoples. This success can and should be replicated. I invite you to work with us to make that happen.
It's also worth stopping here to consider the importance of uranium at the front end of the nuclear cycle. As you know, Canada's the world's second-largest producer of uranium, with exports routinely totalling more than $1 billion each year. And with nuclear cooperation agreements in place, Canada is well positioned to supply this emerging market with Canadian uranium and nuclear technology. For example, in order to meet increasing demand, Canadian uranium production increased by 45 percent in 2015 to a record of more than 13,000 tonnes, and more than 85 percent of it was exported. Canada's annual uranium exports contain energy equivalent to approximately one billion barrels of oil, which is not far off Canada's oil exports in 2015. And Canada's 2015 uranium production will offset between approximately 300 and 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by fuelling nuclear power in Canada and worldwide. That's comparable to emissions from an equivalent amount of electricity produced using natural gas or coal.
Of course, we also need to get the back end right for the nuclear industry to succeed. That's why it is so important that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization makes steady progress on implementing Canada's plan for nuclear fuel waste, working with nine communities in northern and southwestern Ontario. The NWMO's voluntary, consent-based approach is world-class and is being closely followed by other countries to deal with their nuclear waste. And the NWMO is another good example of the nuclear industry's commitment to Indigenous communities through its early and continued engagement with them.
Closer to my home, I've been watching the steady progress on the cleanup of historic waste in the Port Hope area. More broadly, the Government is strongly committed to addressing Canada's radioactive waste obligations as part of a larger commitment to environmental stewardship. We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars a year to clean up AECL sites. We expect these liabilities will be discharged in a safe and cost-effective way under the leadership of the Canadian National Energy Alliance, the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and the rigorous oversight of the AECL. Together, these and other initiatives demonstrate that this country takes radioactive waste management seriously and aspires to be no less than a global leader in addressing radioactive waste management challenges.
So, we're making some good progress in key areas, but there's more that can be done, notably to renew site infrastructure and modernize science and technology facilities. Work is already underway to construct a new, state-of-the-art nuclear science building that will allow for cutting-edge and unique research. Our government is committed to ensuring Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is well positioned to deliver on its mission to perform research in nuclear science and technology to serve government and commercial customers. Indeed, the Government continues to rely on the Laboratories for important nuclear research and development work in support of Government priorities in the areas of health, safety, security, clean energy and of course the environment.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope our government's investments in your industry and our inclusive approach to working together are clear signs that we support Canada's nuclear industry and its place in the low-carbon economy for the future. The Canadian nuclear industry has to be a full partner in Canada's clean energy future, and we're committed to collaborating with you to make this happen. I thank you very much again for your warm welcome, your time and the opportunity to speak with you. And I look forward to working together with you over the next coming months and years. Thank you.
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