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Canada's Nuclear Future

Q&A with Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith on Nuclear Energy

Todd Smith

Minister of Energy, Government of Ontario

Mediaplanet chatted with Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith to get his insights on how nuclear energy is powering Ontario, what keeps Ontario’s nuclear sector so competitive, how public awareness and confidence are on the rise, and more.

Why is nuclear energy so important in powering our economy and supporting new job opportunities in Ontario?

Ontario has one of the cleanest electricity systems in the world, with 90 per cent of our electricity generation creating zero emissions, and greenhouse gas levels that have declined by roughly 90 per cent since 2005 thanks to the backbone of our electricity grid, nuclear power.

Nuclear power is emission-free, reliable, and low-cost, and currently supplies about 60 per cent of the power used by Ontarians every day. Most of the 76,000 Canadian jobs created by the sector are in Ontario.

How is Ontario’s nuclear sector adapting to stay ahead in the global clean energy revolution and maintain its competitiveness?

The provincial government is taking full advantage of exciting new technologies in the field such as medical isotopes and small modular reactor (SMR) development and deployment. Ontario will be the first jurisdiction in the G7 to deploy a grid-scale SMR, which is expected to come online by 2028. Ontario will have a total of four SMRs up and running at the Darlington site by the 2030s.

Positioning Ontario as a global leader in nuclear technology also means creating new opportunities to become an exporter of expertise and components thanks to the experience of our skilled nuclear operators and supply chain businesses.

Leading the world on nuclear isn’t just good for our grid, it’s also good for our economy and environment.

What steps are being taken to promote public awareness and confidence in the safety and environmental responsibility of nuclear energy, increasing its acceptance as a crucial part of Ontario’s energy mix?

Our government has long been a vocal advocate for Ontario’s nuclear sector and the tens of thousands of skilled workers that the sector employs. We’re supporting one of Ontario’s expert nuclear operators, Ontario Power Generation, on their recently launched ad campaign focused at addressing any concerns or misconceptions Ontarians may have about nuclear power. By reminding or informing Ontarians that nuclear has been safely and effectively powering Ontario for 50 to 60 years already, and is the backbone of our grid, providing nearly 60 per cent of the power used by Ontarians every day, we’re ensuring Ontario can continue to lead the way and benefit our grid, economy, and environment using nuclear power.

As Ontario leads the way in clean energy, what collaborative efforts are being made with other provinces and federal agencies to leverage nuclear energy’s potential on a national scale?

Since December 2019, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan have been working together to advance SMRs in Canada through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and welcomed Alberta aboard in April 2021. Together, our provinces released A Strategic Plan for the Deployment of Small Modular Reactors, a path forward for the advancement of SMRs and the opportunity they bring as a source of safe and reliable, zero-emission energy to power our communities, while meeting the demands of a growing economy and population. SMRs can improve our quality of life, drive economic growth and prosperity, and help Canada and the world meet its climate goals.

The strategic plan also builds on the SMR Feasibility Study released by the provincial power utilities in April 2021 by identifying key actions that provinces can take to enable a decision on whether to proceed with SMRs. Following a decision to proceed, it outlines further actions to support the deployment of SMRs.

The MOU provinces have been working collaboratively to advance SMR development and deployment since December 2019. The strategic plan is just one step in our journey toward making SMRs a reality in Canada. Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and Alberta will continue to work together, and with other partners and stakeholders, to advance SMR development and deployment in Canada.

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