In particular, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) has designed a smaller-sized CANDU reactor (CANDU 3) it believes will be filling the needs of countries with uncertain load growth, small grid sizes and/or limited financial resources.
The new modular reactor, with output of about 450 megawatts, is designed to compete (over the life of the facility) with similarly sized coal-burning plants. A construction period of less than three years is projected for the reactor.
Ronald Veilleux, AECL vice- president corporate relations, told The Northern Miner the cost of building a comparative coal plant is estimated to be about half of the cost of a new CANDU 3 reactor. A cost saving would be realized, he said, because the reactor would take less time to build than the coal plant.
In Canada, about 15% of the country’s electricity is produced by nuclear power. In Ontario, nuclear power supplies about half of the province’s power. When Ontario’s Darlington plant comes on stream in 1992, nuclear power will account for about 20% of the nation’s electricity.
The AECL and other organizations, such as the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) which recently hosted its 29th annual conference in Ottawa, give a number of reasons why they think the industry will soon be enjoying better times.
Concern continues to grow, they point out, over the effect fossil- burning fuels are having on the environment. There have been new discoveries of deposits of high grade uranium. And, there are international studies indicating the economic and environmental advantages of nuclear power.
Ontario Hydro estimates total unit energy costs of its nuclear stations are 15-40% lower than for comparable coal-burning facilities.
While long-term supply contracts provide uranium producers with some security, the companies cannot be happy with current spot prices, which NUKEM of Germany was recently reporting in the $9.90-$10.35(US) per lb range. Spot prices of U3O8 were in the $43 range during the late 1970s.
Canada is the world’s largest producer of uranium, turning out about one-third of the current global output. About two-thirds of Canada’s uranium is mined in Saskatchewan and the remainder in Ontario.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the discovery of uranium (in northern Germany) and the 50th year of the discovery of nuclear fission.
An April, 1989, survey undertaken by Decima Research for the CNA indicated 67% of Canadians believe nuclear energy is a “good” or “realistic” choice for generating electricity in Canada (compared with 78% in November, 1988, and 68% in the autumn of 1987).
In response to a question on favorability toward the use of nuclear energy, 14% were “strongly” in favor, 36% were “somewhat” in favor, 25% were “somewhat” opposed and 24% were “strongly” opposed.
On the importance of nuclear power plants in meeting future needs, 35% of the respondents said “very important” and 39% said “somewhat important.”
Recently staging its 10th annual conference in Ottawa, in conjunction with the CNA meeting, was the Canadian Nuclear Society (CNS). The CNA represents organizations and corporations involved in the civil applications of nuclear energy, while the CNS represents individuals involved in the industry.