Powering our future electricity needs could come to nuclear battle

We seldom wonder about electrical power in our homes. We walk into a darkened room and reach for a light switch and the lights go on. We put toast into a toaster in the morning and lower the bread and the heat turns on. But in this cold weather, Canadians are learning that our electricity is no longer endless. Back in November 2023 the North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC) stated that two thirds of North America could face power shortages this winter.

Calgarians learned Saturday night when cell phones across the province went off simultaneously asking everyone to reduce their power usage. Electric heaters were turned off. Lights not being used were turned off. Car block heaters were unplugged and the dryers were turned off as citizens of Alberta reacted to the potential of rolling blackouts across the province.

Fortunately, importing power from Saskatchewan produced by gas and coal fired energy plants saved the day. Across North America, Texas, Michigan and Oregon suffered major power outages. Power that we take for granted may not always be available without major upgrades to provincial electrical generation and better coordination of transmission between provinces and across international boundaries.

Ontario Power Generation is already looking at developing more nuclear generation plants and Monday announced a commitment to work with Capital Power Corp. of Alberta to build Small Modular Reactors (SMR’s) in Alberta. It would be a first for that province. Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are also looking to deploy this technology.

All these projects will help reduce greenhouse gases in the future. The quantity of spent fuel from one reactor would fill a 200-liter drum in 10 years compared to replacing 1,000,000 drums of diesel fuel and 500,000 tons of carbon.

Equally exciting is the prospect that spent fuel from Ontario’s CANDU Reactors could supply all of Ontario’s growing energy needs for 5,000 years. It is all green energy, just as Ontario’s 20 reactors have been providing green energy since the 1960’s. It is a process that has been researched and found to be feasible. The repurposed, recycled energy would require new forms of reactors.

The research is ongoing. The development of these reactors is probably less than a decade away, but Canadians will be forced to make decisions to reduce their electrical consumption and to agree to coal and gas fired electrical generation in the interim. As Canada’s population grows, housing will grow, EV’s will dominate the roads and the value of electricity will increase. Governments and industry will have to make difficult choices to insure reliable electrical power.