Canadian Journal of Business Administration
Projected Canadian Nuclear
Capacity in 2000 AD
Future US Primary Energy Consumption
(Illustrative Projections From 20 Sources)
Unavailability of Safety Systems
at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station "A"
Radiotoxic Hazard of Nuclear
Wastes for Ten Million Years
Canada's Secondary Energy
Consumption by Fuel Type (1977)
Federal Energy R&D
Expenditures (in millions $)
Ontario Hydro Over-Capacity
Above Peak Demand (Megawatts)
Ontario Hydro Peak Load Growth
Forecasts to Year 2000
Employment in the Canadian
Nuclear Industry (1977)
AECB Reactor Licensing Criterion
Calculated Probabilities for
Accidents in CANDU Reactors
For thirty-five years, successive Canadian governments have been gambling that nuclear power will become a commercial success . The stakes are very high -- not only in financial terms (see Table 1), but also in terms of unprecedented risks related to public health,  environmental integrity , political acceptability , energy self-sufficiency , and world peace .
It is becoming increasingly clear that Canada's nuclear gamble is not likely to pay off in this century, if ever. According to the draft report of an internal government review (Canada, 1981b) that was leaked to the Ottawa press in the spring of 1981 , it is even doubtful "whether the nuclear industry in Canada will survive the 1980's" (p. 125). The beleaguered industry has not sold a CANDU reactor since 1978, and prospects for the 1980s are not good .
Ottawa's belated recognition that Canada's nuclear industry is in a desperate plight contrasts sharply with earlier perceptions. As recently as 1978, the LEAP report -- a major study published by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources (EMR) -- had this to say :. . . of all Canada's resources, the nuclear power system is the one which offers the most ready scope for expansion to meet Canada's growing energy needs, at least over the next 30 years. No other resource or combination of resources, at present, seem capable of expansion in amounts adequate to meet the energy required ... (Canada, 1978a, p. 35).Yet others had concluded by the summer of 1978 that the Canadian nuclear industry was already in serious trouble . By the time the government's internal review was completed in 1981, nuclear expectations within EMR had changed beyond recognition:If actual sales performance coincides with one of the more cautious scenarios, all firms surveyed, and by implication virtually all firms in the industry, will be without nuclear business by 1985-86. Even the most optimistic scenario indicates that the current structure of the industry cannot be maintained in the 1990's (Canada, 1981b, p. 89).In its draft report, the internal review considers two basic policy approaches to deal with the situation . Both of them are unpleasant. Ottawa could adopt a laissez-faire approach and allow the Canadian nuclear option to perish, or undertake heroic efforts to bail the industry out by promoting demand for nuclear power over and above market-determined levels . As formulated, it is a difficult dilemma indeed.
FEDERAL ENERGY R&D EXPENDITURES
(in millions $)Year 1976/77 1977/78 1978/79 1979/80 1980/81 Total 120.5 118.2 150.7 157.9 205.9 Nuclear 90.3 87.9 105.8 106.4 118.4 % Nuclear 75% 74% 70% 67% 57.5%
Source: EMR, Office of Energy R&D, Ottawa.
The present paper suggests a third approach that Ottawa could take: to maintain the nuclear option without expanding the industry during the 1980s, thereby side-stepping the apparent dilemma. This could be accomplished by channeling funds and efforts into major problem areas requiring urgent attention , such as reactor safety, decommissioning, and waste disposal. Such an approach would keep Canada's nuclear technologists busy developing the valuable tools and skills that will eventually be needed domestically, and that may also have great export potential, regardless of the future of nuclear power. At the same time, considerable amounts of investment capital could be diverted away from nuclear expansion projects into much-needed energy conservation programs .
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In order to survive, the Canadian nuclear industry needs new business before 1985; but where will it come from? Domestic markets are currently saturated.
Nuclear power can supply bulk electricity. However, over 80 per cent of Canada's energy needs are non-electrical , and we are not short of electricity. The "energy crisis" refers primarily to an impending shortage of low-priced liquid fuels for heating and transportation. Bulk electricity is not presently an economic substitute for either of these uses . As a result, there is little domestic market for nuclear power plants. Given existing commitments and trends, the current slack in demand is expected to last until the 1990s, and possibly beyond.
Ontario Hydro has ten nuclear power reactors operating (totaling 5300 MW) and twelve more under construction (for an additional 8500 MW). Current electrical over-capacity above peak demand exceeds 40 per cent in Ontario (see Table 2); a comfortable reserve margin is generally considered to be 20 to 25 per cent above peak demand.
Year 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 Peak Capacity 19,677 21,347 22,845 24,429a 24,457b 24,595c Peak Demand 15,896 15,677 15,722 16,365 16,808 16,600 Overcapacity 24% 36% 45% 49% 45% 48%
a) includes 550 MW mothballed
b) includes 1704 MW mothballed
c) includes 1913 MW mothballed
As the Pickering B (2000 MW) and Bruce B (3000 MW) nuclear power stations come into service in the 1980s, Ontario Hydro's over-capacity will remain in excess of 30 per cent unless the trend reverses sharply. In addition, the Darlington A nuclear power station (3500 MW) is scheduled to come on line by 1990 . Electrical demand in the province would have to grow at more than 3 per cent per year to justify any further nuclear power plants before the turn of the century . The forecasts have been consistently dropping (see Table 3).
Year 1970-76 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 Forecast Rate over 7% 6.2% 5.3% 4.5% 3.4% 3.1% 3.0%
Only two other provinces have reactors under construction: Quebec with Gentilly-2 and New Brunswick with Lepreau-1. Both 600 MW reactors are expected to come into service in 1983. Further reactor orders are anticipated in both provinces, but not immediately.
Hydro-Quebec has announced an ambitious $55 billion expansion plan for the 1980s (mainly hydro-electricity), which will add 20 000 MW of capacity by 1990 (Hydro-Quebec, 1980). If peak demand in Quebec grows at 5 per cent per year, Hydro-Quebec will have 20 per cent over-capacity by 1990 without any more nuclear plants .
Nevertheless, the internal review concludes that the best short-term prospects for the Canadian nuclear industry would be federal incentives aimed at achieving an early commitment by Quebec and New Brunswick to Gentilly-3 [3500 MW] and Lepreau-2 [600 MW] respectively. To secure these commitments in the absence of a ready market, Ottawa should be prepared to finance "75% of the delivered cost" of each reactor at "more favourable interest rates" than previously available (Canada, 1981b, p. 93) .
Due to a variety of complicating factors, however, such federal inducements may not be sufficient. The Quebec government is considering an extension of its declared moratorium on further nuclear commitments to 1985 , and it seems probable that there will be broad public debate on the nuclear question before further decisions are made . In New Brunswick, construction problems and related political scandals surrounding the Lepreau-1 reactor may make Premier Hatfield reluctant to embark on another such project without a cooling-off period . Besides, any acceleration of these nuclear commitments will aggravate the already-serious cash-flow problems being experienced by both provincial utilities, causing domestic electricity rates in both provinces to increase even faster than they are now increasing. It is not a foregone conclusion that the provinces will co-operate with Ottawa by building more CANDU reactors.
The Canadian nuclear industry "is therefore facing an indeterminate period of excess capacity, its future clouded by uncertainty regarding the timing and magnitude of the next round of orders" (Canada, 1981b, p. 122). Realistically speaking, the internal review expects that "from zero to seven reactor units will likely be required" before the turn of the century (ibid., p. 123). Even if the upper end of this range is realized, "only one supplier of each [CANDU] component will remain in the nuclear business" (ibid., p. 89) . At best, the CANDU industry will barely survive.
Closely linked to the CANDU technology is the heavy water industry, which is also in deep trouble, since there are no alternative markets for heavy water . Over $800 million in unpaid loans owed by AECL's Heavy Water Division had to be forgiven by the federal government in the spring of 1981 (Ottawa Citizen, 6 April 1981). Despite such lavish assistance, the prospects for the heavy water industry remain dismal:There does not appear to be any plausible scenario in which the output of all Canada's heavy water plants will be required.... Even with the most optimistic [CANDU] sales scenario, AECL and Ontario Hydro [heavy water] inventories could total 15 reactor loads by 1990 at a cost of about $2.0 billion ($1980) (Canada, 1981b, pp. 94-95).Yet the internal review offers no palatable plan for rationalizing the heavy water industry :For technical reasons [heavy water] plants must be run close to full capacity or not at all.... The stark alternatives are to accumulate costly inventories or to shut plants down. It is not clear, however, that a mothballed plant can ever be returned to production, so that closing a plant for an extended period may involve its total write-off (ibid., p. 94).It now appears that unrealistic expectations concerning the ability of nuclear electricity to substitute for imported oil led to extravagant overbuilding of nuclear facilities during the 1970s (see Figure 1).
a) Each point on this graph represents an official published projection of estimated nuclear capacity by the year 2000. The great expectations of 1973 had all but disappeared by 1979. Since then, the Energy, Mines & Resources (EMR) internal review has estimated less than 22,000 MW installed by 2000. [ Update: In 1998, installed nuclear capacity was 14,200 MW, of which 4,870 MW has been ordered shut down, leaving 9,350 MW available -- about 1/3 of the lowest projection ("recommendation") indicated on this graph, and far less than the "confirmed" capacity in 1980. ]
b) Leonard and Partners, 1978.
c) Ontario (1978) for Ontario; Leonard and Partners (1978) for other parts of Canada.
Source: Canadian Renewable Energy News , 1978.
In its efforts to maintain this artificial industrial momentum, there is a danger that Ottawa may only succeed in compounding earlier errors; for in order to fill the gap in the domestic market, Ottawa is forced to turn to the even more unsettled export market.
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The internal review concludes that "while the export sector will not likely sustain the nuclear [reactor] industry in the long run, one or more near term sales will be critical to maintaining the industry into the mid-1980's" (Canada, 1981b, p. 125).
Mexico, Korea and Romania are the best near term prospects, but are by no means assured. Other prospects are concentrated late in the decade, too late to provide immediate relief to the industry, and are in any case highly uncertain (ibid., p. 89).
The sale of CANDU reactors has become a common theme of Canadian diplomatic missions overseas , necessitating a staunchly pronuclear attitude from ministers of the Crown and their parliamentary secretaries. It is recognized, however, that federal policies designed to promote overseas sales of CANDU reactors could be very costly in both political and economic terms. Past nuclear deals with India, Pakistan, Argentina, and Korea have elicited a storm of protest from concerned Canadians who are deeply disturbed over Canada's role in the global proliferation of nuclear weapons, especially considering the human rights records and the military ambitions of some of our trading partners. Canada has not profited from such deals; in fact, substantial losses have been incurred . Charges of bribery, corruption, and financial mismanagement within AECL in connection with past overseas sales have not been convincingly answered .
At present -- and for the foreseeable future -- export markets are very soft and the competition is fierce . Reactor vendors from other countries, just as desperate for business as the Canadians, are offering large subsidies to prospective buyers in the form of concessional financing . In such a business climate, it is difficult to maintain lofty principles or even to turn a profit. The Canadian government is under strong pressure to authorize a more costly international CANDU marketing program , to relax Canada's nuclear safeguards requirements , to allow business practices overseas that would be illegal in Canada , to negotiate special counter-trade agreements , and to grant exceptionally generous financing terms through the Export Development Corporation (equivalent to a 25-30 per cent discount on the purchase price of a reactor) . All of these options are dutifully discussed by the internal review, along with a stark warning: "Even with strong policy action, there is no assurance of success" (Canada, 1981b, p. 117).
Another kind of export opportunity presents itself: building reactors in Canada so as to export power south of the border. Despite "complex institutional, regulatory and contractual [hurdles]" (ibid., p. 97), the internal review suggests that a power export policy could generate attractive profits "and, in addition, provide badly needed business for the Canadian nuclear industry" (ibid., p. 102). Without major changes in American utility practices, however, the export market for Canadian electricity "may be confined to an 'export window', beginning in 1990 and lasting to 2000 or 2005.... this implies a decision must be made soon if Canada wishes to take advantage of this market" (ibid., pp, 99-100).
The surprisingly brief "export window" tentatively identified by the internal review is based on a transition strategy away from oil-fired generators in the United States, together with anticipated regulatory delays in bringing new capacity on line. It is suggested that a potential oil-displacement market might develop for the output of "five or six 630 MW reactors in New Brunswick and from five to seven 850 MW reactors in Ontario" (ibid., p. 98). Regulatory delays could create additional opportunities for short-term power exports, depending on "the nature and cost of alternatives facing potential importers" (ibid., p. 99) . However, long-term exports of nuclear-generated electricity from Canada would likely require far-reaching decisions on the part of American utilities: for example, a deliberate policy to displace coal-fired generation with electricity imports on the basis of comparative cost studies and/or environmental concerns .
Unfortunately, whether reactors built in Canada are totally dedicated to power exports, or merely pre-built "with the ultimate intention of repatriating the power to meet expected Canadian demands" (ibid., p. 100), it is an unavoidable fact that most of the risks during the export period would accrue to Canadians, and most of the benefits would not. Although attractive profits may eventually be realized, the economic risks of such a sizable speculation could be enormous in the absence of firm long-term contracts .Important non-economic risks are also involved, including increased environmental and safety risks, and the commitment of Canadian non-renewable resources to long-term export.... The construction of increased transmission facilities . . . because of strong environmental opposition ... could be a serious bottleneck.... The key question to be answered at this stage, then, is whether further investigation of this potentially lucrative market is warranted; or whether overall public acceptability is so unlikely as to make further efforts futile (ibid., pp. 102-3).Even if public acceptability were assured, there is a distinct possibility that the "export window" predicted by the internal review will never actually materialize. Current over-capacity in the United States averages almost 40 per cent, and load forecasts are almost certainly inflated . If industrial cogeneration of electricity becomes popular, export markets may evaporate . Meanwhile, energy conservation measures and solar heating devices will displace imported oil and also electricity during the 1980s. Electrical demand will level out or even drop as the American heating market shrinks . It seems unwise for Canadian utilities to overbuild in anticipation of an American power crisis that will probably never come.
Concerning the export of reactors and power, the internal review suggests that the very survival of our home-grown nuclear industry appears to depend on decisions made in other countries, over which Canadians have little control.
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In view of the great political and economic risks that have been contemplated to keep our nuclear industry alive during the 1980s, the obvious question is: would it not be more sensible to phase out nuclear power and turn towards other energy sources for the future?
There are two schools of thought on this subject. Some energy analysts believe that centrally generated electricity will ultimately displace oil as the driving force of our industrial civilization , and that nuclear power -- for economic and environmental reasons -- is destined to play a central role in supplying the necessary power . From such a perspective, it appears vital to preserve the nuclear option. However, other analysts argue that centrally generated electricity is simply too expensive to substitute for oil in heating and transport applications, compared with a judicious mix of energy conservation and renewable forms of energy supply  (see Figure 2).
Future US Primary Energy Consumption
(Illustrative Projections From 20 Sources)
~ compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy ~
Low Energy Futures for the United States,
U. S. Department of Energy, 1980.
Notes [ from the US DOE ] :
U.S. energy demand has not been following the exponential growth curve since 1973. Nevertheless, utility forecasters continue to project exponential growth into the future.
Other studies, indicated on this chart, have concluded that energy demand could level off and even drop over the next fifty years due to more efficient energy use, without any decline in GNP growth or population growth.
Studies that involve changes in life-style are excluded from consideration in this DOE review.
- Edison Electric Institute, Economic Growth in the Future (New York: McGraw Hill, 1976).
- Exxon Corporation Background Series, ''World Energy Outlook'', (December 1979).
- Stanford I: The E235 Alternative Energy Futures Study Team, Alternative Energy Futures: An Assessment of the U.S. Options to 2025 (Stanford Institute for Energy Studies, 1979). Scenario I.
- Lovins, Amory B. Soft Energy Paths : Toward a Durable Peace (New York: Harper and Row, 1977).
- Ford Foundation Report. Energy: The Next Twenty Years, administered by Resources for the Future (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1979). ... low economic growth, high energy prices, or a decrease in electrification would tend to yield primary energy demands for the year 2000 less than 100 quadrillion BTUs, p. 104.
- HBS = Harvard Business School. Robert Stobaugh and Daniel Yergin, eds. Energy Future: Report of the Energy Project at the Harvard Business School (New York: Random House, 1979). Exact data of this forecast not specified; targeted for late 1980s.
- DPR = Domestic Policy Review of Solar Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. Includes 12 quads of primary energy displacement for solar for the $32 per barrel of oil base case.
- Stanford II: The E235 Alternative Energy Futures Study Team, Alternative Energy Futures: An Assessment of the U.S. Options to 2025 (Stanford Institute for Energy Studies, 1979). Scenario II.
- Rodberg, L. Employment Impact of the Solar Transition, prepared for the U.S. Congress , Subcommittee on Energy of the Joint Economic Committee (1979).
- Taylor. The Easy Path Energy Plan (Union of Concerned Scientists, 1979).
- CONAES A. The Report of the Demand and Conservation Panel to the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems (CONAES). Alternative Energy Demand Futures to 2010 (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1979). Scenario A.
- Leach, G. et al. A Low Energy Strategy for the United Kingdom (London: Science Reviews Ltd. for the International Institute for Environment and Development, 1979).
Inferred by applying the percentage reduction possible in the United Kingdom to U.S. baseline energy use without adjustment for sectoral composition of industry, climate, or other geographic differences.
- Brooks, David. Economic Impact of Low Energy Growth in Canada: An Initial Analysis, Discussion Paper No. 126 (Ottawa: Economic Council of Canada, 1978).
Inferred by applying the percentage reduction possible in Canada to U.S. baseline energy use without adjustments for sectoral composition of industry, climate, or other geographic differences.
- Sant, Roger. The Least-Cost Energy Strategy: Minimizing Consumer Cost Through Competition (Pittsburgh: Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1979).
Contains a what-if scenario for 1978 rather than explicit forecasts. A hypothetical primary fuel forecast for 1990 meets demand with 1978 actual primary fuel levels (79 quads) plus efficiency improvements. The forecast shown on the graph for 2000 was inferred by applying Sant's percentage energy savings from efficiency improvements to the Ford Foundation Study's upper limit.
- CONAES A*. The Report of the Demand and Conservation Panel to the Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems (CONAES). Alternative Energy Demand Futures to 2010 (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1979). Scenario A*.
- Ross/Williams. M. Ross and R. Williams. "Our Energy/Regaining Control", unpublished draft manuscript.
- Brookhaven: Hudson/Jorgenson. E.A. Hudson, D. Jorgenson, and D. Behling, Jr., Energy Conservation Policies: Possibilities, Mechanisms, and Impacts, BNL 50956 (Upton, N.Y.: Brookhaven National Laboratory, 1978).
- Stanford III: The E235 Alternative Energy Futures Study Team, Alternative Energy Futures: An Assessment of the U.S. Options to 2025 (Stanford Institute for Energy Studies, 1979). Scenario III.
Excluded from this study because it assumes major life-style changes.
- American Institute of Physics, Efficient Use of Energy: The APS Studies on the Technical Aspects of More Efficient Use of Energy, AIP Conference Proceedings, Series No. 25 (New York, 1975).
- Steinhart, J. et al. , Pathway to Energy Sufficiency: The 2050 Study (San Francisco: Friends of the Earth, 1979).
Excluded from this study because it assumes major life-style changes.
If those analysts are right, then nuclear power may be an irrelevancy that merely serves to distract us from addressing our true energy problems in a timely fashion.
Unfortunately, the internal review avoids any comparative analysis of these crucial differences in outlook. Instead, an unimaginative "wait-and-see" attitude is adopted:It appears sensible at this point to pursue policy options which will maintain the nuclear option for the next few years, at which time new orders for reactors to come on stream in the 1990's should begin to be placed. However, it is also possible that the domestic and export outlook will not improve, and the same problem will have to be faced once again in several years (Canada, 1981-b, p. 126).In view of the magnitude of the federal investments of money and political will that are proposed to salvage the industry during the early 1980s, one might have hoped for a more definitive assessment of future nuclear prospects.
Considering the scale of uncertainties involved, the best solution surely is to maintain the nuclear option through the 1980s without expanding the industry any further. The nuclear enterprise may collapse no matter what is done to save it. This being so, why over-extend ourselves? We do not need to build more CANDU reactors in order to preserve the ability to do so.If demand for CANDU units increases at a later date, the industrial capability could in principle be revived.... [However], advanced technology depends on the skill and motivation of highly trained people working in teams.... Once the teams are dispersed and people have involved themselves in other activities, it is hard to put them back together (ibid ., p. 120).This revealing passage from the internal review puts Canada's nuclear dilemma into a much more meaningful and manageable perspective. In order to preserve the nuclear option, the crucial consideration is to keep our Canadian nuclear teams together (see Table 4), actively engaged in useful and challenging work, so that their accumulated knowledge and experience are not lost. This does not necessitate the building of more CANDU reactors. The manufacturing sector can be phased out of production , but the skilled teams do not have to be dispersed. As will be argued in the remainder of this paper, there is ample work to keep our nuclear technologists usefully employed for a decade or more without expanding the industry-- provided that the federal government assumes a leadership role, with adequate direction and assured funding for the entire period .
More precisely, during the 1980s, the Canadian nuclear establishment should devote itself entirely to solving urgent problems of reactor safety, decommissioning, and waste disposal. These problems will require solutions in any event, whether nuclear power has a future or not. Moreover, the techniques and equipment developed in Canada to cope with such problems may be exportable at a profit to other countries facing similar difficulties later on . Within ten years, we will know whether or not the market for nuclear reactors is likely to recover. We will also know if the problems are solved, or close to being solved. If so, the Canadian nuclear industry will be able to resume production of CANDU reactors on a firmer footing than ever before . If not, then Canada will be in a much better position to phase out of nuclear power in an orderly, well-regulated fashion.
EMPLOYMENT IN THE CANADIAN NUCLEAR INDUSTRY (1977)
Industry Sector Jobs a Jeopardy c Uranium Mining and Refining 700 b slight Research and Development 3 300 moderate Engineering and Design 4 100 acute Manufacturing Components 6 000 acute to moderate Construction of Plants 11 450 moderate Operations and Maintenance 5 600 slight Public Administration 250 slight Total 31 400 variable
Notes: a Leonard and Partners (1978).
b Related to domestic CANDU
c Author's assessment, based on alternative employment
During the proposed ten-year moratorium on reactor construction, investment capital currently slated for nuclear expansion can be diverted into centrally financed, community-based energy conservation programs. Indications are that such programs will cost less money, create more jobs, contribute less to inflation, and provide quicker relief to our energy ills than a comparable program of expansion in any of the conventional energy supply options (Brooks, 1978). Indeed, the energy conservation programs envisaged could be financed by the very utilities that would otherwise be expected to build reactors, thus alleviating their capital requirements, improving their cash-flow situation, and ameliorating their debt-to-equity ratios. Many North American utilities are already moving in this direction .
In the meantime, how would the nuclear technologists be able to apply their specialized knowledge in a useful and constructive manner?
Continuation: Canada's Nuclear Dilemma, Part Two
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the revised version of this paper
was accepted for publication in September 1981.
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