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[cdn-nucl-l] Minister Goodale speech to Cdn Nuclear Association
Ralph Goodale, federal Minister of Natural Resources Canada, gave the
following speech to the Cdn Nuclear Assn Winter Seminar. Mr Goodale is
Minister responsible for my own employer - Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.
The speech is on the NRCan site at:
Notes for a Speech by
The Honourable Ralph Goodale, PC, MP
Minister of Natural Resources Canada
Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board
Federal Interlocutor for the Métis and Non-Status Indians
Chair of the Cabinet Committee for the Economic Union
Canadian Nuclear Association
March 26, 2001
This room is filled with a lot of strong, intelligent, dedicated Canadians -
Canadians whose skill and brainpower, whose acumen and vision, have built a
hugely important Canadian nuclear industry.
But it's an industry that is largely a mystery to most of our citizens. And
to some, it's downright frightening - associated, as it is, in the public
mind, with weapons of mass destruction and issues related to health, safety
and the environment. The public is troubled about things nuclear.
The people in this room share, I believe, an unshakeable commitment to the
peaceful and safe development and use of superior nuclear technology.
You know about Canada's stringent regulatory regime - recently modernized
and enhanced through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
You know about the international obligations which Canada imposes upon
itself and on all those with whom we trade, through the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, Nuclear Co-operation Agreements and world bodies
like the International Atomic Energy Agency.
You know that our robust Canadian CANDU power reactors have built-in
multiple layers of safety systems, and not one fatality or even a
significant injury - anywhere in the world - has ever been attributed to
Our CANDUs are in service today on four continents with excellent records
for efficiency and safety.
You know that nuclear facilities are providing reliable, cost-effective,
clean electric power to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
The global thirst for more electric power is growing exponentially. So are
global concerns about clean air, greenhouse gases and the environmental
threat of climate change. You know that nuclear plants can help meet that
power demand with virtually zero growth in greenhouse gas emissions.
You know the average CANDU-6 reactor avoids the equivalent of some 5MT of
carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere every year. For Canada's
full fleet of power reactors, that's an annual C02 saving of more than a
hundred megatonnes. Without those zero-emission CANDUs, how would we hope to
meet the climate change commitments Canada made in Kyoto? How can the world
possibly expect to get to "Kyoto and beyond" without the use of nuclear
And it's more than just clean energy.
You know about the medical technologies that flow from our nuclear expertise
- technologies that relieve suffering, save lives and bring hope to
thousands of Canadians every year.
You know about the multiple industrial applications and consumer products,
in use every day, that enhance our quality of life and owe their existence
to nuclear science. Things like smoke detectors, industrial measuring
devices, irradiation procedures for food, sterilization procedures for
medical equipment. And the advanced materials testing that is leading to
better, stronger materials used in airplanes and many other items.
You know about the 30,000 thousand jobs in Canada - very good jobs - that
our nuclear sector provides; plus over 1,000 more jobs in Saskatchewan
uranium mining; plus exports in the hundreds of millions - over $500 million
in uranium exports alone, in addition to CANDU sales and nuclear generated
electricity exports; plus some 150 private firms, large and small, that do
business in the nuclear field.
You know about the research laboratories and the scientists - in the public
sector, at universities and in the private sector - who apply their
superlative skills to the safe and cost-effective ways to service and extend
the lifespan of power reactors, to find new medical and commercial
applications of nuclear knowledge, to test new ways to reduce the threat of
plutonium stockpiles to make the world safer, and to advance materials
science on a broad front.
Yes, you know all of them very well, and much more. But if you walk out of
this room and talk to most other Canadians, their perception is much
They are voters. They are taxpayers. They are citizens. And they count. For
you to continue to succeed long-term, those other Canadians are going to
have to gain a much higher comfort level.
So what's needed?
First, I see from your agenda for tomorrow that you've done some very useful
market research to better understand what troubles Canadians and what they
expect from the nuclear sector. That's useful input into a good start.
Secondly, take every opportunity to dispel the impression that there's a
closed club of really brainy people who think and talk in nuclear jargon,
and are so much smarter than ordinary folks. Don't circle the wagons and
hide. Open the doors and the windows, let in the breeze and the sunshine.
Take the public into your confidence - respectfully on both sides. And
demonstrate by your transparency that far from having dark secrets to hide,
the Canadian nuclear sector has a bright story to tell.
Thirdly, tell the story. You know it, in all its detail, far better than
anyone else. Invest the time, the money, and the professional talent, and
make it a senior management priority, to ensure that a strong majority of
Canadians know accurately who you are, what you do and what you mean to
Canada - in and beyond clean energy.
I'll be there to help tell that story with you. But I need a confident,
open, proactive industry taking the lead. Reaching out. Networking, beyond
the in-crowd. And communicating, all the time, not just in response to a
problem or an allegation.
And finally, of course, the meat of your message has to inspire respect and
trust. It must be credible.
Your commitment to the safety, public health and high environmental
standards must be "Job One" - without doubt, without equivocation. Make sure
it's there, tangibly, in your corporate culture and daily operations. Make
regulatory compliance, not your ceiling, but your floor. Build upwards
wherever you can.
It's important to Canada and to Canadians that we be able to say to
ourselves and to the world - that our standards are the highest, our
regulations are the strongest, and our operations are simply the best.
And speaking of being the best, on no issue is that more crucial than waste
Whether its in mining and tailings and the work that's underway between CNSC
and the Saskatchewan government to manage inter-jurisdictional
responsibilities more efficiently, but with no diminution of standards . . .
Or in low level radioactive waste and the significant progress I expect to
be able to announce and advance very soon in and around Port Hope . . .
Or in properly handling abandoned or orphaned nuclear sites across the
country . . .
Or in dealing with nuclear fuel waste for the long term, whether by storage
or disposal or otherwise - in compliance with both the spirit and the letter
of the official response to the Seaborn Report.
In all of these areas, the public will require the Government to discharge
its public policy and watchdog functions assiduously, and the public will
expect the private sector and the utilities to be fully onboard and onside.
No fudging. The worry about waste - the so-called lethal legacy - must be
So that's my message tonight. I guess I sound a bit cranky. I'm not really.
I'm just a bit concerned that the enormous worth and merit of the Canadian
nuclear sector tends to be undervalued and misinterpreted.
And unless that's addressed by both our words and our deeds, the public
criticism and the negative image that some critics have conveyed, could do