For more than a century, Canada has been a leader in nuclear engineering. Today, the country has the potential to assume a key position in nuclear energy, with the uranium and materials necessary to generate an endless, sustain- able supply of power, says Dan Meneley, professor of nuclear plant safety at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
“It’s inexhaustible,” says Dr. Meneley, former chief engineer at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., noting that nuclear energy has an important – albeit controversial – role in making Canada a sustainable energy superpower. “We have an embarrassment of riches, but only if we have the courage to use it.”
Canada’s nuclear expertise originated around 1900 with the Nobel Prize-winning research
of Ernest Rutherford, a New Zealand-born physicist working at McGill University. He became known as the father of nuclear physics.
It continued with W.B. Lewis’s groundbreaking research on nuclear power following the Second World War, especially the development of the CANDU reactor. Dr. Meneley calls this “our bird in the hand,” and notes that more than half of Ontario’s electricity is now generated by these reactors.
“Oil is looking weaker every day,” he comments, but Canada has a supply of uranium that could last thousands of years, as well as the raw materials to build as many reactors as we want.
“It can be done all within our own economy,” he says, although it’s important to have “political gumption” and to design reac- tors for safety. “Our children and our grandchildren will accept it, but only on one condition: that we manage the energy correctly.”
Now is the time to begin, Dr. Meneley stresses. “The later we do it, the higher the price of oil will be. We can, if we wish, be off oil in 50 years, there’s no question about it.”
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