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The nuclear trade mission to Canada


My Cup of Liberty

The Canadian embassy in the Philippines has organized a Philippines Nuclear Trade Mission to Canada in early March this year. Officials from the Department of Energy, Energy Regulatory Commission, private energy companies, and some media people were invited.

Canada is a good place to learn more about nuclear power technology and economics. As of 2022, it had 19 operable nuclear power reactors with a capacity of 13,624 megawatts (MW). In comparison, the US had 93 operable reactors with a capacity of 95,835 MW, France had 56 reactors with 61,370 MW, China had 55 reactors with 53,286 MW, Japan had 33 reactors with 31,579 MW, Russia had 36 reactors with 26,802 MW, South Korea had 26 reactors with 25,829 MW, and India had 22 reactors with 6,795 MW.

Canada also plans to build 11 new reactors with a capacity of 6,100 MW. But China plans 42 new reactors with 46,110 MW, Russia plans 25 reactors with 23,525 MW, and India plans to build 12 reactors with a capacity of 8,400 MW. See this column’s piece last week, “The nuclear option for Asian industrialization” (Feb. 15).

The bulk of power generation in Canada comes from hydro, which made up 60% of the total in 2022, while nuclear contributed 13%. The most nuclear-intensive country in the world is still France with 63% of its total electricity production coming from nuclear plants. The big Asian countries remain coal-intensive in their power generation, including India, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines with at least 60% of their power generation coming from coal. South Korea is the most nuclear-intensive Asian country with 28% of its power generated from nuclear energy (see Table 1).

If the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) had been allowed to operate from 1985 until today, it could have generated at least 4,600 megawatt-hours or 4.6 terawatt-hours (TWH) yearly assuming a low-capacity factor of 85%, up to 5+ TWH at a higher capacity factor.

Among the activities that are planned for the nuclear trade mission to Canada by the Philippine delegation is a visit to McMaster University – University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering (UNENE). It houses world class nuclear research facilities anchored by the McMaster Nuclear Reactor — a multi-purpose research reactor that provides neutrons for medical isotope production and scientific research. Their nuclear research facilities enable discoveries in medicine, nuclear safety, and materials and environmental science, while providing cancer treatments for more than 70,000 patients every year.

The delegation will also attend the NextGen2NetZero Nuclear Technology Forum, organized by the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries, at Ajax Convention Centre. They will also be meeting with Bruce Power at its Toronto Headquarters. The biggest nuclear plant in Canada and the world, it has eight reactors with combined capacity of 6,358 MW. In 2020 it generated 43.23 TWH.

The delegation will be making a site visit to the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station and meeting with Ontario Power Generation (OPG). Darlington station is Canada’s second largest nuclear facility with a capacity of 3,512 MW. It generates up to 31 million MWh (or 31 TWH) yearly. Its four CANDU pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR), 878 MW each, are owned and operated by OPG.

There will be meetings with other groups: the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, OntarioTech University, New Brunswick Nuclear, ARC Clean Technology Canada, Inc. which develops Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), and with the University of New Brunswick – Centre for Nuclear Energy Research (CNER).

The combined electricity production of Bruce Power and Darlington Station was 74.2 TWH (43.2+31.0). In 2020, the total amount of power generated in the Philippines was 101.76 TWH, and in Luzon grid, 72.42 TWH. So, if the Philippines had only one-half of the capacities of Bruce and Darlington, almost one-third of the whole country would have cheap, stable electricity with no blackouts — except when the problems are on the transmission and distribution sides.

Among the questions that people ask about nuclear power generation — aside from the safety issue — is the price. How cheap or expensive will nuclear power be compared to other sources? Well, it is cheap, the reason being that nuclear has very high energy density — one pellet of 20 grams can produce the same amount of electricity as 410 liters of oil, or 400 kgs of coal (see Table 2).

More than half of the cost of nuclear power is due to construction of the facility due to redundancy of safety features, but once it is built, it has very low fuel cost and low maintenance because a nuclear plant has a lifetime of 60+ years. SMRs is bringing down the cost.

The Philippines would be interested in SMRs, especially for off-grid islands and provinces that are currently dependent on big gensets running on oil, a fossil fuel. Canada is now commercializing SMRs, up to 300-MW plants. Federal agencies like the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and Canada Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) are investing to accelerate the development of SMRs, Integral Molten Salt Reactors (IMSR), and Micro Modular Reactors (MMRs).

The Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) should consider funding some SMR projects in some parts of the country. If they bring down the cost of electricity in the provinces, reduce or abolish the threat of blackouts, then we can attract big commercial and manufacturing plants.

While Canada has offered and hosted this trade mission, perhaps other nuclear-generating Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, and China can make similar programs and invite Philippines energy agencies and power companies to see what they have got.

The Philippines has had an average increase in power generation of 5-6 TWH yearly until 2022. By 2023 it should have increased to 6-7 TWH. From 2024 to 2030, we should target an increase of 8-9 TWH yearly to sustain a GDP growth of 6-7% yearly.

More energy supply, more electricity generation from more sources, agnosticism in energy source, coupled with an improvement in transmission and distribution of electricity — we need these to propel the country towards more industrialization, and more growth and prosperity.


Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the president of Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. Research Consultancy Services, and Minimal Government Thinkers. He is an international fellow of the Tholos Foundation.