Former ambassador has good news, bad news for nuclear industryby Jeremy Whitlock
The CNA was established in 1961 to promote the development of nuclear energy in Canada. It represents about 70 nuclear companies, including AECL and Ontario Power Generation.
The audience heard how the CNA revamped itself last year, defining four pillars of its mandate meant for increased attention: government lobbying, addressing of key issues, public relations, and international ties with other groups. Reflecting its new focus on the national energy agenda, the CNA moved offices from Toronto to Ottawa and sought a CEO with some experience in the halls of power.
That's where Bill Clarke came in. Mr. Clarke is a career civil servant with the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), and a former ambassador to Brazil, Sweden and the Baltic Republics.
In April 2000 Mr. Clarke joined the CNA. Despite his short tenure to date, it was clear Tuesday evening that the new CEO has been doing his homework. Mr. Clarke spoke like an old pro as he gave the CNA viewpoint of the future of the nuclear industry.
The viewpoint came as a "good news - bad news" story. In the "good news" category, Mr. Clarke started with the recent privatization of the Bruce nuclear plant, and the program to restart Pickering. More than anything else, he said, these two developments will have an enormously positive effect on the thinking of federal politicians and bureaucrats.
Also in this category Mr. Clarke listed the recent decision to rehabilitate the Pt. Lepreau plant, Korea's invitation for a CANDU cost proposal, the ongoing concerns about climate change, the rising costs of fossil fuels, the budding revival of the U.S. nuclear industry, and the growing international success of Canada's private nuclear companies.
On the other side of the coin, Mr. Clarke warned that much of the bureaucracy in Ottawa, especially within the Treasury Department, perceives the nuclear industry as an over-financed liability. The promise of "ten reactor sales in ten years" is an albatross, which is directly impacting the approval process for the new CNF reactor at Chalk River.
Other challenges facing the industry include Canada's stagnant waste management program, an inconsistent regulatory process, and public perceptions of safety and export financing.
Mr. Clarke then outlined the CNA's response to these challenges. Two "Memoranda to Cabinet" will be submitted this Fall: one on the future of the nuclear industry that emphasizes the importance of the new CNF facility, and one on the urgent need for a federal financing decision that will let the Cernavoda-2 project in Romania begin.
The CNA is aggressively supporting the endorsement of nuclear technology as a Climate Change "solution" at an upcoming international conference on meeting the Kyoto protocol.. Mr. Clarke noted that Canada is one of the stronger supporters of this proposal.
As well, the CNA is sponsoring a new public poll on the nuclear issue, publishing a weekly electronic newsletter for MPs and bureaucrats, stepping up its media outreach program, updating its public "Fact Sheets", and seeking opportunities for Op-Ed pieces in major newspapers.
A lively question period followed Mr. Clarke's address. Some objected to the "legitimatization" of NGOs (Non-Government Organizations, who used to be called anti-nuclear groups, or special-interest groups), but Mr. Clarke pointed out that in the current climate, dealing with these groups on their terms has become part of the "cost of doing business."
In response to skepticism about the results of a new public poll, Mr. Clarke said the CNA expects similar results to the last poll in 1994, which indicated broad-based support for the industry. He also added that polls in the U.S. show that many people support nuclear power, but incorrectly assume they are alone in their beliefs.