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Ontario Chamber Supports Nuclear Manufacturing Sector

Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce President, Dave Hare, and Chamber CEO Bob Malcolmson recently attended the 97th Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce in Orangeville. Over 150 delegates from Chambers of Commerce and the business community from across Ontario gathered to set the policy direction for the coming year. During the policy session the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce presented three of the seventeen resolutions for debate. All three were approved.

Currently being battered by extensive job losses in the manufacturing sector, Ontario has very few industries that offer the potential for ongoing long-term job and wealth creation. The Chambers key resolution zeroed in on the consequences to the Canadian nuclear manufacturing sector for domestic and export sales if the Ontario Government chooses to purchase a foreign reactor system. After substantial debate the delegates overwhelming agreed the Ontario Chamber of Commerce must urge the Government of Ontario to make as a priority, in the procurement process for the next generation of nuclear power technology, to have a Nuclear Energy Strategy that will continue to provide jobs, investment and economic strength for the Ontario and Canadian economy in the coming decades.

During the debate the Chamber pointed out that at the Durham Economic Prosperity Conference in November 2008, Perrin Beatty, President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce stated “Nuclear has to be a huge part of the solution to climate change”, adding “Canada has indigenous technologies which can be very positive for us.” Dr. Richard Marceau, Provost UOIT acknowledged “our manufacturing sector is ours to give away. We need to tell ourselves that we want to keep it and we need to keep it. There is a limit to the knowledge based economy. Do we want everything we consume to be made or built off shore” adding, “there are things we make in Ontario and we will be competitive. We ought to be able to create wealth by exporting products”.

In 2008 the Ontario Government chose Darlington as its new nuclear build site. The three companies bidding on the project are Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL), Head office in Mississauga; Toshiba/Westinghouse (US based and now mainly owned by Toshiba in Japan); and AREVA (owned by the French Government). The Ontario government must fully understand the economic impact to the Ontario business sector that directly and indirectly relies on the nuclear industry to sustain their economy.

The nuclear industry is experiencing a renaissance in which billions of dollars will be spent on hundreds of new plants around the world over the next 10 – 20 years. There are an estimated 200 nuclear reactors in various stages of development around the world and Canadian manufacturing would like its share. The Chamber pointed out that for Ontario and Canada to continue to play a leading role in the global nuclear industry, the key stakeholders in the nuclear manufacturing industry have a responsibility to work with all levels of government in Canada to create a more favorable climate for investment. The Canadian nuclear supply chain has remained strong with enough work to retain experience and through working closely with AECL (a Crown Corporation), has continued to develop intellectual property (IP).

Canada’s and Ontario’s nuclear industry has a demonstrated track record of safety, innovation, environmental stewardship and the Canadian innovative design and manufacture of nuclear reactors has proven to be competitive in world markets. It competes against countries that are very protectionist about their home markets. For example, the French have never invited a foreign vendor to bid for any of their (approximately 70) nuclear reactors in France.

The Chamber has recognized the importance of ensuring that Canadians and businesses engaged in the nuclear energy sector are not at a competitive disadvantage in the world markets. Ontario will likely only build 2-4 new reactors in the foreseeable future and the number of jobs created will be largely independent of the reactor type. However, there are many benefits arising from the success of the nuclear industry in Ontario including; significant tax revenues to the Ontario and federal governments, the creation of manufacturing jobs to support the export market, the retention of Canadian scientists and engineers and potentially the attraction of hundreds of leading edge international scientists, heightened profile for Canada as an R&D leader, attraction of related industries and the further development of Intellectual Property

The Nuclear manufacturing industry is at a critical juncture. The choice of reactor does make a huge difference to Ontario’s export opportunities. The countries AECL is marketing Canadian technology to are presently waiting to see if Ontario will buy its own reactor technology. If Ontario chooses to invest the right amount in making the ACR a success it will be the best choice for Ontario.

It is about seizing a GLOBAL OPPORTUNITY. It is about thousands of highly skilled, well paying, long-term jobs, and in these economic times, we need to uncover opportunities for Canada’s workforce. It is investment and it is a very good investment in a massively growing business where Ontario can be a world leader competing effectively with others as soon as we have had a chance to demonstrate the technology. The Ontario government must fully understand the economic impact to the Ontario business sector that directly and indirectly relies on the nuclear industry to sustain their economy.