Skip to Content
 

Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Issue 3 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Tuesday, February 22, 2000

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, met this day at 5:15 p.m. to examine issues relating to energy, the environment and natural resources generally in Canada (nuclear reactor safety).

Senator Mira Spivak (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: I welcome our witnesses today from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. I am pleased that you could find time to be with us. You are our first witnesses in our study on nuclear safety. I know that you have received information about what we hope to do.

I am sure you have a presentation you would like to make. I do not want to limit you except to tell you that we would rather it was shorter than longer so that we have time to ask questions.

Mr. David Torgerson, Vice-President, Research and Product Development, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited: Thank you, Madam Chair and honourable senators, for inviting Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to appear before you. With me is Dr. Victor Snell, who is the director of safety and licensing at AECL.

[Translation]

We are happy to be here this evening to answer the Committee's questions concerning the AECL and nuclear reactor safety.

[English]

We recognize that the committee is just starting its deliberations on this very important topic, and therefore I thought I would begin with an overview of AECL to familiarize the committee with it and the Canadian nuclear industry. Then Dr. Snell will give you a few more details on CANDU reactor safety. Of course we would be happy to answer questions when you are further in the process.

I will begin with a few points about AECL. As you know, we are 100 per cent owned by the federal government. We are a commercial Crown corporation that reports to the Minister of Natural Resources Canada. We have 3300 employees made up mainly of scientists and engineers. We are very much a high technology organization -- one of the few real high technology organizations in Canada. There are two main sites, in Chalk River and in Mississauga, and we do business all over the world.

This slide shows the Chalk River laboratories where the nuclear program was born. That site opened in 1944. The next slide shows where our engineering centre is in Mississauga. Those are our two major sites.

The next slide shows our commercial revenues, which are about $600 million a year. Our main products and business lines are CANDU power reactors and MAPLE research reactors. I will explain more about that later. We do research and development. We have developed such technologies and products as MACSTOR, which is a methodology for storing fuel in dry storage, and we provide nuclear products and services.

The next slide shows our latest design, a CANDU 9, and it shows that we do this design in three dimensional CADDs, which means computer-aided design and drafting, so we are using all modern engineering tools in developing this state-of-the art product.

Senator Taylor: What would be the distance?

Mr. Torgerson: The distance of a containment building? Typically, the buildings now in existence are about 41 meters in diameter and 45 meters tall. Those are the CANDU 6s that you commonly see in New Brunswick, Korea and Quebec. Those are large containment buildings that are one of the safety features that Dr. Snell will be discussing a little later.

In addition to power reactors, this is an example of a MAPLE research reactor. This is one that AECL sold to Korea. This is used to perform research and development. It can be used to produce medical isotopes. This is an operating reactor that AECL sold to Korea some years ago.

The next overhead is a picture of a spent fuel dry storage system that AECL developed many years ago. We have also marketed and are using dry spent fuel storage facilities in Canada and around the world.

The next slide indicates a little about the background. As I mentioned, Chalk River opened in 1944. We were established in 1952 as a national laboratory for nuclear. A national laboratory is a repository of knowledge. That is where your scientists and engineers go not to read books but to write them, because they are creating the new knowledge. What really brought Canada to the front of the line in terms of nuclear technology was the establishment of this national lab in 1952.

We were driven by a very ambitious domestic and export reactor program. There are 20 reactors in Ontario, one in New Brunswick, one in Quebec, four in Korea, one in Argentina, one in Romania now, and other reactors of course pending, such as two being built in China.

Senator Cochrane: Where is the reactor in New Brunswick?

Mr. Torgerson: It is near Saint John.

One of the significant events that occurred was the 1995 program review, which reduced a sales appropriation for performing research and development from $174 million to $100 million. At the same time, we were directed to focus on the CANDU heavy water reactor business. That meant that we had to close all but two sites, Mississauga and Chalk River. However, the program review also noted the need for a new research reactor facility in Canada called the Canadian Neutron Facility, and I will come back to that later. This is what it looks like.

The Chairman: If could I interrupt you, could you tell us the difference between a research reactor and a reactor for power generation?

Mr. Torgerson: Yes. A power reactor produces electricity. It is a commercial reactor meant to produce electricity for use in industry and homes, so it is a power-producing reactor. A research reactor is simply used to do research. Typically, you would make medical isotopes on it. You would perform fundamental research into physics, materials, chemistry, biology, and development of materials for advanced reactors. It is a tool that is used by chemists, physicists, engineers, biologists, many different disciplines, in order to advance scientific knowledge.

The Chairman: In other words, it is also used for development of power. What would the percentage be? What parts of the research are for medical uses and other uses?

Mr. Torgerson: That can vary from week to week, depending on what the reactor is used for. I would say that typically a reactor in a country like Canada would be used about 50 per cent for development of advanced technology for nuclear power reactors and about 50 per cent for more fundamental work into materials. Biology is a growing area. I do not want to go into details, but this particular reactor will have a facility that creates very slow-moving neutrons that can go into biological materials and scatter off them, and from that you can get a lot of information about the structure of membranes, for example, on cells. A lot of very exciting, cutting-edge research will be done with this kind of facility.

I will mention a bit about CANDU R & D. The parliamentary appropriation to AECL of $100 million pays for part of the national CANDU R & D program but not for operating costs for AECL. The appropriation from Parliament pays for about half of the R & D costs. Therefore, the R & D is important to improving and advancing power reactors, and the new research reactor is important to both nuclear and non-nuclear industries across Canada.

AECL in general has been a very good return on investment for Canada. Every dollar spent on research and development has returned about $5 to the gross domestic product. We like to underline the contribution to the economy by the investments in R & D and point out that Canada's dollars have been used twice as efficiently as those in other countries in terms of the amount of nuclear power generated.

There have been many other benefits in knowledge and innovation, such as medical product isotopes, and Canada now dominates world markets for medical isotopes because of the pioneering nuclear research and development done in this country.

In terms of scope, there are 25,000 direct jobs in the industry and about $5 billion to $6 billion a year of gross domestic product -- electricity, uranium and CANDU exports of equipment and services. We are the world's largest uranium exporter. We supply 80 per cent of the world's cobalt 60 that is used in cancer therapy. About 150 supplier companies are involved in supplying equipment and services built for CANDU-built projects, and there are about 3,000 sub-suppliers to those 150 companies across Canada. AECL is at the front of the technology, but it does not in general manufacture. That is done by these 150 Canadian companies.

Currently, CANDU reactors provide about 15 per cent of Canadian electricity. It is quite high in Ontario, 50 per cent, and quite high in New Brunswick, 30 per cent. There are 27,000 person-years per CANDU sale created across Canada, and about 80 per cent of that flows into the private sector. Nuclear industry jobs are generally high-skill, high-quality, well paid and value-added -- every superlative that you can imagine in the area of science and technology.

There have also been environmental benefits of the nuclear industry in Canada. Probably 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 have been avoided to date in Canada by using CANDU. Each CANDU reactor avoids about 5 million tonnes of CO2 per year. In Canada, that is about 100 megatonnes per year total when you have 20 operating reactors. Without nuclear energy, greenhouse and acid gas pollution from Canadian electric power sources would double. If we did not have nuclear energy, the total Canadian greenhouse gases would increase by 15 per cent to 20 per cent. CANDU plants in Canada avoid the equivalent of all the carbon pollution of Canada's motor vehicles every year. We believe quite strongly that CANDU is a key to meeting the Kyoto targets.

Let us look at our projects now. Our international projects are implemented with private-sector industries, as I pointed out before. That was worth about $4 billion to the Canadian economy in the 1990s. The biggest beneficiaries have been small and medium businesses, which are the most productive and create the most jobs in Canada.

To date, China has placed over $1 billion in purchase orders in Canada. As you are aware, we are building two CANDU 6 reactors in China. They are scheduled to be completed in 2003. This activity has generated over 200 purchase orders to the private sector.

The Chinese are very pleased with progress and CANDU Team Canada. I will show you a picture of the project. Those are two Canadian buildings on which you could put maple leaves. As I previously mentioned, those two containment buildings are 41 meters by 45 meters -- quite large. On the left of the picture, you can see a very heavy lift crane that is used for lifting equipment into the reactors. This is the China site. The next slide shows "Maple Village" where the 200 Canadian engineers and technical people live on site while the project is ongoing.

In Korea, we completed the fourth CANDU station in 1999. We have had over 20 years of high-tech cooperation with the Koreans. We are also marketing quite hard to sell our advance CANDU 9 product to Korea. We expect that that decision will be made some time this year, possibly in the first half of this year.

The next slide shows the Wolsong site. It is one of the largest Canadian foreign projects ever carried out. There are four CANDU reactors at the Wolsong site. You will notice that there is no smoke, no nothing, only clean electricity.

In Romania, the first unit is operating very well. The capacity factors are 87 per cent. The Romanians have said it is a priority to complete unit two. As background, I should mention that the Romanians started on a very ambitious CANDU program in 1979 when their leader wanted to build several of these units. AECL was asked to leave this project shortly after it was started. However, the Romanians asked us back into the project after the reorganization of their country. We completed unit one and now they want us to complete unit two, which is 40 per cent complete. We hope that possibly by the end of this year we will have some agreement in place to continue with the development of that unit.

Each of these units generates about $250-million worth of electricity per year. That is very important to the Romanians because it is domestic production. It offsets a cost of $160 million of oil imports for them and, of course, avoids a lot of CO2 emissions.

Let me turn the discussion now to safety. Nuclear energy is strictly regulated in Canada by the Atomic Energy Control Board. The AECB will be talking to you later this week, I understand.

We believe, for reasons that Dr. Snell will point out, that CANDU is the safest reactor design in the world. The safety record is excellent. There has been no serious injury or death to workers or the public in over 30 years of operation of CANDU reactors in this country. I do not think many industries could make that statement or that claim.

The next slide indicates that CANDU offshore reactors are the same as those in Canada, ensuring safety and environmental protection. You cannot build a reactor offshore that is not licensable in Canada. It must meet all Canadian safety and environmental standards. Every CANDU is engineered to meet all site characteristics, no matter where in the world it is built. CANDU, in fact, meets or exceeds all host country and international regulations and standards. Dr. Snell will delve into that a little later.

I want to stress that we sell nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only. All buyers must adhere to the non-proliferation treaty and the test ban. They must adhere to an even stricter nuclear cooperation agreement with Canada. They must agree to full scope safeguards and 24-hour monitoring enforced by International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, inspectors to ensure that no nuclear material is diverted for any other use than power production. They must agree to nuclear export permits and licences.

I would stress that the amount of nuclear waste that comes from a nuclear reactor is small in volume. It is contained and safely managed at the station sites. After about 30 years, the total amount of high-level waste in Canada would fill a soccer field to the depth of about one meter. The waste is a solid ceramic material. It is not liquid; it does not run. Sometimes you may see pictures of liquid wastes and other materials that are called nuclear wastes, but our high-level waste is a solid ceramic material. In fact, it is hard to tell the difference between the fuel that goes into the reactor and the fuel that comes out of the reactor.

AECL has developed a deep disposal concept that was judged to be technically sound by the Seaborn Panel. The Seaborn Panel also pointed out that public acceptance for this concept had not yet been achieved. Until that public acceptance is achieved, it is difficult to move on with this concept for permanent disposal.

AECL's above-ground storage, however, is a safe, proven and available technology. We have stored fuel for several decades using that dry storage technology. As volume of fuel is so small, it is very easy to store it on the site.

The ultimate disposal, however, would be in a geologic formation, as shown in this picture. The material would be stored in a vault that would be about 50 metres to 1,000 meters deep in the Canadian Shield, in the Canadian context. There would be a number of tunnels. The material would be put into the tunnels and sealed with a number of engineered barriers. Eventually, after many years, the whole facility could be sealed off and left.

Incidentally, this approach is very similar to how nature ties up this material. There are uranium deposits in this country that are 1.2 billion years old. They have remained stable for that length of time because the geologic formation and geochemistry and is just right for that to occur. In this engineered facility, we would replicate essentially what nature has done in order to store the materials indefinitely.

I should now like to turn quickly to Chalk River laboratories. We are 160 kilometres northwest on about 3,700 hectares of land. There is a high-tech workforce of about 2000 people. It has world-class expertise, and is second to none in physics, metallurgy, chemistry, biology and engineering.

Canada was the first nation outside the United States to have a reactor go critical. That was in 1945. We were the second nuclear country in the world.

The next slide shows the home to the National Reactor Universal -- NRU research reactor. This provides the majority of the world's radioisotopes for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases. It is also used for materials research and nuclear fuel testing and nuclear materials tests. It is getting pretty old. It will have to be shut down before 2005. It is approaching its 50th birthday.

There are also other reactors at Chalk River. There are two new small MAPLE reactors that are owned by MDS Nordion. MDS Nordion is the company that was spun out of AECL into the private sector to produce medical isotopes. The first of these reactors went critical this weekend. At some time in the future it will begin to make isotopes for medical diagnostics.

We have proposed the Canadian Neutron Facility to replace NRU. This is a joint National Research Council-AECL project to ensure that the industry and universities have advanced facilities to conduct materials research and development and that the Canadian nuclear industry has the facility to advance and improve the CANDU product. All high technology products must constantly be improved, and high-tech knowledge must constantly be added into those products to keep them competitive. That is what this facility is to do.

In the next slide you see a photograph of the two MAPLE production reactors at Chalk River, where the isotopes are made. The isotopes are then transferred into the isotope processing facility, which you can see in the background, where they are transferred to a form that can then be shipped to Nordion, and from there they are shipped all around the world.

The next slide shows an artist's rendition of what the Canadian Neutron Facility will look like once it is built. We are hopeful that the forthcoming budget will allow for the initiation of this particular project.

Our R & D focus is shown on the next slide. We improve and advance CANDU power reactor technology in the environment. We have scientists investigating environmental protection research. In biology, health sciences are ensuring the health and well-being of workers and the public. Then we have a number of solid-state people, physicists and technologists who are investigating the fundamentals of materials using neutron scattering. That is the current area of our R & D focus.

Senator Taylor: Are you able to provide me with an example of environmental research?

Mr. Torgerson: Within environmental research, we develop and understand dispersion models. Whenever there are emissions of anything from a smokestack from any industry, there is a dispersion that goes out through the environment. We develop models that can describe the pathways through the environment and we can apply that to almost any industry. We also do fundamental research in order to prove out the models.

To give you some history, since the 1950s, research at Chalk River has been the first step in developing many new materials. These are materials we now take for granted, like microchips in computers, television and electronics. Millions of jobs have been created in new industries as a result of that kind of development work.

Nuclear technology has applications in many different fields. That is why many countries that do not have nuclear reactors do have nuclear technology. They have research reactors, but not nuclear power reactors. Nuclear technology on its own is an extremely important discipline of science and engineering, quite apart from applying it to produce power. One of my colleagues in nuclear medicine who is on our R & D advisory panel has pointed out that all Nobel Prizes for the medical advances since World War II have depended on nuclear research technology.

Madam Chair, at this point I should like to stop and turn the floor over to my colleague Victor Snell who will say a few words about CANDU safety.

Mr. Victor Snell, Director, Nuclear Safety and Licensing, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited: Honourable senators, in the next six minutes, with about 11 slides, I shall provide you with a quick overview of CANDU safety. Hopefully it will provide a foundation for much of what you will be hearing in your deliberations in the next many months.

To start off with the actual safety record, no one has yet been killed or injured as a result of a nuclear accident in CANDU. That is an amazing safety record. Part of the reason for that is that, as designers, we assume that accidents and human errors are possible and we put in systems to prevent and control them. One of my colleagues once said that a reactor need not be perfect to be safe. That is a good viewpoint to take.

In all of CANDU operational history there has been no significant damage to the fuel due to an accident. And we do pay a significant amount of attention to experience, both in Canada and overseas, in order to incorporate lessons learned into our own designs. As you know, AECL is a designer, not an operator, but we pay a lot of attention to operating experience.

On the next slide we have outlined the fundamentals of safety. There are four different functions that one must have in order to have a safe reactor. We hear these over and over again. The first is to control the reactor power and, if necessary, shut down the reactor. Once you shut it down, you still have to take away heat, so the second is to remove the heat after the reactor is shut down. Third, if you have an accident that releases radioactivity from the fuel, you must be able to contain that radioactivity within the plant. Fourth, you must know what is going on inside the plant at any time, so you must monitor the state of the plant.

In CANDU we have two separate independent groups of systems that we call, with great imagination, group 1 and group 2, and each can perform all the required safety functions. The thinking there is that if something leaks, if one of the groups is unavailable, you can still do all the safety functions with the other group. Group 2 systems are built to withstand the largest earthquake appropriate to the site.

I shall address each of those four safety functions briefly. The first is reactor power control, and in CANDU we have three different ways of shutting down the reactor. We have the normal reactor control system in CANDU that is run by two independent computers. Either computer can by itself shut the reactor down. If a fault occurs in one computer, the other computer will take over and will shut the reactor down if necessary.

Separate from the computers, using completely independent devices and instruments, we have two dedicated shutdown systems whose only function is to shut the reactor down in case of need. We call them shutdown system one and shutdown system two. Shutdown system one consists of about 28 rods that fall into the reactor under gravity, absorb neutrons and shut it down. It takes about two seconds. Shutdown system two involves horizontal pipes that squirt a gadolinium nitrate liquid into the reactor; again, that can shut it down in about two seconds. This solution absorbs neutrons very strongly, like salt. There is no danger at all, because this chemical is not hazardous.

In the next slide, that round thing is the reactor. It is about 20 feet high. You can see the shut off rods at the top; they are normally poised above the reactor. If an accident occurs, they are released and fall by gravity into the reactor in about two seconds. The other system is deliberately independent and separated.

In the next slide you see the tanks holding the gadolinium nitrate. They are pressurized by helium. If you open valves here, the helium pressure forces the gadolinium into the reactor. There are pipes that look like the hoses with little holes in them that you lay in your garden. These hoses are metal and will squirt the liquid into the reactor, and in about two seconds the problem is addressed. It is a fast acting system.

Senator Christensen: What do the rods do when they drop down?

Mr. Snell: They contain cadmium, which absorbs the neutrons. Neutrons that normally cause the reactor to run are caught up in the rods instead and the reactor just shuts down. There are not enough neutrons to keep it going.

Again, I will not go into every detail. You have a copy of this next slide in your handouts. We have many systems to remove heat after the reactor is shut down: main feedwater, auxiliary feedwater, shutdown cooling system, emergency water system, emergency core cooling system. Most reactors in the world have similar systems. The ones I should like to emphasize are those unique to CANDU. We have two very large sources of water surrounding the core, which other reactors do not have.

The moderator, shown by the dark blue area, is needed to make the reactor run, and it prevents core melt. It surrounds the fuel in the reactor, which is great in the case of an accident. There are about 4,000 fuel bundles in a reactor, and they are surrounded by this cold moderator. They sit horizontally, and they are never further than one inch away from the moderator. If for some reason the water flowing over this fuel were lost and emergency cooling were also lost, you could take away the heat from the moderator, which sits about an inch away from this fuel bundle. The fuel bundle is a very concentrated form of energy. A one-year supply of electricity for all the people in this room would be contained in two or three of these individual "pencils". This feature is unique to CANDU. Other reactors combine the moderator and the coolant.

The second thing we have is a shield tank, shown here as the turquoise area. Outside the reactor, there is a very large amount of water that is normally used for shielding but, in an accident, it slows things down. Severe accidents take about a day to progress. Even if everything fails, this shield-tank water will slow things down to about a day. That allows a lot of time to recover from the accident or to manage it. This feature also is unique to CANDU.

Senator Taylor: Does that appear in every CANDU reactor?

Mr. Snell: Yes.

Senator Taylor: Ever since we started making them?

Mr. Snell: Yes, that is correct.

There is a third safety function. I have covered control and decay-heat removal. The third one is containment. As Dr. Torgerson said, if you drive past Pickering or Darlington, you will see buildings that look a bit like the Wolsong site. These are four CANDU 6 reactors. What you see is not the reactor but the containment building surrounding the reactor. That building is only for safety purposes. Its function is to contain a leak of radioactivity that occurs inside that building. Typically, the walls are between 0.7 and 1.0 metre thick and are designed to be leak-tight.

The fourth safety function is knowing what is going on. All modern CANDUs have two control rooms. One is used for normal or routine control. The other is used if, for some reason, the main control room is unavailable or uninhabitable. For example, if there were a fire in the main control room, the operators would proceed to the secondary control area. From either of those control rooms you can perform the four safety functions. You can shut the plant down. You can take away the heat. You can maintain the barriers to the release of radioactivity and you can determine the plant's state.

Senator Taylor: If an explosion were introduced into the main control room by a bomb or something like that, would there any operators left to go to the other room?

Mr. Snell: There are normally enough operators on the plant site that there would be some available to go to the secondary control area. There are other defences against bombs, but, if the operators in the main control room were incapacitated for some reason, there are usually enough operators on site to man the secondary control area. There would be people on site with enough knowledge to do that.

This slide shows CANDU 9. As Dr. Torgerson said, not only did we design the reactor through computer-aided design, but the control room itself was also designed with the same tools.

You will be getting a presentation from the Atomic Energy Control Board, so I will not cover regulations other than to remark that, from the very beginnings of development in Canada, we have had very close cooperation with the international communities. The organization with which we have dealt mostly is the International Atomic Energy Agency, headquartered in Vienna.

Our safety principles are very similar to those of the IAEA. I will not cover them here, but I refer to things like defence-in-depth, which is an approach to design, emphasis on numerical risk, and the fact that the safety responsibility is not on the regulators, it is on the operator of the plant. The operator is the person responsible for safety. The regulator sets requirements and audits performance. You will hear more about that from the Atomic Energy Control Board.

In my opinion, the IAEA is gradually becoming more of a world regulator. After Chernobyl, the influence of the IAEA increased significantly. It has started developing essentially international safety standards. The safety guides that existed before Chernobyl are being revised and strengthened. Many of our customers require that nuclear vendors comply with or, in fact, use the IAEA guides directly. For example, the safety regulations in China are based very heavily on the IAEA guides.

Canada has an important role in terms of assisting the IAEA as an expert country and in ensuring that the guides are in fact international. Of course, we either comply directly or meet the intent of the IAEA guides.

In conclusion, CANDU is a robust design. That means not only is it built well, but it is tolerant of human error and mechanical failure. The unique part of CANDU is that we have large volumes of water in the moderator and in the shield tank that slow down accidents even if all heat removal fails. Our licensing regime encourages safe innovation and also facilitates licensing in diverse jurisdictions.

Senator Kenny: Thank you for coming, gentlemen, and for your lucid presentation. I found it very helpful and very constructive.

My first question -- and this may be a difficult one for you -- is this: Are we doing something useful by examining nuclear safety? Is this something that makes sense to you folks? Do you think it is a reasonable thing for this committee to be doing?

Second, why do nuclear reactors create so much concern amongst the public? I do not refer to you personally and perhaps not to CANDU in particular, but why does the nuclear energy industry have such a bad reputation amongst the public? Why are so many people concerned about this form of energy?

Third, what tests or measures should this committee be looking for when we are examining questions of safety? How do we know what to ask people like you when they come before us? What sorts of things should we worry about and what sorts of questions should we be asking to best understand whether the evidence that we hear is correct and whether the equipment is as safe as people are suggesting?

Finally, would you comment on how much redundancy is appropriate? I know, for example, they talk about designing an offshore rig for the hundred-year wave. I always wonder what happens in year 101. You talked earlier about designing the facility to withstand the worst earthquake you can imagine in the area, but how much safety is enough?

Mr. Torgerson: As you said you would, you have asked some very difficult questions. I should like to start with your second question because I think that is germane to some of the other questions. You asked why the public is concerned. It is difficult for those of us who live, eat and breathe technology to understand this. From my point of view, I have, since 1966, lived with nuclear technology. I have had my office right next to nuclear reactors and I have raised my children living in communities next to nuclear reactors, so clearly I do not have any fear of nuclear technology. Obviously that is because of my knowledge of what it is. You are never concerned about things that you understand. Therefore, my feeling is that the concern in the public comes from a lack of understanding about what nuclear technology is all about. It has never been explained to them. We in the nuclear industry have probably not done a particularly good job of public communication or education of the public in the nuclear technology area. Once the public understands the benefits of nuclear technology and nuclear medicine, nuclear power, nuclear research, and so forth, I believe that concerns will not be so high. It is really a question of education and understanding. I do not know how else to explain it, because it is difficult for those who have worked so long with it sometimes to understand why there is any concern. Confidence comes from familiarity.

That, then, I believe, answers the first question: Is it worthwhile doing this? I believe it is worthwhile, because I see it as an opportunity to learn about safety and then to communicate that safety to the public through what this committee is doing. In my opinion, I think it is good for anyone to be looking into safety. Obviously I am very confident about reactor safety and I am quite confident that as you continue to look into it and talk with the experts you will see that, in fact, we have a very safe industry and a very safe product. I would answer the first question then by saying that yes, examining nuclear safety is a good thing to do, because any time you probe into something it is a communications mechanism.

As for what you should be asking people, the best answer is "Go wherever your curiosity takes you." Ask whatever questions you think are important. If I were asking questions of a witness who was an expert in a technical discipline, I would, of course, probe that person in that technical discipline. I am not sure though that that is the type of questioning that would be particularly worthwhile. Rather, asking witnesses what they think and what they feel about nuclear technology and what the benefits of nuclear technology have been might be a very good way to find out more about the technology. My only advice on tests is to fire away, wherever your curiosity takes you.

Regarding the fourth question, on redundancy, as Dr. Snell pointed out, we design CANDU reactors for defence-in-depth. We assume everything will go wrong and then we design for that. In my view, that is solid engineering practice, and that is the approach that we take with our designs. Basically, all reactors designed to Western standards in fact follow that principle of defence-in-depth. The type of redundancy that we have in these plants may seem, from a purely technical point of view, somewhat excessive, but it is important to design the plant in the most appropriate way and then assume that the plant will not operate correctly and design accordingly with defence-in-depth. If you do all that, then I believe you have built appropriate redundancy into the safety and operation of the plant.

I hope I have at least started to answer those four very probing questions. Perhaps those are the types of questions you want to ask almost everyone who comes before this committee.

Senator Kenny: You have described a risk-reward sort of scenario, but you have also described the situation in a way that makes it sound like things are pretty good. However, I think it is fair to say there is not a nuclear plant being built in North America, nor is there one being contemplated. That is a massive vote of non-confidence. There is a facility in the United States that is complete in every respect but no one has turned the key to start it working. While you have given us a persuasive demonstration here, would you deal with this for me? Would you address the question of why there is not a single plant going forward in all of North America and why the public so overwhelmingly rejects what you have described as a safe and effective product?

Mr. Torgerson: First, I will say that in North America the electric power market is such that there are no major build projects of any type going on. In North America we have, in fact, overbuilt our capacity for generating electricity, and our demand has slowed down. Therefore, the demand has not been there. That is not the case in other parts of the world. They are still building nuclear plants in Japan. They are building nuclear plants in China. They are building nuclear plants in parts of the world where demand is continuing to increase. That has not yet happened in North America, but I must tell you that the United States is beginning to realize that the only way that it will be able to replace old capacity and produce new capacity that is non-polluting is to go the nuclear route. You can see that in their policy, in the fact that the Department of Energy in the United States is increasing the amount of research and development dollars going into nuclear power technology, and the fact that they have just recently called together several nuclear countries to discuss what the next generation technology should be for the United States and for the world. What is happening in North America is just not what is happening in the rest of the world.

I forget the second part of your question, senator. You had another comment.

Senator Kenny: I was commenting that you were giving us a risk-reward ratio and talking about the benefits coming forward, and the benefits are substantial and significant. I believe we are all impressed with the benefits you talked about and I think people understand those well. Having said that, the nature of the risk seems to be so great that people are not prepared to accept that risk, notwithstanding the benefits that you brought forward.

Mr. Torgerson: A very interesting poll was done in the United States recently. People were asked whether they were a supporter of nuclear energy or not. The majority of people said yes, they were, and then they were asked how many other people they thought supported nuclear energy, and it was a very low number. The response was typically, "I support nuclear energy but I do not think anyone else does." Therefore, the supporters are in fact in the majority, at least in the United States, yet they think they are in the minority. There is more support out there for nuclear energy than is generally believed. In fact, when Americans were asked what technology they thought would be the technology of the future in the United States, the majority answered that it would be nuclear power. The second most common answer was solar power. Clearly, the opposition to nuclear power is not quite as strong as we sometimes might believe, particularly when we look at the polls.

Senator Taylor: I have three questions. The first one builds on Senator Kenny's question regarding the confidence of the public in nuclear reactors and, in particular, our own. How can you expect confidence from the public if you are the manufacturer, the salesman and the person selling the safety gimmicks? In other words, would you think cars were safe if the only people who made announcements on safety were Ford and General Motors? You seem to have a vested interest in telling us that the skies are blue and not cloudy all day and that everything is just lovely. Why does not anyone contemplate separating safety inspection from making your living? You would all be dismissed if we could not sell CANDU reactors.

Mr. Torgerson: The safety, licensing and regulation of nuclear plants is separated from those who develop and sell nuclear plants. You will hear later this week from the Atomic Energy Control Board, which has no connection with AECL or the development program. The Atomic Energy Control Board licenses CANDU reactors in Canada. They will tell you that they are neither pro-nuclear nor against nuclear, they are simply the regulator. They are there to ensure that the reactor meets all the safety requirements.

From the development point of view, we must put together the safety case, but no one will say, "That is nice. There is the safety case." It goes over to a completely independent group of experts with training in nuclear technology who look at it in meticulous detail, review it and comment on it and either agree or disagree with you and generally regulate the nuclear reactors from the point of view of their design and also their operation. That separation you talked about is extremely important, and that separation exists in Canada. I believe that we have the toughest licensing environment in the world here in Canada. You can judge that for yourselves after you discuss safety with the Atomic Energy Control Board.

Senator Taylor: You feel that the sales arm and the safety arm are entirely separate in spite of the fact that they are both financed by the same body, the government?

Mr. Torgerson: Yes. They are completely separated in their function. They are two different units with two different CEOs running the two organizations. They are completely independent.

Senator Taylor: Second, you mentioned the Vienna group, IAEA. I had the impression from watching the slide that in general you conform with IAEA, but you do not conform 150 per cent. That is to say, have all their safety measures been adopted with our CANDU reactors, or are there a couple that you are arguing about that you have not told us about? If we went to Vienna, would there be a chance that someone would take us aside and say, "You Canadians are doing this or that and we do not like it?" Do you have their 100 per cent approval?

Mr. Torgerson: We comply with all IAEA safety standards. If you go to Vienna -- and that would not be a bad idea -- you can ask that same question of the head of the nuclear safety IAEA organization. He is a Canadian who was a senior official with the Atomic Energy Control Board. The safety of CANDU technology complies with all international standards.

Senator Taylor: Third, as an old geologist myself, I have worked in areas of earthquake-prone California, proofing buildings for earthquakes and so on. I was intrigued when you said that you were earthquake proof. On solid land it might take 2,000 years or two years, but nearly always you will get an earthquake somewhere. To what Richter level do you build and how do you build? Are you on a floating island? This is an engineering question, but I am intrigued about what you are doing to make something "earthquake proof" because I think that is difficult to do.

Mr. Torgerson: If I ever hear about an earthquake, I will run right for a CANDU reactor because that will be the safest place to be. CANDU reactors are designed and built to meet all design basis earthquakes that could occur in the area where they are built. In fact, they are built far beyond that standard. We would never build a reactor where it could not withstand an earthquake. The design is so robust, as Dr. Snell pointed out, that if there were an earthquake I would run right for the reactor as fast as I could because I know it would remain standing.

Senator Taylor: I do not want to get into an engineering argument, but I do not think you can make anything so robust that it will withstand an earthquake. However, you can make something that floats over an earthquake. In other words, if you are in the middle of the ocean, an earthquake will never affect you. What do you do on solid land to make it float free from fracturing or shifting or movement, either open or transverse?

Mr. Torgerson: These reactors are built to withstand high ground accelerations. There are many different construction techniques that you can use, but they are also very high. Therefore, you must build these very robust structures in order to hold everything in place. That is how it is built. For example, at the Akkuyu site in Turkey, the seismic requirements are that we will build a CANDU reactor that can withstand a 6.5 Richter scale earthquake just 30 kilometres from the site. That is at least an order of magnitude more ground acceleration than you would have in that area throughout all of history. It is quite possible to engineer these reactors in a way that they can withstand earthquakes. Recently, we have had examples of this in Japan, where there were earthquakes on Kobe. Reactors there kept operating. They had to shut down simply because the grid was knocked down, but there was no problem with the reactors. I know of no circumstances where an earthquake has caused any problems with an operating power reactor that meets Western design standards.

Senator Christensen: I am very impressed with your presentation. It all sounds great. I do not know why we do not have more of them. You stated that, because you understand it so well, you have no concerns. You are there and you are building it. You know all the precautions that have been built into it and the designs, and so on. You work with it all the time and understand it fully so that you are very confident about it. However, there are the three examples that most of the public is aware of: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the incident in Japan last year. I am sure the people who were working with those and who built them had the same confidence you do. What is the difference between those three incidents and the ones that we are dealing with today? Why would you have more confidence with ours?

Mr. Torgerson: I do not want to get into a technical discussion about the different types, but it is my technical view that the Chernobyl reactor would not have met Western standards of safety when it was built and the way it was operated. Knowing what I know, I would not have been comfortable with that technology. However, as far as CANDU technology is concerned, I understand it and know it. I know that it is safe technology. I know that, even if everything goes wrong, it still sits within a containment building. Whatever happens, it will be contained. You could not say that about the Russian-designed Chernobyl reactor. It had no containment building. If something went wrong, everything would come out of it, and that is exactly what happened. Without getting into too much detail on the technology, I am confident with CANDUs but would have been much less confident about that reactor design.

Senator Christensen: What about the Three Mile Island incident and the one in Japan? They experienced problems. I would think that they would be just as confident when they were building those.

Mr. Torgerson: The Three Mile Island reactor in the United States had safety systems that prevented major releases of radioactivity. It had a containment building. As you go through that accident scenario and look at how it was helped along by some of the decisions made, you realize that it is very important to have a containment building to contain the radioactivity. Also, some of the natural laws of science that tied up the radioactivity and did not allow it to get into the gas space even inside the containment building are very important.

The incident in Japan was not a nuclear reactor incident; it was a different phenomenon altogether. It involved someone doing what I would call very sloppy chemistry with some radioactivity. They got into trouble as a result. It did not involve a nuclear power plant.

Senator Wilson: You have quite ably pointed out some of the benefits of nuclear energy. However, yours was a very familiar presentation to me. One thinks after seeing it that there are no problems at all. I was on the Seaborn Panel. In your presentation, you stated that the Seaborn Panel said that nuclear waste was technically safe, which is not what we said. So that you do not have to take my word for it, I will bring copies of our recommendations. That way you can see what we actually said about the safety of disposing of nuclear waste. It makes me wonder about the credibility of some of the other things you stated in your presentation.

Senator Kenny raised the question I should like to get on to now. He asked: What is safety? Usually, safety is identified only in technical terms. However, Senator Christensen has also raised the notion of social safety, which depends on cultural background, historical experience and fear and dread -- none of which can be addressed by education, incidentally. I am not talking about acceptability; I am talking about social safety and our judgment of it. I think that really needs to be looked at by the industry. I doubt very much whether it can be addressed in rational sessions where we are given information that we reject. That does not really address what we fear and dread.

Mr. Torgerson: The Seaborn report states quite clearly that while AECL has demonstrated the safety of such a concept from a technology point of view, it has not demonstrated safety from a social point of view. I believe that is how it is worded.

Social safety is something that you have to debate among yourselves and decide what it means. Coming from the technical side of things, I understand what technical safety means. I am not really competent, as you say, to talk about what social safety is. Perhaps that is something that this committee could discuss and elucidate for those of us on the technical side of the issue.

Senator Wilson: We said that even on the technical side there were caveats. We said, for example, "on balance, for the conceptual stage of development." We had all sorts of caveats that did not appear in your presentation. I really object to that.

The social safety idea is now a perfectly legitimate discipline in the social sciences. The committee needs to spend some time on what that means, because it is not simply social acceptance. It is what Senator Christensen was talking about.

Is the industry self-regulating? Is there no one monitoring it?

Mr. Torgerson: The IAEA is an independent organization; it is not part of the nuclear industry.

Senator Wilson: Who makes it up, then?

Mr. Torgerson: It was formed by the United Nations.

Senator Wilson: Who is in it?

Mr. Torgerson: All the nuclear countries are in the IAEA; but it is at the government level.

Senator Wilson: It would be the governments interested in promoting the industry, in allowing and encouraging it.

Mr. Torgerson: Governments with an interest in nuclear technology would be members of the IAEA.

Senator Kelleher: When you discussed the future of the nuclear industry, you said that there are some countries, and I think you used Japan and Korea as examples, that will have to go to that end. At the moment, we have a little overcapacity. I read somewhere that gas turbine generators are now more competitive with the nuclear CANDU type reactors and that in order for the nuclear industry to remain competitive they will have to lower their capital costs. Is that correct?

Mr. Torgerson: Yes. It is my belief that the technology must be advanced. I believe that all high-technology products have to be aggressively advanced and that you have to keep adding value and lowering costs. That is simply the way it goes. Our technology is no different.

Madam Chair, I do not want to get into a great many technical details. However, I believe that the CANDU system has more opportunity for optimization of the technology than do competing technologies. I like to say that we developed the CANDU reactor from the physics up and not from the engineering down. We really got the physics of the core optimized. Physicists did the work right up front. We did not have to fit this reactor into a submarine and then blow it up into a larger unit to produce power. We actually started off with optimizing a power reactor.

Because we have optimized the science of the CANDU we have more flexibility to continue to improve the product. I am quite optimistic about our opportunities to improve the product into the next century. It is essential that we make our product better. We have 50 years of knowledge in this country. We have been working on nuclear technology since 1945 when our first reactor went critical. We can take that knowledge base and apply it to the CANDU into the next century and make a lot of advancements in the product. We are now working on the next generation CANDU product. I am confident that that product will be extremely competitive into the next century. We will need it because, frankly, it is the only way to produce power on a large scale that does not have environmental emissions associated with fossil fuels, including gas turbines.

Senator Kelleher: Do you believe you can make it competitive with gas turbine generation?

Mr. Torgerson: The difficulty with gas turbine generation is that the costs of the electricity to the public can be variable depending on the price of the gas. It is true that gas turbines have lower capital costs, but they have variable fuel costs. With nuclear plants, on the other hand, you have a higher initial capital cost, but the fuel costs are very low and steady over 30 years or 40 years. You get the certainty of costs with nuclear, whereas with gas turbine you will see fluctuations in the costs because of the cost of the fuel. It is almost trading off, if you like, higher operating costs for lower capital costs.

Senator Kelleher: I am confident, as you are, that from an engineering point of view you could probably refine the construction and get the capital costs down. At the same time, are you as confident that you can also keep the safety standards the same or better, notwithstanding the lower costs?

Mr. Torgerson: It comes back to the point that was made earlier. We must design a plant that meets all safety and licensing standards. We cannot be allowed to design, operate or build a plant that does not meet those safety standards. Therefore, it goes without saying that all safety standards will be maintained no matter what we do to the product. The things we are thinking of doing in the product do not really affect the safety standards or margin. In my view, we must remain diligent about maintaining those standards. A reactor cannot be designed that backs off on safety standards. That is the simplest and most succinct way of putting it.

Senator Kelleher: Are other countries designing and selling nuclear reactors around the world? For example, I think the United States does. Are there any other countries that do?

Mr. Torgerson: Yes. A number of countries in the industry have sold reactors around the world. There are some emerging countries that would like to.

All of the nuclear power technology in the world today was developed either in the United States or in Canada originally. Those are the two countries that have developed nuclear plants. Two types of light water reactor plants were developed in the United States, and the heavy water reactor was developed in Canada. Germany, France, Japan and other countries also build the two types of reactors that were developed in the United States. When we go into China, for example, we compete with the French and others who have developed the American type of technology.

Yes, all of the major countries have in fact developed a commercial nuclear reactor.

Senator Kelleher: As I understand it, everyone sort of uses or copies the American light water design. We are the only ones in the world doing the heavy water thing; is that correct?

Mr. Torgerson: That is correct. Of course, there are seven countries now operating heavy water reactors of the Canadian design. Therefore, we are in fact expanding the base of heavy water reactors due to some of their natural advantages. For example, you can burn natural uranium fuel without enriching it. That is very appealing to some countries. You can even burn waste fuel coming out of a light water reactor and get more energy out of it. That is very appealing to some countries, especially in places like Korea. We are hoping Korea will continue to buy and build Canadian reactors.

The technology of CANDU reactors has been developed here in Canada. We are the experts in it. As of right now, no one else in the world has been able to develop a commercial heavy water reactor like the CANDU. We are the only people who have been able do it. However, there are countries that have adopted CANDU technology that I believe will start to want to do this in the future.

Senator Kelleher: I have always had the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that it is pretty competitive out there.

Mr. Torgerson: Oh yes.

Senator Kelleher: I know that from personal knowledge. I sense that it costs Canada a lot of money to land one of these contracts.

The Chairman: It is not a feeling, it is a fact.

Senator Kelleher: I am being polite today. I get the feeling it is costing the Canadian taxpayer a lot of money to stay in this field against the American, German and French competition. As you know, EDC does not really touch it. It is done on Canada Account. There is a heavy financial cost to Canada in this. I have always been a little dubious as to whether we should be remaining in this field. I am not the only one who has raised that issue. I know this comment does not touch directly on safety.

Mr. Torgerson: Let me give you my perspective on this. No CANDU reactor that we have exported and built in another country using financing from EDC has received any kind of subsidy from the government whatsoever. The loans made by the government for building CANDU technology offshore, where loans have been required, have all been at OECD consensus rates. If you were to talk to EDC, you would find out that they have made a fair bit of money off those loans. Those are at international OECD consensus rates.

There is no subsidy whatsoever for foreign sales. It is strictly commercial. We are in a competitive world dealing with all the other countries that have their own EDCs, which are also providing financing at completely competitive rates. Therefore, in fact, our success in the international marketplace has not been due to any subsidies whatsoever, because we have not received them. We have a very competitive product. We are being successful in the international marketplace because we are competitive.

I want to stress that it is not costing the Canadian taxpayer, in fact to the contrary. The China program has brought $1.5 billion of orders into Canada. Any money that the EDC has loaned will be paid back at OECD consensus rates. There has never been any default on a loan for a CANDU reactor being sold in the international arena. The interest gets paid.

Our business makes good economic sense. It makes good sense from a banking perspective. It certainly makes a lot of sense from the point of view of selling Canadian high technology.

Senator Kelleher: I do not think this is the time or place to get into a deep discussion on that, but the adherence to OECD consensus rates is more honoured in the breach. We had a lot of trouble with the Romanian one. I happen to have been involved in that and I think we ended up with warehouses of jam as part of the barter payment we got on that deal. In any event, I will not get into it tonight because we are here to discuss safety. However, I do become concerned.

Senator Christensen: I have just a small question in the interest of educating myself on the issue. Could you very quickly define for me light and heavy water?

Mr. Torgerson: There are two different types of hydrogen isotopes in water. There is heavy hydrogen, called deuterium, and light hydrogen, called hydrogen. The amount of heavy water in light water is very small -- 0.015 per cent. Heavy water is a naturally occurring substance in light water.

We use heavy water in a CANDU reactor because it is a very efficient way of slowing down neutrons in order to have the neutrons enter into a nuclear reaction in the fuel. We can thereby use natural uranium as it comes out of the ground. We do not have to enrich that uranium, in the isotope uranium 235 that is the actual fuel. Light water absorbs too many neutrons and they are lost.

We say that a heavy water reactor has high neutron economy, which means that most of the neutrons are being used to perform the nuclear reactions. Fewer of them are being absorbed in the water that is slowing the neutrons down. The heavy water is more efficient at slowing down fast moving neutrons so that they can react with the uranium. It is a much more efficient method.

The Chairman: Senator Christensen, we did get a background paper on it, and I still have a list of people, if you do not mind.

Senator Finnerty: I just have a question following up on safety and what may happen in the world years from now with conflicts that happen. You can withstand earthquakes. Can you withstand a missile hit?

Mr. Torgerson: I am sorry, senator, what do you mean?

Senator Finnerty: If there were a conflict or war where you have one of these reactors, could the reactor withstand a missile hit?

Mr. Torgerson: The reactors, of course, have a containment building around them so that the core is not accessible to weapons. Obviously, in a war situation you would shut the reactor down in any event. It is rather difficult for me to conceive of anyone operating a plant when people were actually at war.

Senator Finnerty: Sometimes it happens so quickly.

Senator Kenny: To pursue the war analogy, if you are dependent on nuclear as your source of energy and you are in the middle of a war, how do you operate your war machine without electricity? I do not quite follow that. How do you build cars? How do you run homes? How do you do all the things that are part of living if you are dependent on nuclear energy? You just said that you would shut them down.

Senator Finnerty: He said they would be shut down automatically.

Mr. Torgerson: First of all, I think what you are really saying is that wars are rather senseless, and I think I agree with that statement. When societies go to war, there is complete disruption. You see that electricity shuts down, so everything shuts down. I guess perhaps what you are saying is that wars just do not make any sense under any circumstances.

Senator Kenny: No, I think I was saying that during a war, people try to keep their electrical plants operating. In fact, they have found them necessary for the conduct of war. Every effort is made to continue to have the generation of electricity, and you are suggesting that that is not the case.

Mr. Torgerson: Well, I think we are getting into an area of speculation here.

The Chairman: I think we are. Do you mind, Senator Kenny, if we get back to the safety issue?

Senator Kenny: The question arose as to what happens if a reactor is hit by a missile. Maybe that is not terribly likely right now. Maybe it is not likely in Canada at all. However, it certainly is likely in some jurisdictions around the world. Are you suggesting that they will shut down their power plants for the duration?

Mr. Torgerson: I think the question was this: If there were a conflict in the area of a nuclear plant, what would the operators do? Again we are speculating, but I believe the operators would shut that plant down.

Senator Kenny: Thank you.

Senator Cochrane: I want to go back to the issue surrounding Romania, because I understand that is one of the buyer nations. I was there about 10 years ago. In Romania at that time, the farmers were using horses and ploughs in the fields. They were rather backwards, about 50 years behind us. I do not know how much they have improved within the last 10 years. I am sure that they are looking for anything new that might bring energy and whatever to the people of that country.

When we are selling something like this to a country such as Romania that needs so much and that is just desperate to cling on to something -- at least that is the way they were 10 years ago -- who sets the standards as to whether this is the right thing to be using, is it safe, and what are the implications if something should happen? Who sets the standards, and who is to say that they are the right standards for this sort of an operation and for this CANDU reactor?

Mr. Torgerson: We must meet all Canadian safety and licensing standards when we export a plant, so the plant built in Romania meets Canadian standards for safety and licensing. At the same time, when you sell a plant, you are also, of course, selling or at least transferring the technology and the background knowledge required for that plant. When we develop a plant and sell a plant, that plant must meet Canadian standards. It has to meet the standards in the country where the plant is being built, but it also must meet Canadian standards.

Senator Cochrane: Who sets up our Canadian standards?

Mr. Torgerson: The standards are set by the Atomic Energy Control Board, which regulates nuclear facilities in Canada, and they will be speaking to you later this week.

Senator Kenny: I heard Senator Cochrane ask how you know the standards are good enough. How do we know? You have said that you meet all the standards. You not only meet the standards in Canada but the standards of the host country and the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The question that Senator Cochrane is putting, or at least that I am putting in conjunction with Senator Cochrane, perhaps, is this: How do we know that those standards are any good?

Mr. Torgerson: At the end of the day, one has to reach international agreement at the technical level that these are the standards that are appropriate. There is an international standard espoused by the IAEA and generally recognized in what I would call the developed countries who have nuclear power, and that standard is the absolute to which all people compare and must be compared. We meet all those standards.

I think that if you wish to explore the standard in more detail, you probably should direct that question to the regulator.

Senator Cochrane: How often are these standards reviewed?

Mr. Torgerson: I mentioned that Canadian safety and licensing is the most rigorous in the world. You can ask the AECB for their opinion on that, but in Canada, for example, approximately every two years the nuclear facilities are relicensed and looked at again. In some jurisdictions, the licensing is for the life of the plant, but in Canada it is redone constantly.

Senator Cochrane: What is happening with the Pickering plant?

Mr. Torgerson: There are two parts to that plant, Pickering A and Pickering B. Pickering A, which has the first four commercial units in Canada, is shut down now while Pickering B continues to operate. The Pickering A units, which are the earliest first generation CANDUs, are in the process of being refurbished. They are scheduled to be all operating again by about 2003.

Senator Cochrane: Are the people around the area concerned? When Pickering A was shut down what were the communities saying? What are they saying now? They probably heard it will be reopened.

Mr. Torgerson: You would have to ask the people in the area. I would not want to speak for them.

Senator Wilson: It seems to me that the standards are looked upon purely as technical standards and not social standards. There must be some discussion of that in our committee.

The Chairman: We will get into that with the community people. If there are no other questions, I have a few. I wish to inquire into the issue of safety in terms of the new generation and what is operating at present. I agree with Senator Wilson that this appears to be the best of all possible worlds that you have presented to us.

The Nuclear Canada Yearbook 2000 ranks the performance of large reactors around the world. CANDU units that started up in the 1970s look fairly weak and are only operating at a certain percentage of capacity. To what extent do those numbers reflect safety-related shutdowns? When we looked at the change in the act, we also reviewed the Ontario shutdowns. There must be some safety-related incidents. Could you comment on that?

Mr. Torgerson: If there is a safety question at a plant, the plant will be shut down immediately by the regulator. A plant cannot be operated in an unsafe condition. That would not be acceptable to the regulator. It would not be acceptable to the operator.

I do not know which numbers you are looking at, but when you look at capacity factors you have to factor in that Ontario Hydro has eight of its units shut down right now, which is not helping the average at all. However, if you look at the plants that are operating, such as the CANDU 6 plant, which is the plant that Canada has exported throughout the world, then you will see that those capacity factors have remained quite high over their lifetime. In any one year, a plant can be down for maintenance or any other activity, but taken as a whole over a long period of time, these plants have averaged over 80 per cent capacity even though some of them have been operating for a long time.

The Chairman: It would be helpful if you could perhaps communicate to us in writing about your views of safety instances with the older reactors. In light of that, the next generation of reactors will have passive safety systems that require no action by reactor operators and no electricity. That is the European standard. What is the situation with older reactors? Is it feasible to equip them with these safety standards in the next generation? And at what cost?

Mr. Torgerson: Many of the features that we are looking at putting in advance plants can be back-fit into existing plants. One example is that in some reactor accidents you might generate hydrogen, an explosive gas. We have developed a passive recombiner that can destroy the hydrogen in the containment building. That is an example of a technology that could be back-fit into the older reactors. It is also being designed into the new ones.

CANDU has a tremendous amount of passive safety in it already because of the presence of this large water reservoir that is passively sitting there around the core; even if cooling of the core stopped, the heat could still be transferred into that large bulk of water. Having the heavy water moderator surrounding the core is the greatest passive system there is. That is why we sate that we believe that CANDU is the safest reactor technology.

The Chairman: Are you saying that the older CANDU reactors will meet those next generation safety standards, as the European light water reactors?

Mr. Torgerson: I will say that any reactor operating in Canada will meet whatever safety standards there are.

The Chairman: Even the oldest reactors?

Mr. Torgerson: The oldest ones will have to meet the standards. The regulator will insist that safety standards be met for all reactors, old or new.

The Chairman: In the Ontario situation, it was said that there were many management problems. One thing I heard that really shocked me was the non-existence of firewalls. I think you are familiar with that situation. In that kind of situation, when you have employees smoking and things like that, you are not looking at the heavy water, you are looking at what is happening inside. Is that a concern, or is that covered by what you are saying?

Mr. Torgerson: It would be most appropriate to direct that question to Ontario Power Generation.

The Chairman: I will ask a more general question. Senator Kenny asked why there were not more reactors being built. By the way, that is not the case just in North America; France has a moratorium, and Germany is discussing shutting down reactors. The head of the IAEA has said that the projection is that the share of nuclear power will fall to about 13 per cent in 2010 and 10 per cent in 2020. The future is not quite what you are painting it.

When we went to California we were bombarded with the subject of stranded assets. I believe that American taxpayers are now stuck with about $112 billion, which they must absorb after they have spent billions developing this industry. I do not know if I agree with you that the future for nuclear looks so good.

The cost of the last 20 nuclear plants in the United States was $3,000 to $4,000 per kilowatt of capacity, whereas the new gas-fired combined cycle plants using the latest jet engine technology, as Senator Kelleher pointed out, cost about $400 to $600 per kilowatt. Even if that is variable, that is a factor of 10. How would you relate those costs to what it costs to build the CANDU reactors per kilowatt?

Mr. Torgerson: The OECD has done a survey of the costs of various technologies.

The Chairman: Was that in a recent publication?

Mr. Torgerson: Yes, I believe this information was published in 1998. It is fairly recent. There you see the cost of a variety of different technologies. Your figures for the gas turbine are correct, but the figures for a nuclear plant seem extremely high.

The Chairman: That is what it costs in the United States. I am asking what is the cost of CANDU.

Mr. Torgerson: The cost of the CANDU built in Canada would be more like $1,850, so it is quite different.

The Chairman: You would have to reduce by about 30 per cent.

Mr. Torgerson: Not entirely. The total cost of the energy is both the fuel and the capital cost. At the end of the day, you must take into account the natural gas price. If natural gas is $2.50 per gigajoule, then depending on what the discount rate is for the cash, you can be competitive. If it goes up to $4.00 per gigajoule, then you are very competitive.

I do not want to downplay the tremendous benefit that natural gas has of having a lower initial capital cost. If you can pass the higher operating cost on to the customer, and you only have to put up the lower capital cost to the front, then that may be appealing in some jurisdictions.

The Chairman: You also stated that nuclear is the only alternative in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. There is also solar and wind, and the other interesting thing coming along is the fuel cell. What is your view on that?

Mr. Torgerson: Technologies like solar and wind have their place. I do not see them as being able to compete with large-scale energy production. Solar is just too diffuse. To gather all that energy together would be extremely difficult. The other problem is that when the sun does not shine, what will you do? Solar and wind energy have their place, but I am talking about large-scale energy production.

As far as fuel cells are concerned, I am excited about them. I think that is the way to the future. However, remember that fuel cells are not primary energy. They use something, but they burn clean hydrogen. The only product coming from that hydrogen is water and that is not a pollutant. However, the hydrogen must come from some place and it will either come from electricity, electrolysis cells to make the electricity, or it will come from natural gas, steam reforming. If you make the hydrogen from natural gas you are still getting the CO2 emissions.

The Chairman: In the United States, they can get as much energy saved from conservation, and that is why they are not building any further plants. I know this is not strictly speaking a safety issue, but in your scenarios have you also built that in? If people would do proper conservation, we could get away with using a lot less energy and probably operate with what we have got for many years. That question obviously does not address China or other places.

Mr. Torgerson: It is easy to conserve when you have a significant amount. However, in places that do not have electricity, such as China, what do they have to conserve? That is where the growth areas are. We are not building capacity because our growth is very slow.

I went to an interesting talk at the Department of Energy a couple of weeks ago. I do not believe that conservation is working in the United States. I also believe that their nuclear program has really turned around, because it is extremely competitive. They have gone through a change, and you may wish to talk to people in the United States about that. Perhaps that is not within the purview of your committee.

The Chairman: We are basically interested in safety. Thank you for appearing today and for your presentation.

The committee adjourned.