Our process helps Canada achieve sustainable development solutions that integrate environmental and economic considerations to ensure the lasting prosperity and well-being of our nation.


We rigorously research and conduct high quality analysis on issues of sustainable development. Our thinking is original and thought provoking.


We convene opinion leaders and experts from across Canada around our table to share their knowledge and diverse perspectives. We stimulate debate and integrate polarities. We create a context for possibilities to emerge.


We generate ideas and provide realistic solutions to advise governments, Parliament and Canadians. We proceed with resolve and optimism to bring Canada’s economy and environment closer together.

Nuclear Sector Water Workshop – October 28, 2009

On October 28, 2009, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), in collaboration with the Canadian Nuclear Association of Canada (CNA), hosted a Round Table meeting of experts from the nuclear energy community to discuss issues pertaining to the existing and future use of Canada’s water resources by the sector.

Canadian Nuclear Association logo

The focus of the meeting was to identify the current and emerging freshwater use and availability issues within the sector, and characterize the state of water use information/data within the sector. The final discussion of the meeting focused on recommendations to the NRTEE with respect to critical policy issues that the NRTEE might incorporate into its Water Program in 2010.

Water Use and Nuclear Energy

Duncan Moffett of Golder Associates supplied provided the key presentation at the meeting that provided a thorough overview of water use by the nuclear energy power sector including some of the key issues facing the sector. The information in this presentation served as the focal point for the meeting discussions.

Water is one of the most important resource requirements in large-scale nuclear power production and is primarily used for steam production and condenser cooling. Similar to all thermal electricity generation (coal, gas, and biomass) only a portion of the heat (~35%) generated in a nuclear reactor is converted to electricity.   In the case of a nuclear power station, no unused heat is discharged to the atmosphere and the all of unused heat is discharged to the aquatic environment.  Accordingly, most (~90%) of the water requirement for nuclear power generation is for steam condenser cooling, whether once-through or re-circulating system. This requires a continuous flow of cooling water circulating through the condenser. All the cooling water is therefore returned to the environment, however at a warmer temperature. Future developments involving nuclear facilities have good potential to implement newer technologies that will significantly reduce the water intake requirements where there are limitations on availability of water for once-through cooling.

Water Issues

The availability of significant volumes of cold water is critical to the nuclear power generating sector; as such all nuclear generating facilities are located on major water bodies. This requirement is a significant consideration in determining suitable locations of future facilities.

The effects of withdrawals and discharges to water quality are known and managed by the industry and can encompass:

  • impingement and entrainment of aquatic species due to increased currents in the vicinity of water intakes;
  • thermal discharges and the associated plume of elevated water temperature;
  • radioactive discharges;
  • chemical discharges, water treatment and purification chemicals.

Social license to operate and broad acceptability of the power source are enduring challenges for the sector. Public perception issue related to the aesthetics of cooling towers was a noted limitation.

The meeting participants note that there are no current examples of competing water needs being a problem for the nuclear industry; however the proposal in the Peace River region of Alberta was noted as a possible case where there may be multiple demands for allocation of water from the Peace River.

Water Use Information

Water use information was only briefly discussed during the meeting. Water use by the nuclear sector is closely monitored as the water balance is critical to operations. The availability of the information appears to be less accessible. Sources of information provided at the meeting were taken from publicly available environmental impact assessments and were generally accepted by the industry participants as being representative of their intakes and uses.

This area of information is noted as a gap in the NRTEE’s understanding of the sector and needs to be further looked into.

Direction for Further Inquiry by the NRTEE

It was noted that the NRTEE Water Program should look at water use and sustainability issues in the broader context of sustainable development.

The meeting participants noted a potential role for the NRTEE in explaining water use by the nuclear sector to the public. Issues related to water use in the nuclear energy sector are complex, technical and often require a discussion of trade-offs which are difficult to explain. If information related to water use across sectors could be “normalized” this could help make these discussions easier to understand. It was also noted that the trade-offs are better understood in the context of the industry life cycle, and as such presenting information so people understand the lifecycles across sectors would help with this understanding.

Participants noted that the technologies under consideration for future nuclear energy developments have improved significantly over the years.  Issues at older plants (e.g., Pickering) have been addressed in the designs of the newer Darlington plant.  In discussing future nuclear energy and water use the NRTEE should highlight the state of the art technologies that are used (e.g., Darlington).

Broader issues suggested for the NRTEE to look at included cumulative water use (in terms of watershed system including municipal use needs), as well as regulatory and governance of the industry.

* This summary is a brief description of the key points of discussion. It is intended to highlight the main ideas and discussion points and is not meant to be representative of the meeting in its entirety.





Frank Bajurny

Manager, Environment Programs Department

Ontario Power Generation

Jill Baker

Senior Policy Advisor

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

Katherine Balpataky

Research Associate

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

Maury Burton

Department Manager, Regulatory Affairs

Bruce Power

Hess Carisse

Fuel Services Division


Steve Coupland

Director of Environmental Affairs

Canadian Nuclear Association

René Drolet

Director of Policy & Research

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

Denise Edwards

Program Administrative Assistant

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

George Greene (Facilitator)


Stratos Inc.

Chris Hilkene

NRTEE Member; Chair, NRTEE Water Sub-Committee

National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE)

Duncan Moffett

Senior Principal

Golder Associates Ltd.

Judy Ryan

CANDU Owners Group (COG)

Zoltan Tompa

Director, Applications

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC)

Diane Villeneuve

Chef Environnement, Direction Production nucléaire


Don Wismer

Environmental Risk Assessment Specialist,

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission



Nuclear Sector Roundtable Meeting

October 28, 2009

Canadian Nuclear Association Headquarters, 130 Albert Street, Ottawa

Item Time Allotted
Introductions and Objectives

Opening comments from CNA and NRTEE

Overview of the NRTEE Program on “Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada’s Natural Resource Sectors”

9:00 – 9:20
Overview of Water Use and the Nuclear Power Sector 9:20 – 10:15
Water Use Issues in the Nuclear Sector


What are the key/priority water use issues facing the sector (now/future; and real/perceived)?

  • Water availability for the sector
  • Receiving environment

Are there industry concerns about water access and availability for future needs – e.g. competing uses?

What opportunities exist to improve the sector’s water use?

10:25 – 11:15
Sector Water Use Information Identification & Characterization


Types and sources of water information; what information is collected; what is required vs. what is voluntary?

What information is needed for using water balances?

11:15 – 12:00
Implications for Focusing the NRTEE’s Program and Closing

What are the priority areas that the NRTEE Water Program could examine to address water use issues in the sector?

12:45 – 1:30

Related Events See more events