Committee studies nuclear for oil sands

29 March 2007

[Parliament of Canada, 24 March] No decision should be taken on the use of nuclear energy to extract oil from Canada's oil sands until the "repercussions of this process are fully known and understood", the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources has recommended. Proponents say that using nuclear energy to produce the steam and electricity required to extract tar-like bitumen from the oil sands cuts carbon dioxide emissions and would be cost competitive with natural gas. It is estimated that a reactor of some 600 MW capacity could supply a processing plant producing 60,000 barrels of synthetic crude oil per day. In its report, the committee concluded that almost 20 such reactors would be needed to meet the production growth planned to 2015, when Canadian output from oil sands is forecast to reach 3 million barrels per day. Smaller reactors, with capacities of some 100 MW, could be more suitable for individual projects, given the limitations of shipping steam, the report said. Hot water can be transported over about 75 km, while steam can only be sent over some 25 km. However, those opposed to the concept of using nuclear plants to power oil sands production raised concerns about dealing with the resulting radioactive waste and the impact on the already depleted water supply. Energy Alberta Corp has proposed a C$5.5 billion ($4.7 billion) project which could see a two-unit Candu plant operate in the north of the province of Alberta to provide electricity to oil sands operations. The first of the twin reactors could come online by 2016, the second following a year later.

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Parliament of Canada