Fourth annual Economic and Innovation Summit looks to the future

The 4th annual Economic Summit held on Friday, November 15th in Georgian Bluffs, drew politicians and those involved in the nuclear industry from across Grey, Bruce and Huron counties that make up the ‘Tri-county’.
The Summit was organized by Bruce Power, Bruce County and the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCNI) and featured several guest speakers with links to the nuclear industry.
James Scongack, Executive Vice President Communications and Operational Services, emceed the event.  “We are in a competitive electricity market and we have to ensure that complacency does not set in.”  Scongack made reference to a recent speaking engagement in Calgary where the vacancy rate is now at 40 per cent given the downturn in the oil industry.  “Economics goes in ebbs and flows and the energy market can change quickly.  It’s things that we can all do together that will build competitiveness that will create sustainability over the long term.”
Keynote speaker, Greg Lyle, President and CEO of Innovative Research Group, had many figures at his finger tips, including the fact that when polled, eight out of 10 Canadians favour nuclear energy, and is public opinion advisor to Bruce Power.
“Much of what we do is influenced by public opinion,” said Scongack.  “What do people think about energy?  What do people think about the economy?  How does all that fit in with the political environment?  How does nuclear fit in?  We can say that we generate low-cost, clean energy.  Many nuclear plants in the U.S. are closing because there isn’t the political support.  In Germany, nuclear plants are being closed and the government is going back to coal and electricity prices are going through the roof!  If Greg leaves with one message, it is about all the advocacy work that we do together.  This is a pro-nuclear fortress in this area and, with us being united, we can deliver a strong message to the rest of the province and the country.”
“The Federal government has a real challenge right now,” said Greg Lyle, “and nuclear could step up and be a solution.”
Not everyone understands nuclear however, and Lyle told those in the room that they have to get their message out that nuclear is a clean source of energy that can help with the transition to a carbon-free environment while creating high-skilled jobs and fuelling the economy.
“The role of nuclear replacing coal-fired plants in Ontario has been recognized globally as a contribution that Canada has made,” said Lyle.  “People believe climate change is real but most think that the government is not doing enough.”
“Canada however, is one of the most responsible countries in the world when it comes to exporting natural resources,” he added. “As we move to an energy transition, the public is divided.  Where the government is under pressure is with the partners that it needs in a minority government situation. If the government needs to keep its partners happy, it needs to be doing more.  Nuclear energy will play a key role in reducing carbon emissions and the industry has to get the word out before its critics.  Now, however, there is more support for nuclear energy than there has been in the past, including on the prairies.”
Lyle made the point that with moving toward electric vehicles, including trucking, the energy required to ‘fuel’ them will increase.  De-carbonization of vehicles will increase demand on electricity producers, such as hydro-electric, which will not be able to keep up with the demand. He also pointed out that with the loss/reduction of gas and oil exports, technology exports may fill the gap. “People accept there is a strong economic base with nuclear but they need to know that, if there is to be a real reduction in the carbon footprint, then nuclear has to play a part in the transition from fossil fuels.”
“The door is open for nuclear energy and people are now open that it is part of the solution,” said Lyle.
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Mike Rencheck, Bruce Power President and CEO, said that “… we can never take things for granted .. when we do, things will slip away. People have a tendency towards being complacent when things go well … we have a long way yet to go … but I say we are just getting started.  We are doing really well.  There will be upsets and disagreements but we have to remember one thing, we only got this far by working working together and supporting each other every step of the way. That’s what makes the journey successful.”
He pointed out that there are going to be a “… lot of investments in the Bruce Power facilities.  This will create a real economic opportunity for all of our supply base, all our communities throughout Ontario and 90 per cent of the money we invest stays in Ontario.”
There are some 480 companies that support Bruce Power directly with many more indirectly.  The Major Component Replacement (MCR) program continues on to 2033 with the Life Extension Program (LEP) going on to 2045.  “This is not short term,” said Rencheck. “This is an economic engine and where will it take us.  This is something we all have to think about.  The future is ours to create and ours to realize and ours to make it the best we can.”
“We can’t let the critics hold us down or hold us back,” added Rencheck.  “This is an organization that, when we work together, we are strong and it’s that strength that will carry us forward into the future.”
He said that the need is being created for more people and more leadership that need to keep pace with the investments.  “It’s imperative that you (suppliers) recognize that you will have more work than you have ever had in the history of your companies.  Don’t wait.  There is more coming and it will be coming by the truckload!  You will have to be in a position to meet the needs of Bruce Power, your company, your employees and your community.  Be proactive. It’s a new challenge and it can be daunting.  No one else in the world is doing this, not only for Bruce Power but for our communities and for an industry.  We are protecting and enhancing a way of life.”
The next steps are to focus on healthy companies, job creation … international exports.  “We have 59 companies in 65 locations and 250,000 sq. ft. of occupancy, over 300 small businesses created.  Community support is higher than its ever been.  We are the first Canadian company to give $1Million to Wounded Warriors.”
“From a social aspect,” added Rencheck,  “we will need schools as young families are taking root in the area.  We need more housing and affordable housing.  We need retail and infrastructure.  We need to focus on health care. We need to encourage people to move into the area. Young people have to go to other locations for education but we want to create an environment where they will be able to stay and build careers.”
“Thirty-five per cent of our workforce is under 35.  We need a potential university nearby,” Rencheck pointed out.  “Our Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) is now functional and a space is being created to share the work with our communities.  We are looking at a training secretariat to reach out to schools so that students can see the opportunities available in AI, environmental studies, work in isotopes.”
According to Rencheck, the next major step is to increase isotope production and become a world leader in cancer treatment.
Unit 6 MCR will begin in January.  More than $2Billion has been invested so far with another $8Billion by 2025 with a total investment of some $13Billion.  “We are advocating for the nuclear industry and we need the conviction to tell what nuclear energy brings to our community, our province and the country,” said Rencheck.  “Looking out to 2064, our future will be shaped by working together.”