Canadian Geographic
Left navigation image
Fueling Canada

Nuclear Power

In 1944, an engineering design team was brought together in Montréal, Quebec, to develop a heavy water moderated nuclear reactor. The National Research Experimental reactor (NRX) was built at Chalk River, Ontario, and started up in 1947. It provided the basis for Canada’s development of the CANDU series of pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) for power generation, and served as one of the most valuable research reactors in the world.

The key to the success of the CANDU system is its simplicity, its use of natural uranium as a fuel, and the ability to refuel without shutting down. The reactors use heavy water under pressure as a coolant, as well as a moderator.

Uranium exploration in Canada began in earnest in 1942 and accelerated in 1947, resulting in significant discoveries both near Elliott Lake, Ontario and in northern Saskatchewan. By 1959, 23 mines with 19 treatment plants were in operation in five districts and uranium exports of $330 million exceeded the value for every other mineral.

A new burst of exploration in the 1970s resulted in major discoveries in northern Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin. Rabbit Lake, Cluff Lake and Key Lake mines started up in 1975, 1980 and 1983 respectively.

Canada is the world’s largest producer of uranium. In 2004 production at 13,676 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate was about 30% of total world production. Its value was about $800 million.

Canada generates about 616 billion kWh per year and has a high per capita use of power - about 15,800 kWh per year. In 2006 nuclear power contributed about 16% of this power, compared with 58% from hydro, 16% from coal and 6% from gas.


This map features a legend that pinpoints the locations of Uranium mines and nuclear power plants in Canada. Users can zoom in to explore in better detail.


On the next page:

Renewable Energy

Go now!  Go now!
Quiz :

When did Canada's first oil boom take place?