Energy Security and Canadian Foreign Policy: A Role for Nuclear Energy

Recently the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI) published a "Policy Perspectives" paper I wrote, as part of its Canada and energy security series. Below is a summary. You can read the full paper on the CGAI.


Canada’s civil nuclear energy capabilities can have a role to play in supporting and furthering Canada’s security and foreign policy interests. But absent a strategic perspective, this advantage and its potential are overlooked. Is there a means to connect this clean energy source to our interests and influence in global affairs?

Over the past decade, both Conservative and Liberal governments – for different reasons – have missed opportunities or failed to capitalize on the credibility and influence this technology provides to us internationally – especially in building relationships and shaping norms and standards of relevance to national security and advancing commercial success.

Here and there one sees sporadic recognition of Canada’s civil nuclear capabilities – from uranium mining to high-performance CANDU reactors to medical isotope production to research and development of ultrasafe next generation technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs). But these are like pieces of a puzzle that remain unassembled, without consolidation into an effective tool of foreign policy.

While there are recent signs that the government is recognizing the nuclear sector as a player in the ambitious effort to decarbonize the Canadian economy and reach the goal of net-zero-emissions by 2050, the role of nuclear in climate change policy has not been strategically connected to broader foreign policy and national security interests. Putting the pieces together is a strategic task; it starts with recognition of the interplay of energy, climate, geopolitics, and commercial competition.

The article argues that such recognition – and ultimately policy formulation – requires a strategic, whole-of-government approach to the foreign policy potential of Canada’s civil nuclear sector. It offers suggestions on where to start in this regard; and further provides recommendations aimed at elevating our perspective on nuclear energy to a more strategic level.

These suggestions and recommendations may assist in preparing us for the inevitably bumpy ride wherever clean energy and climate change objectives meet geopolitics. By strategically integrating civil nuclear capabilities with our international interests, we can better strengthen Canada’s security, influence, and economic opportunity in an increasingly turbulent world.