Monthly Archives: July 2012

Guest Blog Nuclear Safety Waste Management

CNSC Response to ‘Debate Over Possible Nearby Nuclear Waste Site Buried’

The letter below is a response from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to an editorial that appeared last week in the Whig and the London Free Press. The CNA responded as well (you can read our response here). The CNSC is the federal government agency that regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment.  The editorial to which the CNSC’s Ramzi Jammal is responding was by a UWO professor – who writes about nuclear non-proliferation, but is not an expert in the regulation of nuclear energy or waste materials. Let’s get the straight goods from someone who is an expert in these issues.

 

CNSC response to the letter entitled ‘Debate over possible nearby nuclear waste site buried’ published in the Kingston Whig-Standard and London Free Press on July 21, 2012

Ramzi Jammal Executive Vice-President Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Your July 21 guest editorial by University of Western Ontario professor Erika Simpson, entitled ‘Debate over possible nearby nuclear waste site buried’, compels me to correct some inaccurate and erroneous statements that may confuse your readers.

To begin with, the author is confusing two completely distinct projects: Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposed deep geologic repository to manage low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste produced from the continued operation of the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations; and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) Adaptive Phased Management (APM) project for the long-term management Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

The article’s author was correct in stating that OPG’s project is for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste and does not include used nuclear fuel. But she then proceeds to speak of used nuclear fuel and to further confuse several other different issues.

The OPG project is for the long-term management of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations. This waste includes such things as tools, rags, filters, resins, refurbishment waste, and other radioactive contaminated materials. The government has appointed a panel to conduct the environmental assessment and the first stages of licensing for the project. Public hearings for the project are likely to be held next year in the Bruce area. More information about this project is available at nuclearsafety.gc.ca and www.opg.com.

The long-term management of used nuclear fuel is a separate project being managed by the NWMO which was established in 2002. In May 2010, the NWMO launched its Site Selection Process to identify a willing community to host a geological repository for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. As of July 7, 2012, 19 communities have formally expressed interest in learning more about the APM project to host a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel. More information about this project is available at www.nwmo.ca.

The NWMO’s project is still considered in its very early stages, and once the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission receives a licence application, it will carry out its due diligence in terms of safety and regulatory requirements. More information about CNSC’s early role in this project is available at nuclearsafety.gc.ca.

Your guest editorialist’s allusion that the CNSC is not independent is completely false. I would like to emphasize that the Commission is a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal, independent from any political, government or private sector influence. It is the Commission Members, and only the Commission Members, who render decisions based on all the evidence presented in the context of a hearing process.

The CNSC’s mandate is very simple. To ensure that nuclear activities are done in a manner that protects the environment as well as the health, safety and security of workers and the public and to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In the future, I encourage anyone writing for your publication to contact the CNSC in order to provide your newspaper’s editorialists with the facts, and as a result, editorials with more rigour and thoroughness, something this one is sorely lacking.

Ramzi Jammal
Executive Vice-President
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

CNA Responds Nuclear Safety Waste Management

DGR for Nuclear Materials is the Responsible Step

This article attempts to weigh the pros and cons of building a Deep Geological Repository (DGR) for Canada’s low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste material but really just ends up confusing the matter. We’re wondering exactly what are the cons of managing waste responsibly, something our industry does every day anyway. Plus, there’s a big difference between used-fuel and low-level waste.

There is a lot of misinformation in the article and we think it’s important to address some of it here.

Conceptual design of a Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) Source: Ontario Power Generation

DGR for nuclear materials is the responsible step

The proposed deep geological repository (DGR) is a responsible step Canada’s nuclear industry is taking for the long-term storage of low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste material, which is already extremely well managed.  Ontario Power Generation (OPG), with the support of Bruce County municipalities, is proposing to construct and operate the DGR.

The Joint Review Panel (JRP) for this project is holding a six-month public comment period which provides an opportunity for the JRP, public, interested stakeholders, and aboriginal communities to review and comment on it.

Low-level waste (LLW) is not used fuel.  Rather, it consists of minimally radioactive materials that have become contaminated during routine clean-up and maintenance in the generating stations. Materials include mop heads, cloths, paper towels, floor sweepings and protective clothing. No special protection is required when handling LLW. Intermediate-level waste (ILW) is also not used fuel; it consists of resins and filters used to keep the reactors’ water systems clean as well as irradiated reactor core components associated with the refurbishment of reactors. This waste, while much less radioactive than used fuel, is more radioactive than LLW and regulations require shielding to protect workers during its handling.

A four-year program of geoscientific investigations, safety assessment, engineering and design, and environmental field studies contributed to the environmental assessment process that concluded the DGR will not cause significant adverse effects to the environment or the public. This documentation will be the subject of a very thorough and robust regulatory and public review process, held in an open and transparent manner, to ensure the proposed DGR is safe for the public and environment.

There are several examples of other countries that are utilizing geologic repositories for the safe management of their L&ILW, including Sweden, Finland and the United States.  The proposed DGR has been rigorously scrutinized by environmental and regulatory agencies at various levels of government, has been open to public input and been found to be a responsible and sound plan. Each day Canadians working in the nuclear industry safely ship thousands of packages of radioactive material – many of them across the world. Radioactive shipments include medical isotopes, some smoke detectors, gauges and instruments, nuclear reactor fuel, uranium, and cobalt for sterilizing food and medical supplies. No member of the Canadian public has ever been harmed by a radiation release in transportation.

The Canadian nuclear industry provides a broad spectrum of products and services that benefit Canadians, including low-carbon electricity, medical isotopes, and food safety technologies. Our industry supports the employment of tens of thousands of Canadians and we are committed to ensuring safety throughout all aspects of our industry and being responsible environmental stewards across Canada and in the communities where we live and work.

For more information about the regulation of Canada’s geological repositories, visit the CNSC’s website: http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/about/regulated/radioactivewaste/regulating-canadas-geological-repositories-fact-sheet.cfm

Nuclear Education Nuclear Outreach Nuclear Pride

Cottrill Wins Education and Communication Award (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of our chat with CNS/CNA Education and Communication Award WiNner, Women-in-Nuclear Canada (WiN) Executive Director, Cheryl Cottrill. Cheryl is a passionate advocate for Canada’s nuclear industry and all of the many benefits our community brings to Canada and the world – such as low-carbon stable baseload electricity generation, important R&D for health and safety in many sectors like the auto, food, and health industries, and life-saving nuclear medical technologies.

Read part one about Cheryl’s Award and advocacy here.

[TalkNUclear:] What is next for you as Executive Director of WiN?

[Cheryl:] Our annual conference October 24-26 is my main focus at the moment. WiN-Bruce is hosting this year. The conference will focus on professional development, something women don’t generally take the time to work on as much as they probably should. By the time delegates leave the conference they will have the foundation of a career plan to further develop with the knowledge they have garnered throughout the conference. You can find more information about the conference at www.wincanada.org.

We have our second GIRLS (Girls in Real Life Science) Science Camp next week and we are partnering with the PWU (Power Workers Union) and NAYGN (North American Young Generation Nuclear) in two Skills Work! Summer Camps for Grades 7 & 8 in August.

Cheryl Cottrill (C) of Women in Nuclear (WiN) Bruce, helps Sarita Ahmed (L), 11, of Port Elgin, and Amanda Stuart, 10, of Kincardine in designing the perfect hot chocolate cup at the Girls Engineering Math Science (GEMS) Camp. Photo credit: The Saugeen Times

[TalkNUclear:] What can the industry do better to promote an appreciation of the benefits of nuclear technology?

[Cheryl:] We need to do a better job bragging about our accomplishments. We provide clean, reliable, baseload power to Canada, which powers our hospitals, schools, nursing homes, businesses and our homes. Our industry is also responsible for the production of isotopes and Cobalt 60, which are used in medical applications throughout the world to save many lives each day. This is all a very good news story that we need to shout from the rooftops. We have some of the brightest minds in Canada working in our industry and we need to do a better job of recognizing these people and celebrate successes throughout the industry.

[TalkNUclear:] On the topic of “advancing female interest in careers in the fields of science and technology,” do you have an opinion about the recent campaign by the European Commission called “Science, it’s a girl thing”?

[Cheryl:] First off, I’m sure their hearts were in the right place trying to do a video campaign that would appeal to 13-17 year old girls, but I believe that challenging stereotypes by using stereotypes, is misguided and not at all effective.

If I were a woman working in a science career I believe I’d be completely offended by the fluff and cuteness of this video. I doubt any female scientist goes to work in a mini-skirt and 3” heels.

Science is indeed a girl thing, but we need to promote this by providing girls with role models of women who have chosen STEM careers and are making positive contributions to society. That is what girls really want from careers today. They want a career where they can make the world a better place and where better to do that than through science. Providing girls with female role models, showing them how science connects to their world in a fun hands-on approach will help foster a life-long love of science.

Thanks, Cheryl. We couldn’t agree more. Congratulations again!

If you have a good story to share with the TalkNUclear.ca readers, please email TalkNUclear@cna.ca. We love featuring the excellent work and passion of our nuclear family.

Nuclear Education Nuclear Outreach Nuclear Pride

Cottrill Wins Education and Communication Award

Cheryl Cottrill, the national Executive Director of Women in Nuclear (WiN), was recently presented the CNS/CNA Education and Communication Award for her role in educating women and the public in general about the benefits of nuclear energy, while advancing female interest in careers in the fields of science and technology.

Cheryl is also active in the GIRLS Science Club and Camps, held at the Bruce Power Visitors Centre during school breaks. On top of that, she is also a key player in the partnership between Skills-Canada Ontario and WiN that promotes the advancement of women in skilled trades and technology careers.

We caught up with Cheryl recently to congratulate her on her recent accolades for her outreach and education efforts, and find out what is next for this nuclear energy and technology advocate.

Cheryl Cottrill, Executive Director of Women in Nuclear (WiN), with her CNS/CNA Award. Photo courtesy of Bruce Power.

[TalkNUclear:] Congratulations, Cheryl. It’s great to see you recognized by the industry for your outreach work. Was the award a surprise?

[Cheryl:] It certainly was. Unbeknownst to me, my board nominated me for the award. When I received the email announcing that I was receiving the award I had to read it four times before it sunk in.

[TalkNUclear:] Do you feel this recognition is important in highlighting the impact of women in skills and technology trades, such as those in the nuclear industry?

[Cheryl:] Women make up almost 50% of today’s workforce, are earning more than 50% of university degrees, but only make up approximately 20% of the nuclear industry. Most of those careers are in administrative and clerical functions. When you start talking about skilled trades, technologies and leadership positions the numbers quickly fall to single digits.  Women are making tremendous contributions to the industry, but it can be difficult to be recognized and heard in a very male-dominated industry. This recognition helps bring attention to the valuable contribution women are making to the industry and why the work that WiNners are doing to encourage more girls into these STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and skilled trade careers is so important to the industry’s future.

[TalkNUclear:] Who would you like to see win the award next year?

[Cheryl:] I’d love to see a new innovative education or communication program that would utilize new media and really drive the message of the positive benefits of our industry. I believe our industry should do a much better job talking about the positive contribution we make to society. It would be great to see someone who accomplishes that goal win the award next year.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of our chat with Cheryl. She’ll let us know what is coming up at WiN and share her thoughts on the European Commission’s recent efforts to attract girls to STEM careers.

Nuclear Energy Waste Management

Turning Waste Repositories into Nuclear Energy Hubs

There are some interesting points in this article about siting a nuclear used-fuel/waste facility, which states:

  • Acceptance of nuclear is high in communities with operating facilities – the communities understand and accept the risks and benefits. So, building a used-fuel/waste repository in a willing host community near existing nuclear facilities (and their expertise) makes sense.
  • There is also a strong argument to be made for co-locating nuclear facilities and building a “nuclear hub.” Savings in packaging and treatment for shipping would be significant.
  • Geology is also a key consideration for siting a deep geological repository (DGR) as a suitable rock formation is important for ensuring the long-term safety of stored materials.

Turning waste repositories into nuclear energy hubs

Nuclear Casks

By Jason Deign on Jul 17, 2012

The search for final repository sites tends to focus on putting waste as far out of sight as possible. But there are sound arguments for turning a repository into a nuclear centrepiece.

Dr Charles Forsberg probably knows as much about nuclear power life cycle costs as anyone. And the executive director for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a pretty clear message when it comes to final waste repositories.

“We have a strong recommendation that if you build a repository you should seriously consider co-locating lots of other facilities at the repository site,” he says.

“The problem right now in a repository is that because of the history of the cold war, what we did is we built all these fuel cycle facilities after everything was totally built. Then we said: ‘let’s go find a single-purpose repository to dump the trash.’

“We very efficiently separated all the benefits from the liabilities.”

This has led, in the US at least, to a policy-driven quest to find repository sites that are far from anywhere, and particularly far from other nuclear facilities.

Read the entire article in Nuclear Energy Insider. Click here.

Guest Blog Nuclear Energy

Ontario Nuclear Performance in the Recent Heat Wave

The following is reblogged from Steve Aplin’s Canadian Energy Issues blog. Steve does a great job explaining the realities of power generation in a carbon-conscious world.

Nuclear power generation plays an important role in providing Canada with a safe and reliable source of low-carbon baseload electricity. Currently, nuclear energy provides 15% of the electricity produced in Canada, and almost 60% in Ontario alone. Nuclear power generation is the most affordable source of non-hydro power, low-carbon electricity in Canada, selling on average at around $.06 per kWh. Plus because nuclear power facilities produce large amounts of continuous power, they enable the use of complementary renewable energy sources that are intermittent (such as wind and solar).

The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station – Operated by Ontario Power Generation

Ontario nuclear performance in the recent heat wave
July 10, 2012
By Steve Aplin

Anybody who followed the output of Ontario’s electric generators during last week’s heat wave would have noticed the nuclear fleet’s stellar performance. During the entire week, the sixteen nuclear units—with a total electricity generating capacity of around 11,500 megawatts—ran at just over 96 percent. Through the week of July 1 to July 7, they generated over 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours of rock-steady cooling power to fight the heat wave.

By contrast, the performance of the much-vaunted wind turbine fleet was dismal. The fifteen provincial wind farms scattered all across southern Ontario contain nearly a thousand individual turbines, and have a collective (fleet) capacity of around 1,700 megawatts. Over the same July 1 to July 7 period their actual output represented less than 14 percent of that capacity. They collectively produced less than 38 million kWh—about one-fiftieth of the nuclear fleet’s output.

Put another way, the nuclear fleet, the capacity of which is only 6.7 times that of the wind fleet, produced nearly 50 times as much actual electricity.

That’s called clutch hitting. When Ontario needed cooling power to fight the heat wave, nuclear stepped up and delivered it.

It is also called bang for the buck. Those 1.8 billion kWhs of nuclear electricity each cost around 6 cents. Each of the less-than-38-million wind generated kWhs cost at least 11 cents.

That is to say, Ontario rate payers paid less money for nuclear power, which—as last week proved—is by far the more reliable power source.

Moreover, nuclear is the only reliable carbon-free power source. People think wind is carbon-free. It’s not. Because wind is so unreliable, it must be paired with a backup source that is capable of delivering power on demand. In Ontario, the preferred backup source is natural gas.

Well, natural gas is mostly methane (CH4). React CH4 with oxygen—i.e., burn it—and you create a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) to go with the heat. That CO2 gets dumped into our atmosphere, where it swirls around for centuries before dissolving in ocean water and turning that water more acidic.

From an environmental point of view, the sheer unreliability of wind power during last week’s heat wave should come as a sobering wake-up call. If Ontario’s wind fleet only produced power at 14 percent capacity during a period when every megawatt of capacity was needed, then what produced the other 86 percent? The answer: natural gas. Gas is a carbon-emitting fossil fuel.