Monthly Archives: February 2017

CNA2017

ONTARIO’S NUCLEAR ADVANTAGE: LOW-COST ELECTRICITY, JOBS & GROWTH; HEALTH & CLEAN AIR

Ontario has a nuclear advantage. Yet many in the province don’t realize it or how much it benefits them and their everyday lives
When we flick on the lights, turn on the computer, or charge electric vehicles, we give no thought to how our electricity is produced. We should take comfort in knowing that nuclear power is the backbone of Ontario’s electricity system.

Nuclear power provides families and businesses with a low-cost, safe, reliable source of electricity, and it makes our Energy Star appliances even cleaner when they run on low GHG-emitting Nuclear. For those who like solid facts: Ontario’s nuclear plants supply over 13,000 MW of clean power – or, about 60% of Ontarians’ needs every day of the week, every week of the year. What’s more, as Ontario’s electricity demand increases, with people turning to electric vehicles and the province growing in population and economic activity, nuclear power can expand to ensure our electricity stays clean.

When we think of the challenges of climate change, and the need for carbon-pricing, we do not automatically realize that nuclear power is virtually GHG-emissions-free. The clean electricity from nuclear generation is not impacted by cap-and-trade costs.

When we urge our governments to do something about the effects of climate change, we don’t always grasp that Ontario’s ability to end coal-fired generation was largely made possible by the return to service of two Bruce Power reactors, and the return to commercial operation of units 1 and 4 at Pickering.
The clean, smog-free air in parts of southern Ontario is a blessing to those with asthma or breathing problems. Today, Ontario has over 90% of its electricity powered by clean energy sources. Nuclear shoulders 2/3rds of that.

When we think of concerns about hydro bills, we often tend to lump all generation sources together. We assume they’re all equally to blame for producing expensive electricity. But that’s not the fact. Nuclear generation in Ontario is currently paid 6.6 cents/kWh compared to the average residential price of 11 cents/kWh, according to the Ontario Energy Board. And the power that’s bought by Ontarian consumers is reliable, not intermittent, and not dependent on the fluctuations of weather. Thankfully.

When we think of friends and family who have undergone treatment for cancer and when we assume that the medical equipment used around them is safely sterilized, we don’t say thank goodness for nuclear reactors. But we should. The reactors at Bruce Power and OPG’s Pickering plant produce 70% of the world’s Cobalt-60, used to attack cancer cells. Cobalt-60 is also used to sterilize gowns, gloves, implantable devices and syringes in hospitals in Ontario and around the world. What other energy sources treat cancer and save lives? Nuclear does.

When we think of high-tech, good-paying jobs for our families and children, we seldom look first to Ontario’s nuclear industry. But do Ontarians realize how many jobs are supported by the nuclear industry and how much communities benefit from having companies in the nuclear supply chain? The nuclear industry in Canada contributes over $6 billion annually to the economy and supports 60,000 direct and indirect jobs. Many of these are in Ontario, and they stay in Ontario because of the expertise and high-quality manufacturing and engineering skills required by the industry.

When it comes to innovation in advanced energy technologies, you only have to cite the potential of small modular reactors (SMRs) or the next generation of inherently safe reactors that recycle fuel to feel the excitement among the younger generation of scientists, engineers, environmentalists. They see increasingly what new innovations in nuclear can do to bring reliable, safe, emissions-free energy – in the quantities needed – to an energy-hungry world desperately wanting more. They will be the generation to deliver this extraordinary benefit to humanity.
Take all of these and add them up. What you get is Ontario’s incredible nuclear advantage. Time to recognize this and capitalize on it. Nuclear provides solutions to the pressing needs of today and tomorrow. Time to think afresh about nuclear and its contribution to growth, to the environment, to an innovative, clean energy future.

An opportunity for such thinking is the Ontario Government’s forthcoming Long-Term Energy Plan. This is where Ontario’s nuclear advantage is established, underpinned and presented imaginatively for the future.

For our part, the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) is proud to launch a new website that promotes fact-based awareness and understanding of Canada’s nuclear success story: www.ontariosnuclearadvantage.com Ontario’s world-class nuclear sector is something of which Ontarians and all Canadians should be proud.

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Low Carbon, Clean Energy: Making Communities Healthier

According to the U.S Energy Department’s latest International Energy Outlook 2016 (IEO), worldwide energy consumption will increase by almost 50 percent by 2040. Meeting global demand will require growing the renewable and nuclear power industries.

The IEA forecasts that worldwide nuclear power, which currently offsets an estimated 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions yearly, will slightly increase in its contribution to the global electricity grid. The forecasted 2 percent increase is not nearly enough. If countries like Canada are to meet COP21 targets and improve the health of our environment we need more nuclear.

Information confirmed in the latest IEO report found “even though non fossil fuels are expected to grow faster than fossil fuels (petroleum and other liquid fuels, natural gas and coal), fossil fuels will still account for more than three-quarters of world energy consumption through 2040.”

health2An extreme shift in weather patterns brought about by greenhouse gas emissions  has resulted in more heat and flooding, increasing the amount of ground-level ozone, carbon dioxide and particulates – all of which have negative health consequences

The climate change price tag for Canada’s healthcare industry is a hefty one. Data released by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) found that by 2031 air pollution related illnesses, including lost productivity and ER admissions could cost Canadian taxpayers close to $250 billion.

The projected ongoing use of fossil fuels is a concern both for meeting climate targets and for improving air quality which are critical components to improving overall health. In a 2014 news release, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported “in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.”

In Canada, the rates of Severe Asthma are rising, due in part to climate change. Over a quarter-million Canadians live with severe asthma.  Furthermore, allergies can be triggered by mold related to flooding and by increased pollen production from distressed plants.

“People with severe asthma may struggle to breathe even when they are taking their prescribed medication,” states Vanessa Foran, President and CEO of the Asthma Society of Canada.  “Environmental allergens are the primary triggers for 60-80 % of Canadians living with asthma,” she says.

Continuing to invest in low-carbon energy sources is an important step in improving air quality. The year 2000 saw a peak for coal-fired electricity generation in Ontario, with almost 50 million tons of GHG emissions being released into the environment. Fifteen years later, nuclear energy accounted for the majority of electricity generation – 66.5%, displacing over 90% of emissions, thereby cleaning the air and improving the health of Ontarians.

As Canada’s largest province moves forward in developing its next Long-Term Energy Plan, which has a key focus on clean, reliable energy, it is clear that nuclear must be at the forefront of discussions.

A safe and reliable energy source that contributes to climate commitments, nuclear power can help to improve the health of people around the world while meeting an increased global demand for energy.

CNA2017

Discover Your Inner Leader with Drew Dudley at CNA2017

Wake up bright and early on Friday, February 24, to hear from CNA2017 breakfast keynote speaker Drew Dudley.

Drew is a leadership educator who believes “leadership is not a characteristic reserved for the extraordinary.” Over the years he has worked to help people discover the leader within themselves.

Drew’s interest in developing people’s leadership began when he was the Leadership Development Coordinator at the University of Toronto. In 2010 he founded Nuance Leadership Development Services, a company that creates leadership curricula for communities, organizations and individuals. That same year Drew gave a TED Talk in which he called on all of us to “celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other’s lives.”

For more information about CNA2017 visit cna.ca/2017-conference.

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MZConsulting New Year’s Message 2017

By Milt Caplan
President
MZConsulting Inc.

Originally posted at http://mzconsultinginc.com/.

2016 was another tumultuous year for nuclear power. Decisions to close units in the USA early due to economic pressures in deregulated markets and the slow pace of restarting nuclear units in Japan continue to negatively impact the uranium market. However, the tide has now turned as the benefits to the environment and system reliability are being more broadly accepted with both New York and Illinois having taken decisions to keep marginal plants running.

Uranium producers continue to struggle due to low prices

The stock prices of Cameco in Canada, Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy in the US and Paladin in Namibia, along with uranium holder Uranium Participation are once again in negative territory in 2016. That is symptomatic of a current supply-anddemand imbalance. However, some Juniors such as Forsys, Mega and UEX, with highly prospective properties not in production, have done better in 2016. This is perhaps indicative that, while the immediate problem is falling uranium prices, the market recognized that new supply will be required in the longer term.

The spot price of uranium continued to fall throughout 2016 going as low as $18/lb in November before ending the year at $20.25/lb. Has the price finally hit bottom? Probably yes. The long-term price, only at around $30/lb, is finally in a place where even the low-cost producers are slowing production as they focus on cost cutting to remain viable. While more positive trends for the longer term continue, prices are likely to stay soft in the short to medium term until demand recovers.

Production in 2015 shows that of 19 producing countries, Kazakhstan (39%) is by far the largest uranium producer followed by Canada (22%) and Australia (9%). These three countries produce over two-thirds of the world’s uranium. Cameco’s McArthur River (12%) and Cigar Lake (7%) in Saskatchewan are the two largest uranium mines in the world, supplying some 19% of world production while eleven companies marketed 89% of the world’s uranium production with Cameco ranking second behind KazAtomProm.

Crisis creates clarity in the role of nuclear power

Economic pressures in dysfunctional US electricity markets as a result of very low gas prices and subsidized renewables, have put some 15 to 20 nuclear plants at risk of early closure. This has forced reluctant law makers to address the issue with many coming out in support of maintaining the nuclear fleet as an essential part of the mix based on nuclear’s low carbon footprint and its contribution to system reliability.

The result was an agreement in New York and in Illinois to keep struggling nuclear plants afloat. That being said, there is still more work to be done to solve the larger problem of markets that need reform. It was a pivotal year in the US, as the country’s first new nuclear plant in more than two decades, Watts Bar 2, came into service. Four more units are under construction, and NuScale has recently submitted the first application for design certification for an SMR. While support for nuclear is expected to continue, uncertainty remains as the new administration shows little interest in climate change and embraces fossil fuel development.

In Switzerland, the early closure for their nuclear plants was strongly rejected in a referendum while in Britain, there was a final commitment to the Hinkley Point C project with more new units to follow.

On the other hand, as another plant closed in Germany its carbon emissions continued to rise in 2016 as this plant was replaced with a combination of coal and gas. This was in spite of another 10% increase in new wind capacity and 2.5% of new solar capacity; and shows that trying to manage carbon while removing nuclear from the mix is extremely challenging.

Supply is finally responding to prices

One of the biggest issues facing the uranium market actually stems from the 2011 tsunami that resulted in the Fukushima reactor meltdown in Japan. That event caused Japan to shut all of its nuclear power plants and led Germany to accelerate its plan to shift away from the nuclear option. The swift shutdown of so many units pushed supply and demand way out of balance.

While it remains Japan’s intention to restart many of its shuttered nuclear facilities, progress continues to be very slow so that demand will be impacted for some time to come.

As a result, major producers like Cameco have been directing their efforts to cost-cutting and refocusing around its best mines. For example, the company reduced its capital spending projections for 2016 by around 10% and plans to cut operating costs further in 2017. Despite the downturn, it has continued to invest in its Cigar Lake mine because it’s relatively low cost to operate. The recent opening of that mine helped to cut Cameco’s cash costs of producing uranium by more than 20% through the first nine months of 2016.

Kazakhstan, the world’s largest producer, has been continuing to increase production year over year but now has announced it will cut production by 10% in 2017.

However, China will be entering the big leagues in uranium supply this year as the Husab mine in Namibia ramps up production. This elephant is expected to add about 15 million lbs to the market each year once it reaches full production. With mining costs above the current uranium prices and the world in oversupply, it will be interesting to see how China chooses to move forward.

Nuclear sector growth

In spite of all this apparent gloom and doom, the nuclear industry remains strong. 10 new units were completed in 2016, while three were closed. Of interest, only half of these completions were in China with the other half coming from Korea, India, Pakistan, Russia and the USA. With 60 reactors under construction world-wide; led by China, this is the largest nuclear new build construction in more than a quarter century. As China continues to meet their stated objective of 58GW by 2020, this period of weak uranium prices presents an opportunity to further build strong inventories for the future.

CNA2017

Op-Ed: Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan: Why Pickering Matters

Ontarians and their government are completing a review of the province’s Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) to guide energy decision-making over the next three years to 2019. As anticipated in the previous LTEP (2013-16), the government of Ontario announced in December 2015 plans for the refurbishment of 10 power reactors at the Darlington and Bruce Nuclear Generating… read more »

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NASA and Nuclear Power

marssoilviewNASA’s history with nuclear power dates all the way back to the early 1960s when the U.S. Navy launched a navigation satellite powered by nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy’s ability to withstand the most extreme conditions has made it an important part of space missions, including the Mars 2020 mission. The next journey to the Red Planet will focus on bringing back soil samples and exploring the atmosphere of Mars to determine its habitability for human life.

NASA recently highlighted the significance of nuclear energy stating, “Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Europa, Saturn, Titan, Uranus, Neptune, the moon, asteroids and comets.  A number of these missions could be enabled or significantly enhanced by the use of radioisotope power systems (RPS).”

A RPS works like this: Through the natural decaying process, isotopes produce a tremendous amount of heat. In the case of an RPS, as the isotope plutonium-238 decomposes the heat is converted into electricity which in turn is used to power travel through space. Plutonium-238 is an artificial element with a half-life of 88 years. The longevity of nuclear energy makes the RPS an ideal and reliable source of power generation even under the harshest of circumstances.

The challenging environment includes temperature extremes not known to earth. Take the moon for example. Temperatures on the surface of the moon can fluctuate between highs of 125 degrees Celsius and lows of -175 degrees. Another challenge with travelling to the outer reaches of the solar system, such as with the New Horizons missions, is being able to conduct research in the dark, requiring a power source that can still operate without the energy of the sun.

For the Mars missions, a big factor in power selection is dust. During its infamous dust storms, the red planet can kick up dust to last for weeks at a time, coating “continent-sized areas,” according to NASA.

Nuclear power has the added benefit of being compact.

“Solar would be too big and we’ve that learned dust in the Martian atmosphere accumulates on the solar cells, so unless you have wind storms to clear them off, you will kill the missions off by running down the batteries,” according to Dr. Ralph McNutt, principal investigator for the New Horizons Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation (PEPSSI), from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “If you want to run rovers on Mars and do it accurately and if you want to go to the moon and really investigate in permanent shadows you need nuclear power.”

Compact size isn’t just beneficial, it’s required when working in outer space. Einstein’s theory of relativity (E=Mc2), essentially states that the further the distance you want to travel, the more speed is required, therefore the mass of the object travelling must decrease.

The Rover for Mars 2020 will be about the size of a car and will measure approximately 7 feet in height. The nuclear powered MARS 2020 mission will launch in the summer of 2020 and could provide new clues to past life on the not so distant planet.