Monthly Archives: October 2018

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Renewables on the rise, but not fast enough

Global carbon emissions rose 1.6 per cent in 2017 despite the fact renewable electricity generation increased significantly, according to a new report published in June.

BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy noted that the increase in emissions in 2017 came after three years of little or no increases in emissions.

“Growth in energy demand picked up as gains in energy efficiency slowed, coal consumption increased for the first time in four years, and carbon emissions from energy consumption grew,” wrote Bob Dudley, group chief executive for BP.

One other finding was how little the electricity mix has changed globally over the long-term.

“Despite the extraordinary growth in renewables in recent years, and the huge policy efforts to encourage a shift away from coal into cleaner, lower carbon fuels, there has been almost no improvement in the power sector fuel mix over the past 20 years,” explained Spencer Dale, group chief economist for BP. “The share of coal in the power sector in 1998 was 38% – exactly the same as in 2017 – with the slight edging down in recent years simply reversing the drift up in the early 2000s associated with China’s rapid expansion.”

In essence, this is like the cautionary tale of Germany’s Energiewende – where renewables only offset closed nuclear generation and coal emissions stayed high or increased.

“The share of non-fossil in 2017 is actually a little lower than it was 20 years ago, as the growth of renewables hasn’t offset the declining share of nuclear. I had no idea that so little progress had been made until I looked at these data,” concluded Dale.

In reaction to the BP report, Environmental Progress founder Michael Shellenberger wrote in Forbes magazine, “My organization, Environmental Progress, was the first to alert the world about the impact that declining nuclear power as a share of global electricity was having on efforts to deal with climate change. Over the last two years, renewable energy advocates have insisted that solar and wind can make up the difference. The new BP Energy data is further proof that they cannot.”

Here are some other notable findings from the BP report.

  • Energy consumption rose by 3.1% in China. China was the largest growth market for energy for the 17th consecutive year.
  • World coal production grew by 3.2%, the fastest rate of growth since 2011.
  • Global nuclear generation grew by 1.1%. Growth in China and Japan was partially offset by declines in South Korea and Taiwan.
  • Power generation rose by 2.8% with practically all growth coming from emerging economies (94%).
  • Generation in the OECD has remained relatively flat since 2010.
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Nuclear a heavyweight in the battle against obesity

For centuries, hunger and a lack of food was the norm for the general population.

Being overweight or obese was considered a symbol of wealth and prosperity. It wasn’t until improvements in farming and industrial technologies developed in the 18th century that the number of people who were overweight started to increase.

“The scarcity of food throughout most of history had led to connotations that being fat was good, and that corpulence and increased ‘flesh’ were desirable as reflected in the arts, literature, and medical opinion of the times,” a 2006 Baylor College of Medicine paper on the history of obesity explained.

Almost 200 years later, “being fat” or obesity is no longer good and has become a full-blown epidemic in both the developed and developing world.

In 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized obesity as a global epidemic as rates rose in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, China and Thailand.

“Overweight and obesity represent a rapidly growing threat to the health of populations in an increasing number of countries,” the WHO stated in a 2000 study. “Indeed, they are now so common that they are replacing more traditional problems such as undernutrition and infectious diseases as the most significant causes of ill-health.”

Now, nuclear technology is being used in the battle against childhood obesity, which has increased from 4.2% of the population to 6.7% between 1990 and 2010. Every third eleven-year-old child in Europe and Central Asia is overweight or obese, according to the WHO. And the problem is worse in developing countries. Of 42 million children under five years of age with excess weight, 31 million are in developing countries.

The IAEA is now supporting efforts to use isotope techniques to better measure body composition and energy expenditure to assess how lifestyle changes can help in the fight against childhood obesity, Body composition is assessed using the deuterium dilution technique by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR).

Through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) technical cooperation programme, the IAEA has supplied FTIR equipment to authorities in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece and Montenegro to help with analysis of deuterium enrichment in saliva samples.

During May’s European Congress on Obesity conference, the IAEA held a symposium titled “Assessing body composition for better understanding of risks related to childhood obesity and designing effective interventions” to explain the role of isotope techniques.

So how does the technology work?

A person drinks a weighed amount of non-radioactive water with deuterium, a stable isotope of hydrogen.  After a few hours the isotope is spread throughout the body water, which can be sampled in the form of saliva or urine.  Deuterium enrichment in saliva is measured using an FTIR or an isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS). Since the amount of deuterium is known, the total volume of body water can be calculated from the enrichment.  Based on the assumption, that fat is water-free, scientists can accurately determine the body’s ratio of fat and fat-free tissue.

“This nuclear technique is accurate and safe to use in all age groups, it is not associated with any radiation hazard, and is suitable for the use in field settings,” according to the IAEA.

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Another chicken recall, can nuclear technology help prevent salmonella in Canada?

On June 2, Health Canada issued a major recall of the popular No Name brand frozen chicken burgers to reduce the risk of salmonella-related illnesses across the country.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, there has been an outbreak of 59 cases of salmonella-linked illnesses between March and May in eight provinces across Canada due to exposure to poultry. None of the cases have been fatal.  The investigation is ongoing and it’s possible that more products may be recalled in the near future.

This latest recall is a reminder that frozen chicken products contain raw poultry and should be handled no differently than regular poultry. It is also a reminder that chicken is currently one of the food products not irradiated in Canada.

Food irradiation is the treatment of food with a type of radiation energy known as ionizing radiation. At the levels used for food irradiation, ionizing radiation contains enough energy to kill bacteria, molds, parasites and insects.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, currently only six types of irradiated foods can be sold in Canada – potatoes, onions, wheat, flour/ whole wheat flour, whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasoning preparations, fresh raw ground beef and frozen raw ground beef.

Beef was only added to the list just last year by Health Canada. This came after nearly 20 years of lobbying by the country’s beef industry.

More than 60 countries allow irradiation of food.  Unlike Canada, the United States has permitted the irradiation of fresh and frozen ground beef since 1999. The list of foods irradiated in the U.S. is much longer than in Canada and includes pork, lobster, oysters, shrimp, fresh fruits and vegetables, and poultry, which the U.S. approved for irradiation in 1990.

Shortly after Health Canada approved the irradiation of beef, one Canadian consumer group, the Canadian Consumers Association, called for poultry to be added to the permitted list of foods.

While poultry irradiation is practiced in the U.S. and is safe, the Canadian industry is reluctant to push for it due to concerns about public acceptance – a common issue across the broader nuclear industry.

In a 2010 interview, the president of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processor’s Council (CPEPC) explained the industry’s position.

“We believe irradiation is a good tool with good science behind it, and we’d like to see its use approved for poultry carcasses,” said Robin Horel. “However, before we would make an application to Health Canada for that, consumer attitudes would need to change.”

It is important to note that while food irradiation does not guarantee zero risk of foods causing illnesses like salmonella or E-Coli, it greatly reduces bacteria and other microorganisms that may be present in food. Even in jurisdictions like the U.S. where poultry can be irradiated, there are still recalls of chicken products due to handling issues during processing.

Remember, irradiated food must still be handled, stored and cooked properly.

If you would like to know more about the safety of food irradiation, Nordion has a great fact sheet online.

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2019 CANADIAN NUCLEAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS – CALL FOR NOMINATIONS

We are announcing the Call for Nominations for the 2019 Canadian Nuclear Achievement Awards, jointly sponsored by the Canadian Nuclear Society (CNS) and the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA).  These Awards represent an opportunity to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions, technical and non-technical, to various aspects of nuclear science and technology in Canada.

The deadline to submit nominations for the 2019 Canadian Nuclear Achievement Awards is January 12, 2019The Awards will be officially presented during the CNS Annual Conference held June 23 – 26, 2019 in Ottawa, ON.

Nominations may be submitted for any of the following Awards:

  • W. B. Lewis Medal
  • Ian McRae Award
  • Harold A. Smith Outstanding Contribution Award
  • Innovative Achievement Award
  • John S. Hewitt Team Achievement Award
  • Education and Communication Award
  • George C. Laurence Award for Nuclear Safety
  • Fellow of the Canadian Nuclear Society
  • R. E. Jervis Award

For detailed information on the nomination package, Awards criteria, and how to submit the nomination, see the linked brochure or visit: https://cns-snc.ca/cns/awards/. The nomination package shall include a completed and signed nomination checklist.

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Did You Know? Cleanest Energy

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France Sees Germany’s Nuclear Shutdown as a Cautionary Tale

Before coming to power, French President Emmanuel Macron endorsed a plan to reduce France’s reliance on nuclear to 50 per cent of electricity generation by 2025 from the current 75 percent.

This reduction in nuclear would be replaced by wind and solar, according to people who were supportive of the plan.

French President Emmanuel Macron

For nuclear energy supporters around the world, France’s high percentage of nuclear (along with Ontario’s) is often pointed to as an example of how to properly and rapidly decarbonize a grid. So, France moving away from nuclear was seen as a moral defeat.

Fast forward almost a year later, and Macron has done a major reversal on his promise that has largely gone unnoticed on this side of the Atlantic.

As recently as August, French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, formerly a famous journalist and environmental activist before joining Macron’s cabinet, had proclaimed that France would close up to 17 of its 58 reactors to meet the 50 per cent target by 2025.

In 2015, the previous government of Francois Hollande had voted an energy transition to reduce nuclear to 50 percent by 2025 but had taken no steps towards closing any reactors. Hulot’s comments signified that Macron would take action.

But the backtracking from the Macron government came quickly when Hulot said in November that trying to meet the 2025 target, as Reuters reported, “would increase France’s CO2 emissions, endanger the security of power supply and put jobs at risk.”

Then in late December, Macron himself said the 2025 target was not realistic, said he would not follow  Germany’s example of phasing out nuclear because he wanted to cut carbon emissions and shut down coal.

“I don’t idolize nuclear energy at all. But I think you have to pick your battle. My priority in France, Europe and internationally is CO2 emissions and (global) warming,” he said in a TV interview.

 

“What did the Germans do when they shut all their nuclear in one go? They developed a lot of renewables but they also massively reopened thermal and coal. They worsened their CO2 footprint, it wasn’t good for the planet. So, I won’t do that.”

“Nuclear is not bad for carbon emissions, it’s even the most carbon-free way to produce electricity with renewables,” Macron added.

Macron’s turn around on nuclear shows that, to be serious about fighting climate change, one needs all the tools in the toolbox to be available.