Monthly Archives: May 2019

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CNA response to CBC story on SMR’s in Saskatchewan

Re Viable alternative’ or ‘greenwashing?’: Sask. experts divided on nuclear power

In your May 24 story, Jim Harding says Saskatchewan’s electricity grid is small enough to be powered by wind and solar.

While Saskatchewan has some of the best wind and solar resources in the country, there are limitations as to when these technologies produce electricity as well as how much can be accommodated on any one electricity system (regardless of the size of the grid). As a result, the way to create more “space” for renewables is to pair them appropriately with power that’s available 24 / 7.

As a result, the real question should be—what is the best mix of electricity for Saskatchewan?

The Government of Saskatchewan is considering new nuclear—specifically Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)—because the province has some of the world’s best uranium resources.

They are considering it because they know it works reliably and cleanly, and it generates great jobs.

Lastly, while giving credit for nuclear not emitting carbon when producing electricity, Mr. Harding claims that nuclear energy’s life-cycle emissions detract from this.

The fact is, all forms of electricity production emit some amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, even if they don’t burn fossil fuels.

Though nuclear energy does have an intensive life-cycle, from mining of uranium ore to storage of spent fuel, it releases no carbon in its operations. When all of these steps are taken into account, nuclear power still compares favourably with renewable energy sources – and is well ahead of fossil fuels.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nuclear power sits alongside renewables such as wind and hydro as electricity sources with lifetime carbon emissions of under or about 20 grams per kilowatt-hour (g/kWh).

Saskatchewan is blessed with abundant solar, wind and uranium resources. The best mix of technologies to decarbonize its electricity system is abundantly clear.

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CNA Response to HBO Miniseries Chernobyl

The worst nuclear accident occurred in 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, sixty miles north of Kiev, Ukraine, in what was then the Soviet Union.

Thirty-three years later, Chernobyl is now a critically-acclaimed HBO miniseries, which will run for five weeks during May and June.

Here’s a spoiler: Almost all the problems associated with the Chernobyl incident were particular to the Soviet-era reactor and the secretive government response.

The Chernobyl accident was a unique event at a type of rudimentary reactor complex that was becoming rare in the Soviet Union, and no longer exists at all.

Chernobyl reactor versus CANDU

It is almost impossible that an accident like the one at Chernobyl could happen in a commercial nuclear plant found in Canada or the U.S.

The RBMK reactor at Chernobyl was never built by any country outside the USSR because it is a flawed design.

It is also significantly different from Canadian CANDU reactors in several ways as the chart from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd below shows.

Containment

Containment is an airtight building made of concrete and steel that prevents harmful radioactivity from escaping the reactor in the event of an accident.

The Chernobyl reactor had no containment. The key factor in the widespread dispersion of radioactivity was the energy released from the burning graphite moderator and the absence of a containment structure capable of withstanding that energy.

CANDU reactors, like most Western designs, have a containment structure designed for its maximum credible accident, while its moderator is low-temperature, low-pressure water instead of graphite.

Design flaws

Chernobyl also lacked other safety mechanisms that are considered standard design in the rest of the world.

The root cause of the Chernobyl accident was a design flaw in the shut-down system that no other reactor in the world has.

The CANDU and RBMK designs have some fundamental differences. CANDU reactors use a heavy water moderator, while RBMK use graphite. Graphite can be a very useful material in a safe reactor design. But in an unstable design like the reactor at Chernobyl, it was fuel for the fire that resulted from the explosion.

Safety culture

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded that a “lack of safety culture” existed within nuclear power plants in the former Soviet Union, including Chernobyl.

Chernobyl was a testament to the former Soviet Union’s poor construction materials and techniques, and absence of safety culture.

In the years prior to the accident, managers ignored safety rules laid down by engineers so production quotas could be met. Workers and lower-level managers were afraid to raise objections when they saw something wrong.

Health impact

In 2006 the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) undertook a study to follow up on health effects.

Of the plant staff and emergency workers exposed to the huge core doses and toxic smoke at Chernobyl, 28 died from acute radiation sickness.

The UNSCEAR report also said Chernobyl was responsible for a “substantial fraction” of about 6,000 thyroid cancers among people who were children or adolescents at the time of the accident. By 2015, 15 cases had proved fatal.

“To date, there has been no persuasive evidence of any other health effect in the general population that can be attributed to radiation exposure,” the study concluded.

According to a 2005 World Health Organization (WHO) report, a maximum of 4,000 people might yet exhibit some ill effects as a result of radiation exposure attributed to the Chernobyl release (as opposed to other sources of radiation, such as natural background radiation or medical procedures).

For context, about 1,000 people die per year mining coal in China; about 2,000 people die per year in road accidents in Canada; and more than 3,000 people die per year from fire in the United States.

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Russia to build nuclear rocket bound for Mars and beyond

Design concept of the Russian nuclear-powered rocket.

The race to Mars and back to the moon is on and in November a Russian researcher announced a bold plan in the next generation of space travel.

Popular Mechanics reported that Vladimir Koshlakov, the head of Russia’s Keldysh Research Center, said he wants to build a nuclear-powered rocket.

Koshlakov said the rocket could be used to travel to Mars and beyond.

“A mission to Mars is possible in the very near future, but that’s not an aim in itself. Our engines can be the foundation for a whole range of space missions that currently seem like science fiction,” he said, adding that there was no timeline on when the rockets would be ready.

Their engine, he claims, could get to the moon in just a few days and Mars in seven or eight months.

The proposed design, which has been in the works since 2009, uses a unique propulsion system that is comprised of a gas-cooled fission reactor that powers a generator, which in turn feeds a plasma thruster.

Nuclear power has been used for space travel since 1961. Radioisotope Thermal Generators (RTGs) have been used for numerous space probes and missions. But a nuclear-powered rocket used for a mission would be a new development.

Both the U.S. and Russia had nuclear-powered rocket programs in the 1950s and ‘60s, but research was stopped in the ‘70s and ‘80s when both projects ran out of funding.

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Nuclear researchers produce the rarest drug on Earth

In September, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and TRIUMF announced they were teaming up on the commercial production of what’s been called “the rarest drug on earth.”

Actinium-225 is an alpha-emitting isotope with a short half-life that can be combined with a protein or antibody that specifically targets cancer cells. It has shown promise in experimental uses on late stage cancer patients to kills cancer cells.

Each year, the entire world only makes an amount equal to the weight of a few grains of sand.

The TRIUMF cyclotron centre in Vancouver had been discarding substantial amounts of Ac-225 for years, unaware of its potential.

Under terms of the partnership, TRIUMF’s high energy proton beam will be used to manufacture the isotope, while CNL’s nuclear-licensed handling and production facilities will be used to process the material.

The partnership could see an increase of hundreds of thousands of treatments globally, according to Triumf.

“We are delighted to partner with CNL on this important initiative, which has the potential to transform the lives of people who suffer from untreatable cancers,” said Kathryn Hayashi, Chief Executive Officer of TRIUMF Innovations, the laboratory’s commercialization arm, in a statement.

“This agreement will allow TRIUMF to leverage one of our core assets, the 520 MeV cyclotron, and our scientists and engineers, to produce this isotope on a scale that would enable more clinical development to make treatment available for patients with a wide spectrum of cancers that we can’t fight effectively using today’s technologies.”

“With over one billion medical treatments conducted using isotopes produced at the Chalk River Laboratories, CNL has served as a global leader in nuclear medicine for decades,” said Mark Lesinski, President and CEO of CNL, in a statement. “We view this agreement with TRIUMF as a natural evolution of this work, which will require industry-tested proficiencies in target manufacturing, radiochemistry, radioisotope analysis, and nuclear and chemical by-product management.

CNL and TRIUMF also recently announced that they will co-host the 11th Targeted-Alpha-Therapy Symposium (TAT11), a global forum for academic and industry leaders to meet and discuss the latest technical, regulatory and clinical developments in targeted radiopharmaceutical therapy. The event will be held in April 2019 in Ottawa.

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Top Five Takeaways from the 2019 Leadership Conference for Women in Energy

By Emily James, Communications Officer, Canadian Nuclear Association

On April 16 and 17, 2019 some of Canada’s most successful female energy leaders met in Toronto to share their industry knowledge and experience with professionals from across Canada’s energy sector.

Currently, 7.6 million women represent 48% of the working population in Canada. In the electricity sector, women make up only 26% of the workforce.

In addition to analyzing key trends in the global energy market, panel sessions and group discussions did not shy away from the issues facing women in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Skill development workshops on mastering negotiation and activating your own power to change the world of work encouraged attendees to leverage their strengths to improve organizational performance and move up.

Here are five empowering takeaways from the conference that will encourage women (and men) in their professions:

  1. Dive in!

Don’t get caught up in the details when starting a project or presentation. According to Annette Verschuren, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of NRStar Inc., a progressive energy storage development company, and former president of Home Depot Canada and president and co-founder of Michael’s of Canada, 60% is ready enough.

Many women believe things must be lined up 100% before taking action, but that can hold you back from taking a risk that could lead to success. Instead, strive for a mediocre strategy and excellent execution.

  1. Use your networks

Aida Cipolla, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Toronto Hydro presented on the importance of building internal and external networks. Cipolla suggests that networking is vital to career and personal growth. It can raise your personal profile, broaden your opportunities, and aid in working through industry challenges by learning from others.

Set a schedule and reminder for regular touch points with your contacts. Check in with those around you and see what you can do to help others reach their goals. Networking is about giving first and receiving later.

  1. Have a “growth mindset”

It’s easy to get discouraged as challenges arise but having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset can make all the difference when there are obstacles to overcome.

A growth mindset promotes learning from mistakes, challenging oneself, and feeling inspired by the success of others. Individuals with fixed mindsets tend to give up when feeling frustrated, engage in negativity when things don’t work out, and back away from challenges. One way to combat this is by simply doing more and thinking less.

  1. Be aware of unconscious bias

An all-male panel from Hydro One Networks Inc. explained how they became champions for diversity and inclusion after attending a Men Advocating Real Change (MARC) workshop. The program developed by global non-profit Catalyst has been successful in bringing awareness to men and women about the unconscious biases that often exist in the workplace and how to transform them.

Catalyst research revealed that less than half of men in the workplace believe gender stereotyping is a barrier to women’s advancement. By stepping out of their comfort zone and attending a MARC workshop, the panelists gained an understanding for what their colleagues were experiencing and became allies for change.

  1. Don’t give up

Ariana Huffington says that, “Failure is a stepping stone to success.” In this light, challenges become opportunities to help you progress rather than hindrances that hold you back.

Fear of failure can be paralyzing. Speakers suggested building resilience by trying new things and being willing to make mistakes. Detach from the outcome and with each experience, you’ll build the confidence necessary to find the success you seek.

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Nuclear industry steps in after GM layoffs

General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ontario.

Ontario’s nuclear industry has reached out to help General Motors (GM) workers affected by the company’s planned closure of their Oshawa, Ontario, plant.

On November 26, GM announced that it would close its Oshawa assembly plant the end of 2019 as part of global restructuring. The closure would affect more than 2,500 jobs at the Oshawa plant.

The layoffs will have a major impact on the Oshawa economy.  According to Unifor, the union representing GM workers, every job at the Oshawa plant is tied to seven spin-off jobs in the community.

But just four days later, Ontario’s nuclear industry stepped in to let Unifor know that it would do what it can to ease the blow to the community and workers.

Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) sent a joint letter to the leadership of Unifor, expressing support for workers at GM Oshawa.

“Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation recognize the role the auto industry and the Oshawa GM plant have played in Ontario’s economy for decades and we believe that we can play a part in keeping these highly skilled people in high-paying jobs in the nuclear industry,” the letter stated.

“Skilled tradespeople and skilled workers are one of our province’s biggest assets and there is a deficit being predicted in the Ontario labour market. Bruce Power, OPG and the Ontario nuclear fleet support employment and training opportunities for skilled workers.”

At over $25 billion, the refurbishment of Ontario’s nuclear power plants is the largest clean-technology investment in the country.

The refurbishment projects will put thousands of people to work and ensure economic prosperity for the province of Ontario for years to come.

“OPG’s Darlington Refurbishment Project and Bruce Power’s Major Component Replacement (MCR) Program are the two largest infrastructure projects in Ontario. We understand the value of a trained, skilled workforce for Ontario and we look forward to playing a part in keeping Ontario’s workforce employed,” the letter concluded.