Monthly Archives: June 2019

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Your lifetime waste would fit in a soda can! Want proof?


Does this infographic look familiar? It should. For the past five years, the CNA has been using it to show how little uranium waste a person would generate over their lifetime if they relied exclusively on nuclear energy.

It’s always a big hit on social media because it’s a simple yet powerful concept.

But did you ever wonder how the CNA came to this conclusion? It wasn’t a guess. It was a calculation that involved several variables, including reactor capacity, refueling speed, electricity consumption, fuel volume, soda can volume and average life expectancy.

Here’s the full breakdown:

A CANDU 6 reactor typically has 380 fuel channels. Each channel has 12 fuel bundles which means at any given time, a reactor has approximately 4,560 fuel bundles.

This system produces ~2,000 MW of thermal power (heat), which is turned into ~700 MW of electricity .

Each week, approximately 60 new fuel bundles are put into the reactor. The fuel in the reactor is completely replaced roughly every 18 months.

This means that the power that a given fuel bundle will produce is:(Note 1 MWe = 1,000 kWe.)

A bundle produces ~153.5 kWe (depending on where it is in the reactor) for ~13,000 hours (18 months). Therefore, one bundle produces 1,989,360 kWh, which we’re just going to call 2 million kWh.

According to electricityrates.ca, Canadians use approximately 10,000 kWh of electricity per year, per household. This varies a lot by province, and even by household. This means:

1 fuel bundle = 200 years of electricity for a household

This is twice the number we normally hear. People don’t distinguish between household electricity use and electricity use per person. Approximately half of electricity use goes towards households in Canada while the other half goes towards industrial, commercial and government operations.

According to Statistics Canada, there are 14 million households and 37 million people in Canada, leading to an average of 2.6 people per household. This gives the length of time a fuel bundle produces electricity for a single person:

 1 fuel bundle = 520 years of electricity for a person in Canada

According to the World Bank, the average life expectancy in Canada is 82 years. This means that over the course of a person’s life they would need less than a fuel bundle, specifically, they’d need 82/520 of a fuel bundle, or 15.8%. This is approximately 1/6th of a fuel bundle per person.

The volume of a cylinder is:A fuel bundle is 50 cm long and 10 cm in diameter (source):

A typical soda can is 12 fluid oz and 355 ml. (Note 355 ml = 355 cm3.) Larger soda cans are 16 fluid ozor 473 cm3. This means that one fuel bundle would fit in roughly 12 normal sized soda cans.

One fuel rod:or 2,455 cm3 for all 37 (source).

The fuel bundle is 25 pellets per rod and 37 rods, making 925 pellets per bundle. Each pellet has a volume of:for a total pellet volume of 1,674 cm3.

A single person’s electricity use would be 265 cm3 of spent nuclear fuel (15.8% of 1,674 cm3), which would fit in a normal 355 ml soda can. If we include the zircalloy cladding from the bundle, the total volume would be 388 cm3, which would fit in a 473 ml soda can.

Therefore the spent nuclear fuel from one person’s entire lifetime of electricity in their home would fit inside a single soda can.

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CNA recognized for its commitments to Equal By 30

Last week the Equal by 30 campaign released Balance Means Business, a compilation of stories highlighting how the energy sector is working toward improving gender balance. The publication was launched at the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM10) in Vancouver, BC, May 27-29, 2019.

The compilation explores a number of ways that women are being encouraged to succeed within a traditionally male-dominated industry. Women currently represent only 22% of the energy sector compared to about 32% in renewable energy and 48% in the economy overall.

Equal By 30 is a public commitment by organizations to realize equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities for women in the clean energy sector by 2030. A signatory of Equal By 30, the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) has long been a supporter of gender balance.

Currently meeting and exceeding many of its Equal by 30 commitments, the CNA was pleased to be featured in the booklet which showcases several of the actions that the association is taking to promote gender equality.

Some of these actions include a recent contribution to the development of WONDER, a play about Canada’s first female nuclear physicist, Harriett Brooks, and sponsorship of the WiN-Canada Pioneer Scholarship awarded annually to women studying nuclear science and engineering.

Another action is facilitating an all-women panel of top nuclear regulators from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom at CNA’s 2019 conference.

Moreover, the CNA regularly produces videos and infographics, and participates in events that encourage women to pursue careers in the nuclear industry, believing that diversity and inclusivity are key components to solving the energy and environmental challenges of our time.

The CNA entry can be found on pages 14-15.

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IPCC report stresses the need for nuclear

Once again, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recognized the importance of nuclear energy in climate change mitigation.

In its October 1.5° Celsius Special Report, based on limiting the increase from pre-industrial times to 1.5°C, the IPCC outlined what kind of greenhouse gas reduction measures will be required to meet this goal.

Not surprisingly, the rapid decarbonization of the global electricity sector will require, at first, the deployment of proven large capacity power technologies, such as nuclear power.

To show how this can be done, the report looked at four emission model pathways.

To meet the 1.5°C target, the four emission model pathways project an increase in nuclear power generation between 98% and 501% by 2050, relative to 2010.

With population growth and improved living standards in the developing world, it will take all forms of clean energy to lower overall carbon emissions over the next three decades.

This is not the first time climate change mitigation models noted the important role of nuclear.

In 2016, the Canadian government released Canada’s Mid-Century Long-Term Low-Greenhouse Gas Development Strategy report.  It models eight different scenarios designed to achieve drastic GHG reductions by 2050, and in all cases, nuclear is a contributing energy source.

“In all of the low GHG economy modelling analyses, non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, wind, and solar replace fossil fuel generation well before mid-century,” the report stated.

CNA Responds

Small Nuclear Reactors are Powering Ships World Wide

The following letter from John Stewart, Director of Policy and Research at the Canadian Nuclear Association, originally appeared in the Financial Times on June 3, 2019.

You use a full page to outline the massive environmental impacts of oil-powered shipping, and even mention weak options like sails and batteries. Why don’t you give a few paragraphs to a safe, non-emitting way to drive large vessels that has worked well for 65 years?

Small reactors have driven submarines, aircraft carriers and icebreakers quietly and reliably all over the world since 1954. Amazingly few writers recognize nuclear as the clean energy solution that it already is, and will be. FT should have joined them long ago.

John Stewart
Ottawa, ON, Canada