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The Future: No Doomsday Cult Required

By John Stewart
Director of Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Doomsday

My adult son, who is a wise, reflective, intelligent and well-read man, recently shared with me his view of the world in a few decades.  It was apocalyptic:  dead oceans, cities run by criminal gangs . . . you get the idea.   (He was trying to persuade me to retire early and enjoy life while I can).

Admittedly, there is reasonable evidence for his forecast.  I happen to take a less pessimistic view.  He and I don’t disagree much on facts, but rather on how we project them into the future.

I’m also more historically conscious:  I’m more aware that it is not, and has never been, unusual to forecast that we are all doomed.

Doomsday predictions have been with us since ancient times.  They are doubly useful.   They employ fear to recruit believers into whatever religion we’re evangelizing.  And they provide the satisfying glow of knowing what a terrible end awaits those who won’t join us and how they’ll realize, when that end comes, that we were right and they were wrong.

There is always evidence that can be pressed readily into service.  Religious cultists generally point to society’s (always apparent) corruption and moral decline.  Thomas Malthus noted the unrestrained fertility of the poor.  Marx and the communist ideologues saw the clear drawbacks of industrial society, and predicted that capitalism would inevitably falter and collapse.  1960’s environmentalists overextended Rachel Carson’s solid, ground-breaking work on the effects of pesticides.  The 1970’s resource-exhaustion panickers distorted the Limits to Growth report; they took commodity price spikes as proof that the world was running out of natural resources.

There’s a bit of moral superiority at work.  Those who see the light, who invest in the new religion, are the wise and good.  Those who don’t agree wholeheartedly with them are mentally and morally deficient.  If they can’t be beaten in argument, at least they’ll see the error of their ways on judgment day.

These features have carried through from the ancient religious doomsday cults, to socialist ideologies, to present visions of Our Renewable Energy Future.  The old system is doomed.  The crash will come in our lifetimes (otherwise, why convert?).  To save yourself and prosper in these dark times, you must commit to the new religion.

Belief in society’s moral decay gradually fused with belief in capitalism’s self-destruction, which apparently now has become belief in our biosphere’s demise.  Indeed, the three have gotten quite muddled:   consumerism is portrayed as a kind of moral and spiritual decay, which has been foisted on humanity by corporations.  The system we’ve built is now destroying not just our souls, but itself and Mother Nature too. EarthTimeBomb

I realized this when listening to my son talk about the future:  Our Renewable Energy Future is somehow mixed up with Original Sin, the population bomb, and the inevitable crash of the capitalist system.  It’s repeatedly characterized as “inevitable,” the speed of its arrival is overestimated, and of course we can’t rely on failing corporate structures (or cities) to implement it. Somehow we’re all going to achieve it in small cooperative teams in the countryside.

There’s a lot of baggage here.  But my son and I acknowledged it and got beyond it.  And we continue to have the reasonable discussion we both want.  It can be done.

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Toronto To Host Climate Talks

Toronto will heat up in July. Amid the heat and humidity of summer, it will play host to two global events — the Pan-Am Games, and the Climate of the Americas Summit. More people will watch the games than the summit, but the talks may be the more important event.

In mid-June the Ontario government, led by Kathleen Wynne, touted the province’s track record on improving air quality.

Wynne tweeted out, “Ontario is leading the way in clean energy and the fight against climate change.”

It’s a good record. Ontario is the first North American jurisdiction to abandon coal as a source of electricity– an accomplishment made possible through its reliance on affordable, low-carbon nuclear energy.  In 2014, nuclear generators delivered 62.7 percent of the electricity carried on Ontario’s grid.

Nuclear’s clean-air contributions were confirmed recently by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

NUCLEARFINAL

The report states:

The very low CO2 and GHG emissions on a life cycle basis make nuclear power an important technology option in climate change mitigation strategies for many countries. The figures demonstrate that nuclear power, together with hydropower and wind based electricity, remains one of the lowest emitters of GHGs in terms of  CO2-(equivalent) per unit of electricity generated.

If anything, Ontario’s nuclear experience offers an excellent case study for the climate-change summiteers. Nuclear energy provides a climate-stabilizing foundation for energy development. Between 2000 and 2013, nuclear power production in Ontario grew 20 percent while coal’s power production shrank.

Today, nuclear energy’s steady, reliable, around-the-clock performance enables Ontario’s experiments with renewable energy sources. If ever storage technologies advance sufficiently, the renewable energy sector may someday match nuclear’s proven grid-scale reliability. Until then, nuclear is Ontario’s best bet – and an excellent example for the summiteers to take home.

 

 

 

 

Environment Nuclear News

The Next Generation of Nuclear

June in Paris. It’s a time for lounging in the gardens just outside of the Louvre and stopping into Berthillon’s for a sweet escape from the crowds. It’s also where young professionals from all over Europe will gather June 22nd – 26th to discuss the next wave of nuclear energy.

PARISTOWERA 2014 report by the IAEA looked at the role of nuclear energy in the fight against climate change.  What the report found, was that if substantial measures are not taken to curb CO2 emissions we will see our pollution footprint rise to an estimated 20% by 2035.

Population growth and economic development are driving the demand for electricity, forecast to double by 2050. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the demands of industry and population growth will require that 80% of all electricity generation come from low-carbon sources.

One of the most effective ways to meet these targets is through nuclear power.  In May, 39 nuclear societies representing 36 countries signed an agreement in Nice, France in May to show their commitment towards helping the environment.

The building blocks of this commitment will continue to be strengthened as an estimated 400 students and young professionals from across Europe gather in Paris to tackle energy generation and the environment head on.  According to Sophie Missirian, the SFEN Young Generation President, it is a key role for the future of the industry.

“I believe it is the role of the young generation to defend the idea that nuclear is a solution to fight climate change and must be recognized as such.”

Six months ahead of the big climate summit in Paris, conference organizers and attendees will key in on how to find success in December. They will take on issues including the impact of uranium mining on the environment, waste management options and the physics behind building reactors. The success of this year’s conference has yet to be realized but as one attendee put it, “It’s great that we are having this nuclear renaissance across Europe and across the world.”

The Young Generation Network exists in 48 countries. It was established twenty years ago by the European Nuclear Society as a way to exchange knowledge and encourage the participation of young people in national nuclear sectors.

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CNA Introduces Map of Nuclear Facilities

The CNA’s new map of nuclear facilities is here!

This fully interactive map displays all of the uranium mines and mills, research reactors, CANDU reactors and uranium processing plants across Canada.

The interactive components are numerous. Visitors can select which types of facilities they want to display, and whether or not the facilities are active, decommissioned or closed/shut down. They can also zoom in and out on any area of the map, and they can hover over any facility for additional information.

The map is fully functional on desktop, laptop, mobile and tablet.

Check it out at https://cna.ca/resources/map-timeline/.

Map of nuclear facilities

Environment

G7 endorses nuclear energy to stabilize climate

By Romeo St. Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

This week’s G7 leaders’ meeting in Germany made the future energy direction of the major industrialized nations clear.

The leaders have pledged to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by the end of this century.

“Mindful of this goal and considering the latest IPCC results, we emphasize that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century,” the leaders’ declaration stated.

The communiqué included a road map to this very long-term goal.

“And we will work together and with other interested countries to raise the overall coordination and transparency of clean energy research, development and demonstration, highlighting the importance of renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies. We ask our Energy Ministers to take forward these initiatives and report back to us in 2016.”

While renewable energy is specifically mentioned, you would have to read between the lines to realize that nuclear energy is on the table as one of the low-carbon technologies the leaders were referencing.

However, a quick glance at the G7 energy ministers’ communique from May of this year shows that the energy ministers themselves have already made it clear that nuclear is part of the solution.

“We support the enhanced use of energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as other domestic resources (including nuclear energy, which can work as a base load energy source, in those countries which opt to use it),” the energy ministers concluded.

Their statement reaffirms the direction the leaders gave at their summit last year. Their 2014 communiqué used the same language: “We will promote the use of low carbon technologies (including) nuclear in the countries which opt to use it…”

As the CNA has always argued, renewables and nuclear are both important pieces of the future long-term, low-carbon energy puzzle. Wind, solar, hydro… they’re actually partners with nuclear energy in stabilizing the climate.

In an article on the popular Energy Collective website last April, energy consultant Jesse Jenkins called for a dialogue aimed at ending the divisions in the two camps – divisions often seen daily on social media.

Jenkins’ column was the social media energy sphere’s equivalent of the Rodney King “Can We All Get Along” speech.

“Maybe renewables and nuclear can learn to get along after all. Maybe they won’t offer competing visions for a low-carbon power system in the end,” Jenkins concluded in a hopeful tone.

After this week’s G7 meeting, the debate about Nuclear v. Renewables in the future is a step closer to be resolved. It’s not one or the other, either or. It’s both.

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NRU is the Key to Canadian Nuclear Science and Innovation

The NRU reactor
The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River.

An advanced engineering and manufacturing economy – particularly one that values national autonomy and security – derives good value from having a nuclear research capability. The core of such a capability is a research reactor.

Canada has this capacity in the National Research Universal reactor (NRU), located in Chalk River, Ontario and operated by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, formerly AECL. But it will lose this capacity when the reactor shuts down as planned by March 31, 2018.

The NRU, a high-capability research reactor, is the core in a Canada-wide nuclear research and development infrastructure. It underpins CANDU reactor technology used in nuclear power plants, and supports many life-enhancing applications in as medicine, crop science, and food safety.

The NRU is a strategic training infrastructure. It develops the human capital Canada needs to maintain its international credibility on nuclear energy, non-proliferation, safety and security policies. This expertise includes having the means to regulate nuclear activities and provide for the safety and security of our citizens.

Innovation involving the NRU is already occurring in a number of key areas, such as advanced reactor fuels – a key selling point for CANDU reactors in countries such as the UK and China; and improved safety margins – which is a national security imperative for Canada both at home and abroad.

Innovation is greatly stimulated where there are crucibles or clusters of research and development, even if small, in a specific geographical area. In the nuclear field there are key R&D clusters around Chalk River Laboratories, the Sylvia Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation in Saskatoon, and southern Ontario.

Together these, plus research facilities at more than a dozen universities, and major scientific facilities such as British Columbia’s TRIUMF and Saskatchewan’s Canadian Light Source (CLS), make up Canada’s “nuclear eco-system”. In southern Ontario, the cluster includes engineering, manufacturing and construction companies that build and maintain the infrastructure for nuclear power generation as well as nuclear R&D.

But the NRU also has a role, practically as well as symbolically, for the success of Canada’s foreign policy, national security, and global markets action plan.

Canada owns the CANDU reactor technology used by seven countries. We have recognized expertise in all areas of the nuclear fuel cycle, from the mining and milling of uranium to the fabrication of advanced fuels to decommissioning and waste management. We bring high safety and security norms to the world. We have a proliferation-resistant reactor design based on natural uranium, not enriched fuel.

The NRU supports operating power reactors in Canada, particularly in life extension. It provides the special conditions that allow testing, experimentation and problem-solving, essential in dealing with aging reactor components. High radioactive environments are necessary to replicate reactor conditions. The NRU provides these, but not just for Canadian-based CANDU reactors.