SMRs:  From small beginnings

You might have missed it, because there wasn’t any fanfare.  But this country’s small modular reactor industry now has an advocacy group of its own, dedicated to nurturing a flourishing small reactor industry in Canada.

The Emissions-Free Energy Working Group (EFEWG), like CNA, is a membership-supported industry organization.  Member companies join to create a common voice.  It was clear in recent years that regulators like CNSC, and other stakeholders, needed to have a point of dialog with the industry on SMRs – a point of dialog that no one SMR designer/vendor could provide very well by itself.  EFEWG Executive Director Roger Humphries has led the conception and creation of EFEWG, which now has by-laws and paid members.

EFEWG has already been involved in at least one valuable regulatory research project:  INPRO’s “Case supplier_countryStudy for Deployment of a Factory Fuelled SMR.”  The Canadian team (EFEWG, CNA and CNSC) elaborated a case study of the regulatory problems posed by deployment of a land-based SMR across international boundaries.

CNA is proud to have helped in the creation of EFEWG.  We will continue to give Roger and his team our support in realizing their vision of a flourishing Canadian small reactor industry.

Nuclear Innovation

New SMR association to present on November 18

The Emissions-Free Energy Working Group, Canada’s new small reactor association, will make a efewg_logopresentation on the margins of next week’s Annual General Meeting of the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries on Nov 18 in Ajax, Ontario.  This AGM is themed on Small Modular Reactors Development and Applications.

Here’s what EFEWG Chair Neil Alexander has to say about this event:

OCI is pleased to announce that the Emissions-Free Energy Working Group (EFEWG) has chosen to use the opportunity provided by the OCI AGM and conference on small reactors to hold a follow-up meeting of its own on the work it is doing.  All members of OCI are invited to attend. The meeting is free to members of OCI and CNA but organizations are asked to limit their attendance to one or two representatives.   The meeting will be of interest to SMR vendors, potential SMR operators, EPCs seeking to build SMRs, safety and licensing consultancies and other supply-chain organizations that may benefit from the development of this new industry that will be complementary to the nation’s CANDU expertise.

 The vision of the EFEWG, a not-for-profit industry association, is a flourishing small reactor industry in Canada and it is presently identifying what must be done to turn that vision into a reality.  In the first phase of its activities it is in a dialogue with regulators, both nationally and internationally, and other stakeholders with a goal of ensuring that a framework for regulation is in place that assures public safety and is appropriate for these new technologies. 

 The meeting will start at 10:00am and will be held in one of the board rooms at the Ajax Hilton Garden Inn.  Details will be provided at the conference. The meeting will include presentations by the Chairman of EFEWG, Neil Alexander, and its Executive Director, Roger Humphries, on the activities of EFEWG and will include discussion of work that is taking place by IAEA through its Innovative Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO)  program.

Nuclear R&D Uncategorized

A sunny view of risk

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Blue-eyed John Stewart
Blue-eyed John Stewart

Like many blue-eyed, middle-aged men who’ve been hiking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking since childhood, I have basal cell carcinoma, in the form of little low-grade cancerous spots on my skin.

Exposure to non-sun radiation is one of the main risk factors.  It’s apparently #2 after too much sunshine – and not counting being blue-eyed, middle-aged, and male, none of which I can be expected to avoid, at least not at this point.

So how come the medical advice I get doesn’t say anything about avoiding licensed nuclear facilities?  My doctors know what I do for a living, but none of them tell me to stay clear of Chalk River, Blind River, Kincardine, Port Hope, Darlington or Pickering.

Instead, the advice I get from them is 90% about hats, shirts, glasses and sunscreen (fair enough).  About 5% is about avoiding tanning beds and sun lamps (no problem).  About 3% is about staying in the shade (ha!).  And the remaining 2% is about taking vitamin D so I won’t mind sitting in the shade for the rest of my life.

Why nothing about the nuclear industry?  Because emissions from nuclear facilities are so low, they don’t matter.

The non-sun radiation sources that health care organizations talk about include anything other than nuclear power plants, including:

  • Cancer treatment itself (radiation to treat a first cancer might cause a second cancer)
  • Naturally occurring radon gas in my basement
  • Weapons testing programs that occurred before I was born.

Why nothing about the nuclear industry?  Again: emissions from nuclear facilities are so low, they don’t matter.








WiN Canada – 12th Annual Conference

Women in Nuclear is a worldwide association of individuals, focusing on women, working in various fields of nuclear energy and radiation applications and has a vision of making the public, especially women, aware of the benefits of these applications and of the culture of safety that ensures protection of the public and the environment. In Canada, we have over 1,400 members in all disciplines within the nuclear industry.

I am pleased to announce that the 12th annual WiN Conference is November 8-10, 2015.  The theme of the conference is Linking the Nuclear Family: Past, Present & Future. Delegates will gain a sense of where the industry began, where it is headed and how to flourish in a change environment to better position themselves for future success.


The conference takes place on November 8, 9 & 10, 2015.

Sunday, November 8th: Program includes social and networking events along with the opening reception at 7:00 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn, Ajax Ontario.

Monday November 9th: Full Day Conference,

  • WiN-Canada AGM
  • Speakers Include:  Angela Mondu – President of ICE Leadership and Author of ‘Hit the Ground Leading’, Jeremy Whitlock – CNA, Dr. Audrey Li – Lakeridge Health, and many others.
  • Panel Discussion:  Communicating the Nuclear Brand
  • Breakout Sessions:  Leadership, Industry Best practices, Science & Technology
  • Door Prizes
  • Networking Dinner and interactive entertainment with a unique beat!


Tuesday November 10, 2015:  Participants will also have the opportunity to sign-up for Technical Tours at Darlington Nuclear Energy Complex (DEC) Reactor Mock-Up and Darlington Learning Center (DLC) Simulator, GE-Hitachi and Rolls-Royce, the Operator Training Facility and Pickering Nuclear In-Station, the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI), the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Energy Research Centre Labs and Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE).

WiN (Women in Nuclear) is a world-wide association of women working professionally in various fields of nuclear energy and radiation applications.  WiN-Canada was formed in early 2004 and has been working to support the objectives of WiN-Global and emphasize and support the role that women can and do have in addressing the general public’s concerns about nuclear energy and the application of radiation and nuclear technology. WiN-Canada also works to provide an opportunity for women to succeed in the industry through initiatives such as mentoring, networking, and personal development opportunities.

WiN-Canada Conference Registration Ends Soon!

Don’t miss your chance to register at www.wincanada.org



How OPG Stores Nuclear Waste Today

When people visit nuclear power plants, they’re often amazed to see nuclear workers standing right beside containers of used nuclear fuel.

“You can safely stand next to them, knowing the radiation is safely contained,” says Val Bevacqua. He is in charge of used-fuel storage for Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which owns all the Ontario reactors that generate electricity.

What makes them safe? They’re made of concrete more than half a metre thick and lined with steel plate. Each of these large, white bins stands about four metres high and weighs 60 tonnes – empty.

Once the spent fuel goes in, skilled workers weld the container shut, vacuum-dry the interior, pump it full with inert helium, and test rigorously for leaks.

Used fuel is very hot and radioactive. A robot removes the fuel bundles from the reactor and places them in bays that look like swimming pools. Despite the strong radiation, Val says, “just a few metres of water can provide a remarkable protective shield for workers and environment from the radiation.”

After about 10 years, the fuel bundles cool and lose most of their radioactivity. Then, nuclear workers use remote tools to place the fuel in the dry storage containers, which are kept on-site.


OPG employees are the operation’s core strength. They are all highly trained, and kept safe by radiation-protection equipment and dosimeters.

OPG’s used-fuel storage faces regular inspections by regulators, and the inspectors also make surprise visits. The inspectors track every fuel bundle. And they ensure that the storage containers haven’t been tampered with.

Onsite storage has worked well. The containers are safe and secure. But the sites have to be managed and guarded, and the containers won’t last forever. Eventually, Canada intends to store all used fuel underground, at a site with the right geology and a willing host.

Communities that have shown interest in hosting the permanent site are learning more through OPG. “We’re part of the community, and we host a lot of tours,” says Val.

“Tours are an opportunity for communities to see for themselves what is involved in the safe handling of nuclear fuel and how these hazards can be safely handled without risk to the workers, the public, or the environment.”


Where Will Canada’s Spent Fuel Go?

The plan to store nuclear waste underground at a site near Kincardine, Ontario is only for Canada’s low- and intermediate-level waste. It does not include spent fuel – the uranium that has been used in nuclear reactors.

Spent fuel is much more radioactive, and has to be handled with greater care. So, a separate plan is underway to store all of Canada’s spent fuel permanently underground, in a deep geological repository, or DGR.

Science and the community

Spent fuel storage containers at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station
Spent fuel storage containers at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station

Up to 10,000 years will pass before the radioactivity of spent fuel drops below the radioactivity of natural uranium in the ground. So, storage needs careful planning. Fortunately, Canada has many rock formations that have not moved for millions of years. Many parts of Canada also have types of rock, such as granite, that stop radioactive material from seeping through.

Those are scientific reasons for choosing a DGR location. But people will also live and work around the site. It’s essential for those people to understand and accept what is involved. In 2002, the federal government created the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to find a DGR site and build it.

Under the laws governing the NWMO, getting approval for the site means proving that the DGR project is scientifically sound and accepted by the host community.


The process for selecting a spent-fuel storage site started in 2010. It will take about 10 years to finish. It began with the NWMO providing public information about the process. Then, 21 communities came forward to express interest. The NWMO is assessing those communities, but not all of them have the right geology or enough community support. So, the list has been narrowed to nine communities, all in Ontario.


The NMWO will also consult with nearby communities, and study possible effects of the DGR. The NMWO will then ask communities still on the list to formally decide on whether they agree to host a DGR. The preferred community will then sign an agreement with the NWMO. The agreement will need approval from the federal government.

After the agreement

With a host site selected, the NWMO will first build a “demonstration facility,” then build the DGR itself. Canada will have a place to store its spent fuel permanently. The NWMO will continue to talk with Canadians about the DGR and keep local communities involved.