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.

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New Fault Detection Technology to Improve Power Plant Safety

Fault DetectionResearchers at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Oshawa, Ontario, have been working with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and Bruce Power to develop innovative solutions for nuclear power plant safety.

The process is called Fault Semantic Network. Dr. Hossam A. Gabbar, who is a professor with UOIT’s Faculty of Energy Systems and Nuclear Science (cross-appointed to the university’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science), says the process will allow nuclear plant operators to truly understand potential fault possibilities and how best  to prevent them.

Dr. Gabbar and students have been developing computer models that use real-time utility data and simulate problems, or “faults,” at nuclear power plants.

This model-based approach can be implemented in parallel with a real plant. It is expected to enhance system performance by improving plant safety.

“This will enable operators like OPG and Bruce Power to actually model the fault and model the problems in critical equipment and identify what are the protection barriers or layers and what is the probability of different faults,” Dr. Gabbar said.

“It will allow operators to have a better understanding of actual fault propagation scenarios and will link these fault scenarios into safety protection layers to overcome any fault propagation scenario.”

Dr. Gabbar and his students have done a number of case studies that simulate things such as steam generation faults and steam pressure faults.

Canada’s nuclear power operations have a proven track record of being among the safest in the world. They are highly monitored, stringently regulated and continuously improved through the daily efforts of qualified professionals who are committed to ensuring public safety.

In keeping with the industry’s philosophy of continuous improvement, new methods and enhancements to existing methods are being developed in the areas of systems analysis, accident causation, human factors, error reduction and measurement of safety performance.

Using Fault Semantic Network (FSN) for troubleshooting faults in CANDU reactors will only build on the current knowledge and improve safety in the future.

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Terrestrial Energy Says Molten Salt is the Future of SMR Technology

IMSR core sizes
IMSR core sizes.

Terrestrial Energy is on the path to commercializing its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), which it says holds the greatest promise as an alternative to conventional energy sources.

“We believe we have a technology that is ideal for the small modular reactor market,” said Simon Irish, chief executive of Terrestrial Energy, based in Toronto. “We believe our technology will provide industry with a small modular reactor that provides power which is simply more convenient and more cost competitive than using coal.”

Global energy demand will grow substantially over the next generation, driven primarily by population growth and industrialization in Asia. Many countries seek secure, cost-competitive energy sources that avoid the climate-changing greenhouse gases generated by coal, natural gas and oil.

IMSR plant
IMSR plant.

“The need for game-changing innovation is far, far stronger this decade than decades before,” said Irish. “We face many problems identifying secure, safe and economically competitive energy supplies over the next two decades. Solving that problem with existing approaches is probably not practical.”

The molten-salt reactor system differs fundamentally from today’s water-cooled commercial reactors. Instead of using solid uranium as fuel, it dissolves the uranium in liquid salt mix. Irish said the technique gives the molten-salt reactor a unique safety profile.

“You can’t lose primary coolant because your fuel and your coolant are one and the same,” Irish explained, “and they are not under pressure as they are in traditional solid-fuel reactors.  The IMSR system is passively safe – meaning safety is assured even in the absence of backup power.”

IMSR section view
IMSR section view.

Although the molten-salt reactor is not yet commercially available, it uses a recognized, proven nuclear technology demonstrated in the late 1950s to the 1970s by the illustrious Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The trick is to change a working laboratory reactor into a reactor suitable for industry – and that’s where Innovation comes in.

Building on the Oak Ridge demonstrations, Terrestrial Energy has developed a reactor system that appears simple, safe to operate, convenient and highly cost effective for industry.  It could enter service early next decade.

“The first step on our path to commercialization involves the manufacturing and construction of our first commercial reactor at a site in Canada, and obtaining a license to operate it from the CNSC,” explains Irish. “We intend to have it up and running and connected to the grid by early next decade.”