Author Archives: Erin Polka

Clean versus renewable energy: What’s the difference?

Since declaring climate change a national emergency on June 7, Canadian government leaders across parties are moving to develop their own policies on the issue to demonstrate they are poised for action.

Terms such as clean and renewable energy are being used in climate plans. But what do they really mean?

An article from earlier this year points out that the terms clean energy and renewable energy are sometimes used interchangeably, leading to confusion. Clearly defining what these terms mean and including them in climate change policies will be essential as Canada works to lower emissions and meet international commitments.

According to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada 2019-2022 (FSDS) clean energy is defined as “Renewable and non-emitting (such as nuclear) energy sources, and carbon capture and storage technologies, as well as the reduction of energy usage through energy efficiency.”

The FSDS defines renewable energy as “Energy obtained from natural resources that can be naturally replenished or renewed within a human lifespan.” Both definitions appeared for the first time in the Strategy’s Glossary of Terms in 2016 – the year the Paris Agreement was signed.

Yet Generation Energy, a report released by Natural Resources Canada in June 2018, refers to clean energy as “electricity produced from renewable energy (hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, etc.), as well as energy efficiency solutions.” Nuclear energy, the second largest low-carbon power source in the world, is left out of the definition entirely.

The term non-emitting is included separately in the report’s glossary defining it as “electricity produced from sources that produce no carbon pollution, such as hydro, wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, and tidal.”

If these definitions continue to change from one policy document to the next, it could result in energy plans changing as well, which could slow progress.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently reported that global declines in nuclear power could result in severe strain on the energy grids of advanced economies. Renewables would have to ramp up at an unprecedented rate resulting in $1.6 trillion in investments. This could affect not only cost per kWh but delay our ability to lower emissions and establish energy security.

By following the example of the FSDS and designing national strategies that include non-emitting sources such as nuclear in the definition of clean energy, and including clean energy along with renewables as part of the clean energy mix, Canada will be more likely to lower emissions quickly and efficiently.

Consistent use of the terms clean energy and renewable energy in climate change policies is not just about preventing misunderstandings; it could represent the difference between meeting our climate targets and missing them.

John Gorman visits SNC-Lavalin mock-up facility

On Wednesday, July 3 CNA’s new President and CEO John Gorman had the privilege of visiting the SNC-Lavalin control room simulator and manufacturing shop in Mississauga, Ontario.

Below are some photos they took during his visit.

John in the CANDU 6 Main Control Room Simulator speaking with Navid Badie (Senior Vice-President, Engineering & Chief Nuclear Engineer), right, and Michael Courtney (Advisor, Marketing, Strategy & External Relations)
John in the CANDU 6 Main Control Room Simulator looking at the Main Heat Transport Panels
Jeffrey de Beyer explaining to John how the single-rail slide table of the Calandria mock-up functions for training and tool qualification
Elisabeth Leon (Manager, SP3 Project Delivery) and John in front of a pressure-test system for Fuel Channel Closures
John holding a part made for the iron chamber with Peter Schicht (Manager, Manufacturing)
Peter Schicht showing John the waterjet which uses water to cut various materials
John looking into the Radiation Lab (largest in Canada) with Greg Squires (Senior Project Management Specialist)

On Queen Street: new president of Canadian Nuclear Association excited about emerging technology for industry

By Jesse Cnockaert
Originally published in The Lobby Monitor, May 15, 2019

As Canada works to reduce its carbon footprint, John Gorman sees his background in the solar power industry as something that will be of benefit in his new role as president of the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA).

“It’s going to take more than wind and solar and battery storage to meet all of the challenges that we’re facing when it comes to decarbonizing the electricity system and meeting this growing demand globally,” said Gorman, who took over at CNA on May 13. “From where I come from, I just can’t see how we can meet those challenges without nuclear energy. So, when the opportunity came to lead the CNA, particularly at this time when there are exciting new technologies in nuclear coming out, I thought it was an important opportunity to be able to contribute and promote Canadian technology here and abroad.”

Gorman takes over the position from former president John Barrett, and is currently registering to lobby on behalf of CNA.

He comes to CNA after more than seven years as president of the Canadian Solar Industries Association, the trade group that represents the solar energy industry across Canada.

Now with CNA, Gorman will be leading the organization that represents Canada’s nuclear industry.

Gorman may have switched his professional allegiance to a different source of electricity generation, but he considers both solar and nuclear as renewable forms of energy. He said his involvement in the energy industry stems from a personal desire to contribute in some way to climate change solutions.

“I think there’s a lot of work that has to continue in terms of educating the public about the role nuclear plays in Canada and can continue to play globally,” he said. “We’re going to need everything we’ve got in terms of clean energy for these problems.”

Two of CNA’s priorities in their discussions with the federal government are the international trade of nuclear technology, and greenhouse-gas emissions trading under Canada’s commitment in the Kyoto Protocol, the registry shows.

In the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty signed in 1997, countries accepted targets for limiting or reducing carbon emissions. Any countries with emission units to spare – emissions that are permitted but not used – can engage in “emissions trading,” where those units are sold to other countries that have exceeded their targets.

Gorman also sees this as an important time for the nuclear industry because of the emerging small modular reactors (SMRs) industry. SMRs are nuclear fission reactors designed to be smaller in size than conventional nuclear reactors, and can therefore be produced in larger numbers. These reactors are made to be portable and scalable, so that nuclear energy can be taken to smaller power grids and off-grid areas, like northern communities and reserves.

In November 2018, Natural Resources released the SMR Roadmap, a document intended to establish a long-term vision for Canada’s nuclear industry. In the roadmap, Canada is described as having “one of the world’s most promising domestic markets for SMRs,” and places the potential value for SMRs in Canada at approximately $5.3 billion between 2025 and 2040.

Natural Resources called SMRs an emerging global market that could be valued at approximately $150 billion per year by 2040, in a news release accompanying the roadmap.

Gorman’s background in energy also includes more than six years representing Canada’s solar industry as a member of the executive committee of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA is a policy advisory organization made up of 30 member countries to promote clean energy and share ideas for best practices.

He is also a former board member of the Green Ontario Fund, which prior to its cancellation in 2018 by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, was a non-profit provincial agency tasked with reducing greenhouse gas pollution in buildings and industry to help the province meet emission reduction targets.

CNA Announces 2019 Board of Directors

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) announced at its Annual General Meeting last week the election of its new Board of Directors to oversee the association’s strategy and overall direction.

Here are the 2019-20 board members:

  • Frank Saunders, President of the Nuclear Innovation Institute (Chair of the CNA)
  • John MacQuarrie, President BWXT (Vice-Chair of the CNA)
  • Jennifer Rowe, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Ontario Power Generation
  • Alice Wong, Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Officer, Cameco Corporation
  • William A. Fox III, Executive Vice-President, Nuclear, SNC-Lavalin
  • Brett Plummer, Vice-President Nuclear & Chief Nuclear Officer, NB Power
  • Mike Marsh, President and Chief Executive Officer, SaskPower
  • Eddie Saab, President, Canada, Westinghouse Electric Company
  • Sam Bambino, Vice President, AECON Nuclear
  • Pierre Tremblay, President and Chief Executive Officer, AECOM
  • Sanjay Krishnan, Vice-President Nuclear, Tetra Tech
  • Spencer Fox, President, E.S. Fox
  • *Jim Sarvinis, Managing Director, Power, HATCH
  • David Campbell, Senior Vice President, Veolia Nuclear Solutions
  • Michael Knaszak, Senior Vice President & Project Director, Sargent & Lundy
  • Mark Lesinski, President & Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Ltd.
  • Julie West, Vice President, Nuclear Safety & Licensing, Kinectrics
  • Vik Tathe, Vice President, Business Development, EnergySolutions
  • Richard Sexton, President and Chief Executive Officer, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
  • David Cates, President & Chief Executive Officer, Denison Mines
  • Howard Shearer, Chief Executive Officer, Hitachi Canada
  • *Bradley Michell, Ste Leader, IMI Critical Engineering
  • Michael Chatlani, Vice President, Marketing & Sales, Power Systems and Simulation, L3 MAPPS
  • Jason Jermark, Vice President, Power Generation Services, Siemens Canada Limited
  • Jordan Chou, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Power Utility Services Ltd.
  • Milton Caplan, President, MZ Consulting Inc.
  • Jeremy Rasmussen, Chief Technology Officer, PTAG
  • Nick Aroutzidis, President & Chief Executive Officer, NA Engineering Associates Inc.
  • Nigel Fonseca, Senior Vice President, Ontario and Western Canada, Alithya
  • Bob Walker, Vice President, Power Workers’ Union
  • Scott Travers, President, The Society of United Professionals
  • *Keith Stratton, President, Canadian Nuclear Society
  • Matthew Mairinger, Canadian Affairs Chair, North American Young Generation Nuclear (NAYGN)
  • *Lisa McBride, President, Women in Nuclear Canada

*New board member

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.

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.