Author Archives: Heather Kleb

Looking Forward to a Non-Destructive Future

By Heather Kleb
Vice President
Canadian Nuclear Association

Heather Kleb at
Heather Kleb giving one of the keynote speeches at the 5th International CANDU ISI Workshop & NDT in Canada 2014 Conference.

On 2014 June 18, I had the opportunity to provide one of the keynote speeches at the 5th International CANDU ISI Workshop & NDT in Canada 2014 Conference.

Conference organizer, the Canadian Institute for NDE (CINDE), is a not-for-profit organization with a mandate to promote awareness, and deliver education and certification testing in the area of non-destructive testing (NDT).

NDT, one of the least known but most widespread occupations, spans several industries, ranging from aerospace and automotive to petrochemical and nuclear.

NDT inspectors have played an essential role in assuring quality throughout the industrialized world since the early 1900s. They will continue to be relied upon during the implementation of major projects, such as the refurbishment of Ontario’s nuclear reactors. Refurbishing our reactors will involve opening them up right down to the core and inspecting, servicing, and replacing major components.

The NDT in Canada 2014 Conference provided the opportunity to share thoughts on these and other industry priorities. Over the past year, Canada’s nuclear leadership has re-examined its priorities in anticipation of major projects, such as refurbishment, decommissioning and waste management. As a result of this re-examination, a shared vision has evolved, which identifies both the opportunities and the challenges.

An NDT class in Hamilton, Ontario.
An NDT class in Hamilton, Ontario.

At the heart of the vision, is the desire to demonstrate excellent performance on major projects and to achieve supply chain success in supporting these projects. This of course cannot be achieved without a continuous supply of skilled technicians, engineers and scientists in NDT and other areas.

The vision is not without challenges, however. A challenge that resonated with everyone at the Conference was that the demand for skills is rising, but many of the skilled workers who built Ontario’s reactor fleet are retiring. This is a challenge with which NDT inspectors are already very familiar.

While there are many qualified inspectors, there simply aren’t enough of them to meet today’s demand. We are increasingly seeing industries with competing demands for inspectors jockey to hire from the same pool of skilled workers, pitting the aerospace industry against the petrochemical industry, and other industries.

The industry vision has the potential to bring significant opportunities to the workforce. A key element in that strategic vision will be the quantification of the demand for skilled workers.  This is the subject of study by Canadian Nuclear Association members, as well as key NDT stakeholders (the Quality Control Council of Canada, the NDT Management Association, the NDT Certification Body, and the CINDE).  There is a collective realization that taking the time to plan will result in immediate benefits, as well as pave the way for future demands.

The Future of Nuclear in Korea: Sustaining Today; Assuring Tomorrow

By Heather Kleb
Vice President
Canadian Nuclear Association

BEXCO Convention Centre in Busan, Korea
BEXCO Convention Centre in Busan, Korea

There was an impressive turnout at this year’s Korea Atomic Industrial Forum / Korea Nuclear Society (KAIF/KNS) Annual Conference, with over 600 participants from more than 10 different countries.

The conference took place at the BEXCO Convention Centre in beautiful Busan, Korea. Busan, a port city, is known for bringing people together from all over the world, to attend its international conventions and exhibits.

The seats were filled as the morning keynotes began on April 16. By afternoon there was standing room only in many of the technical sessions. The number of participants swelled further as hundreds of high school students visited the trade show.

Ad on bus stop sign at Gimhae International Airport
South Korea’s nuclear industry ensures visibility through advertising, including on this sign at a bus stop at Gimhae International Airport in Busan.

The trade show had over 230 booths, representing 80 companies and organizations. Among the companies represented were AREVA, Westinghouse, KHNP, KEPCO E&C, KEPCO KPS, Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co., and the Korea Radioactive Waste Agency. As suggested by the conference theme, “Nuclear Beyond Changes and Challenges: Sustaining Today and Assuring Tomorrow,”  the nuclear industry has a strong presence in Korea and its contribution is in fact assured.

Korea is the fifth largest producer of nuclear power in the world and is poised to add 16 new reactors to its 23 reactor fleet. Nuclear power will continue to supply 30% of Korea’s electricity. Korea will be building on a history that includes four CANDU reactors.

Newspaper clipping from the Pinawa Press. The caption reads: "An exhibition game was held Sunday afternoon at the Pinawa soccer field between the Pinawa Selects and the Korean team, members of the Korean contingent who are on a work project with AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited) for 6 months. The game proved to be an exciting one with good action back and forth between the two goals…”
Newspaper clipping from the Pinawa Press. The caption reads: “An exhibition game was held Sunday afternoon at the Pinawa soccer field between the Pinawa Selects and the Korean team, members of the Korean contingent who are on a work project with AECL (Atomic Energy of Canada Limited) for 6 months. The game proved to be an exciting one with good action back and forth between the two goals…”

Korea has a long history of technology exchange with Canada. During the conference Korean scientists shared stories of their work experience at the Whiteshell Laboratories in Manitoba, and the Douglas Point reactor in Ontario.

In-Cheol Lim, Vice President of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, shared a Pinawa Press news clipping from a soccer match that he participated in while working at Whiteshell Laboratories. As the smiling faces suggest, it might be time for Canadian and Korean scientists to team up once again.

We hope to see many of them at the Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference in Vancouver, BC, this August!

It’s Business as Usual at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station

By Heather Kleb
Vice President
Canadian Nuclear Association

On March 25, 2014, I had the pleasure of meeting with staff of the Point Lepreau Generating Station in New Brunswick. You may recall that that was the day that a nor’easter hit much of Canada’s East Coast; a blizzard with winds reaching upwards of 150 km/h. The storm, described by meteorologists as a “winter hurricane,” or “a nasty spring weather bomb,” also hit Point Lepreau, where the station is located on the northern shore of the Bay of Fundy.

PL image

Despite being hit by the worst storm in over 10 years, it was business as usual at the Point Lepreau Generating Station. Staff went about their daily business in the calm, deliberate manner that they are accustomed to. Control room operators adjusted their plans in anticipation of the storm, planning to review them more frequently as the storm develops; their goal to continue to provide safe, reliable power to New Brunswickers. The station is the backbone of New Brunswick’s electrical grid, providing 25-35 per cent of the provinces’ power supply, but as much as 40 per cent when conditions demand it.

Heather at PL

The significance of their response to the storm was not lost on station staff. Having just come through a rigorous assessment of lessons learned from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the station had recently reaffirmed its ability to respond to seismic, fire, flood and extreme weather events. As you can tell from this photo of me in my Personal Protective Equipment, all was well in the turbine hall that day, as well as the rest of the station.

How the Nuclear Industry Works for Better Wildlife Habitat

By Heather Kleb
Vice President
Canadian Nuclear Association

I appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development last week to talk about a side of the nuclear industry that many people don’t know about. We’re doing our part not only to protect, but also to improve wildlife habitat.

I welcomed the opportunity to provide three good examples: AECL’s work with chimney swifts, OPG’s attention to northern redbelly dace at its Darlington generating station, and Cameco’s initiative to further our knowledge about the boreal woodland caribou in northern Saskatchewan.

Chimney swift
Chimney swift

AECL came across the chimney swifts’ housing issue as it was planning to decommission a stack that hadn’t been used in 25 years. Swifts like stacks, but as companies innovate and heating systems change, stacks are disappearing. This habitat loss is threatening the species.

AECL sought out a chimney swift specialist at Trent University and launched a research program to find out more about the species, and what could be done if the stacks were torn down. The knowledge they gained will not only help them understand the species, it will also provide solid information for making decisions about the maintenance, or decommissioning of the stacks. They will also gain valuable information on how to build replacement habitat.

Northern redbelly dace
Northern redbelly dace

OPG, meanwhile, has been working to make life better for the northern redbelly dace, a fish the size of a minnow whose preferred waters are calm and clean. Those aren’t qualities you’d normally associate with a construction waste landfill. Recognizing the opportunity to enhance the environment, OPG developed the pond in a way that gave the dace a new home.

Woodland caribou
Woodland caribou

And then there’s Cameco’s work to help us to understand woodland caribou, which moved onto the threatened species list a decade ago. The federal government’s recovery strategy, published last year, brought to light some significant gaps in what we know about the species. Cameco stepped up and developed a woodland caribou monitoring program in northern Saskatchewan, and sponsored a larger provincial research initiative.

These three projects demonstrate our industry’s commitment to environmental protection, our experience in environmental restoration and our willingness to enter into partnerships in carrying out such projects. They also demonstrate how we need to find new opportunities for partnerships and projects to offset environmental effects.

 

International Regulatory Cooperation: It Works!

By Heather Kleb
Vice President
Canadian Nuclear Association

What happens when you bring together nuclear regulators from 50 countries for a week-long conference in Ottawa? An approach to regulatory oversight that is impressively consistent and rigorous, including in how they responded to the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

I was very impressed by how thorough the regulators were in their response to Fukushima. Clearly they have been sharing a lot of information, the same way that the nuclear industry has been sharing our lessons learned from Fukushima.

Since the tsunami struck Japan two years ago, the nuclear industry has been working to ensure that safety standards and policies reflect current findings. Canada’s nuclear companies thoroughly assessed our own systems and operations to confirm their safety. We looked at back-up power systems and assured ourselves that our energy facilities could withstand tsunamis and other natural disasters.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), in its Fukushima Task Force Report, shared our view that all Canadian nuclear power plants are safe, and designed to withstand Fukushima-like conditions. Interestingly, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded that CNSC’s Fukushima response was prompt, robust and comprehensive, and an example for other regulatory bodies.

I hadn’t realized until this conference just how closely our regulators work together. I was encouraged to see that regulators from countries with lengthy nuclear experience are more than willing to help countries with newer nuclear programs to develop their own effective regulatory frameworks.  I was also pleased to hear from other regulators that the CNSC is widely recognized as “one of the top regulators in the world”.

The nuclear energy industry is an international community. We all feel the impact of events at other facilities, and we all share the same desire to make our industry safer.

The more we can share and communicate, the better we will be.