Author Archives: Romeo St-Martin

Meet Maria Korsnick at CNA2018

Maria Korsnick is president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the U.S.’s nuclear industry’s policy organization in Washington, D.C.

Drawing on her engineering background, hands-on experience in reactor operations and a deep knowledge of energy policy and regulatory issues, Korsnick aims to increase understanding of nuclear energy’s economic and environmental benefits among policymakers and the public.

Before joining NEI, she was senior vice president of Northeast Operations for Exelon, responsible for overseeing operation of the Calvert Cliffs 1 and 2, R.E. Ginna, and Nine Mile Point 1 and 2 nuclear power plants.

Before Exelon, Korsnick served as chief nuclear officer (CNO) and acting chief executive officer at Constellation Energy Nuclear Group. She began her career at Constellation in 1986 and held positions of increasing responsibility, including engineer, operator, manager, site vice president, corporate vice president, and CNO.

Korsnick holds a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Maryland, and has held a Senior Reactor Operator license.

Noted Academic Matthew C. Nisbet to Share Research at CNA2015

Nisbet

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Affiliate Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University.

He is a Senior Editor at Oxford University Press’ Research Encyclopedia Climate Science and “The Age of Us” columnist at The Conversation.

Nisbet studies the role of communication, media, and public opinion in debates over science, the environment, and technology. The author of more than 70 peer-reviewed studies, scholarly book chapters, and reports, at Northeastern University he teaches courses in Environmental and Risk Communication and Health Communication. Nisbet holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Communication from Cornell University and a BA in Government from Dartmouth College.

Nisbet has recently focused on shattering some of the myths about the challenges facing climate change advocates.

“One of the things that remain one of the common explanations of why we have inaction on climate change is that the mainstream media continues to engage in false balance about the fundamentals of climate science,” he explains. “In part I think this explanation is no longer true.

“What we know from research over time is that false balance remained a problem in the early 2000s and the late 1990s.” He says false balance disappeared in the mainstream media by 2007.

But false balance remains in outlets in U.S. political talk radio, Fox News and the conservative blogosphere, but people who use those sources of media are already have doubts about climate change and this serves as just a reinforcing factor.

He also questions the myth that environmental groups are being outspent by big business. Nisbet’s research found that in 2009 environmental groups brought in $1.7 billion in revenues with $390 million spent on climate and energy advocacy, while conservative think tanks and groups brought in $900 million in revenues and spent $240 million on climate and energy advocacy.

“To say that environmental groups are massively underfunded or they face a spending disadvantage against their long standing opponents in conservative think tanks, industry associations and advocacy groups is a false argument.”

Dr. Nisbet is among the featured speakers at CNA2015.

CNA2015 Presents Transatomic Power Co-Founder Dr. Leslie Dewan

Leslie Dewan

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Dr. Leslie Dewan is a key figure in the future of nuclear power generation.

In 2011, she co-founded Transatomic Power, which is making steadfast progress towards commercializing an innovative molten salt reactor fueled by nuclear waste.

“We’re developing a new type of reactor that can run entirely on used nuclear fuel,” she says. “It consumes the fuel and it reduces its radioactive lifetime while at the same time generating an enormous amount of electricity.”

Dewan said the company is aiming to break ground on a demonstration facility within five years and have it operational a few years after that. “For the nuclear industry, it’s very fast-paced,” she says.

Since last July, Transatomic has raised $4.5 million in startup funds.

The new funding will be used for lab testing of key components involved with the reactor design, and for refinement of the design for a prototype reactor. The company will be testing materials under a three-year research agreement with the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT.

Dr. Dewan graduated from MIT with a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, with a research focus on computational nuclear materials. She also holds S.B. degrees from MIT in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering.

“At MIT everyone around there was so excited about building crazy things and were just totally free and unrestrained in all the cool engineering projects they were putting together,” she recalls.

Before starting her Ph.D., she worked for a robotics company in Cambridge, MA, where she designed search-and-rescue robots and equipment for in-field identification of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.

Leslie has been awarded a Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship and an MIT Presidential Fellowship. She was named a TIME Magazine “30 People Under 30 Changing the World” in December 2013, an MIT Technology Review “Innovator Under 35” in September 2013, and a Forbes “30 Under 30” in Energy in December 2012.

CNA2015 Welcomes Canadian Olympian and Amazing Race Canada Host Jon Montgomery

JonM

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Jon Montgomery delighted Canadians by winning Gold in Men’s Skeleton at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Now, as host of The Amazing Race Canada, he is a charming ambassador for our country’s most beautiful sights. Whether he’s in snowy Nunavut, on a lentil farm in Saskatchewan, or on stage presenting a keynote speech, Montgomery is genuinely funny and always inspiring.

Montgomery will speak on the final morning of CNA2015 to energize our members.

Proudly Canadian, Jon Montgomery says that being the host of The Amazing Race Canada has given him an even greater appreciation for the country.

“I already had a profound sense I was a lucky man to be Canadian, but doing this show, you get to meet other Canadians, you get to see how they interact with the racers and a sense of commonality amongst the people.”

JonM2The Amazing Race Canada recently finished airing its second season.

Jon’s personal story is an inspiration for all.

He went from beginner on a skeleton track to the top of the medal podium at the Winter Games in just eight short years.

Jon got his start in skeleton racing in March 2002, after witnessing a skeleton race at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park while on a self-guided tour with his parents.

One week later, Jon experienced the exciting sport first hand at a Discover Skeleton School. He hasn’t looked back since.

Over the next few years, Jon steadily climbed the rankings while sailing head-first down frozen tracks all over the world. First competing on the America’s Cup and Europa Cup circuits, Jon has competed on the World Cup Tour and Senior National Team since 2006

Jon has also captured Silver at the 2007/2008 FIBT World Championships in Altenberg, Germany, and has earned eight World Cup medals (4 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze) and five Canadian National titles to date.

Leading Climatologist Dr. James Hansen to Speak at CNA2015

James Hansen - cropped

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Dr. James Hansen is one of the world’s leading climatologists and former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Dr. Hansen will speak to the CNA2015 crowd about the impact of emerging technologies and discoveries on our ability to maintain a sustainable climate.

“The sheer size of China’s electricity needs demands massive mobilization to construct modern, safe nuclear power plants, educate more nuclear scientists and engineers, and train operators of the power plants,” according to Hansen.

Perhaps the most prominent pro-nuclear environmentalist, Hansen has been credited for being one of first to warn politicians and policy makers about the dangers of climate change.

Hansen was one of four environmental scientists who wrote a 2013 open letter urging the green movement to give up its opposition to nuclear power.

“While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power,” the letter said.

Hansen has argued “nuclear seems to be the best candidate” to help the world move off of fossil fuels to generate electricity.

He’s thinks part of the problem going forward is with the public understanding.

“Nuclear energy is harder for people to understand, the idea of radiation,” he noted. “It’s been painted as very dangerous but it hasn’t been compared with the effects you will get from burning coal, which are very substantial and well known. It’s hard to get the public to understand and make that scientific comparison.”

Hansen has worked on increasing that understanding. In 2013, he published a paper with Pushker Kharecha that concluded nuclear power has saved 1.8 million lives by displacing fossil fuel sources between 1971 and 2009.

“Using historical production data, we calculate that global nuclear power has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning,” the researchers concluded in their study.

Top Ten Nuclear News Stories in 2014

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Greater media coverage and government concern about climate change powered a steady supply of nuclear energy issues in the media in 2014.

As 2014 closed, Japan pressed ahead with plans to restart its nuclear reactors, Germany’s Energiewende continued to raise questions about whether renewables can replace fossil fuels, and more and more environmentalists came to support nuclear power.

Here, in no particular order, are 10 of the most-talked-about nuclear energy issues of 2014.

China

The nuclear industry’s Asian expansion continued, with China leading the way. Not only is the country’s economy expanding, lifting millions out of poverty, but its middle class is fed up with coal-driven pollution in major cities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama announced a surprise climate agreement in December that would see China’s CO2 emissions peak by 2030.

Not surprisingly, Chinese leaders have begun to rapidly develop nuclear power, as the negative impact of Japan’s nuclear crisis in 2011 wanes. Under the country’s National Energy Administration’s latest Five-Year Plan, China will invest $196 billion in 101 new reactors between 2015 and 2030.

Canada will play a role in this scale-up. Candu Energy Inc. announced in November that its Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR) earned a positive review from a Chinese scientific panel. The review will lead to further development and construction with significant benefits to the Canadian industry.

“It’s a big step toward our entry into the biggest nuclear market in the world,” Jerry Hopwood, vice-president of Candu Energy, told the Toronto Star.

Radiation in perspective

Stories that brought perspective to radiation exposure were popular in social media, catalyzed in part by a United Nations report that dispelled one of the most popular myths regarding the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) said in its April report that it did not expect “significant changes” in future cancer rates that could be attributed to radiation exposure from the reactor meltdowns.

Social media also took note of a study by a Scottish mountain climber and radiation-protection advisor who found climbers scaling Mt. Everest received a radiation dose five times more than the average annual exposure of a UK nuclear power worker.

Google’s Energiewende

google hqWind and solar energy’s continuing unpredictability gained widespread attention thanks to in part to a viral story about Google’s decision to scrap its renewable energy program, RE<C.

“Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach,” wrote Google’s Ross Koningstein and David Fork in a piece published in IEEE’s Spectrum.

“We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope—but that doesn’t mean the planet is doomed.”

Climate debate

Nuclear’s contribution to climate change mitigation gained further global recognition. The Economist published a chart that listed nuclear power as the third-biggest contributor to GHG reductions, trailing the Montreal Protocol (which reduced chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons) and hydroelectricity, but much further ahead of renewables.

To slash or to trim

Also the latest policy report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) included nuclear among the clean energy technologies whose total output must quadruple to help avert catastrophic climate effects.

Environmentalists continue to go nuclear

Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy
Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy

More environmentalists and scientists joined the likes of James Hansen and Mark Lynas as public advocates of nuclear energy.

Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, joined the advocacy group Nuclear Matters.

Browner said in a Forbes piece that she had been anti-nuclear, but changed her position because of nuclear’s beneficial role in offsetting climate change.

In December, 75 conservationist scientists wrote an open letter to environmentalists urging them to reconsider nuclear energy because it helps preserve biodiversity.

Here’s the quote from their letter:

“Although renewable energy sources like wind and solar will likely make increasing contributions to future energy production, these technology options face real-world problems of scalability, cost, material and land use, meaning that it is too risky to rely on them as the only alternatives to fossil fuels. Nuclear power—being by far the most compact and energy-dense of sources—could also make a major, and perhaps leading, contribution. As scientists, we declare that an evidence-based approach to future energy production is an essential component of securing biodiversity’s future and cannot be ignored. It is time that conservationists make their voices heard in this policy arena.”

Energiewende

Germany continued its nuclear phase-out in 2014, creating a need for more coal-fired electrical production. Enough said.

Ontario goes coal-free thanks to nuclear

Ontario became the first North American jurisdiction to end the use of coal in electricity generation. The event was even noted by former U.S. vice president Al Gore.

Nuclear power played a major role. Between 2000 and 2013, nuclear-powered electrical generation rose 20 percent, coinciding with a 27 percent drop in coal-fired electricity. During the same period, non-hydro renewables increased from one percent to 3.4 percent. This major transition to a cleaner Ontario could not have happened without nuclear.

DGR

Also in Ontario, OPG’s proposal to create a deep geologic repository for low- and intermediate-level waste remained in the headlines.  The CNA appeared for the second time before the joint review panel to voice our support for the initiative.

OPG, with the support of the surrounding community, has proposed a permanent management solution for these materials. This speaks to the proactive and responsible environmental management to which all members of the Canadian Nuclear Association are committed.

Fusion

One of the biggest news stories featured an announcement by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division that it had made a breakthrough in developing a fusion reactor and could have one small enough to fit on the back of a truck in 10 years. The announcement stunned nuclear-savvy observers who had thought such a development would take much longer than a decade.

Quebec imports

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard signed an agreement November 21st on electricity. Ontario will make 500 megawatts available to Quebec to manage its winter demand peak, while Quebec will reciprocate for Ontario’s summertime peak.

The capacity amounts are small, representing about 1.4 percent of Ontario’s installed generating capacity of 33,771 megawatts (MW), and less than four percent of Ontario’s nuclear generating capacity of 12,947 MW.

In announcing the Quebec agreement, Ontario’s Premier Wynne rejected suggestions that imported electricity could reduce Ontario’s reliance on nuclear power. “We’re not anywhere near having a conversation like that,” Wynne told reporters.