Category Archives: Environment

Environment Nuclear Energy

What Leaders Say

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

HurricaneDespite twenty-one COP meetings, one of which wrapped up last month in Paris, the world’s response to climate change is still patchy and unclear.

In particular, there’s a disconnect between Canada and Europe, on the one hand, and many leading countries on the other.

Experts and officials know that to hit a 1.5 degree or 2 degree climate scenario, renewable energy won’t be enough. Nuclear has to be part of the answer. The world’s use of nuclear power must grow by about 150% over the next 35 years, according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook.

But few Canadian politicians recognize this, at least not openly. They talk about “clean energy” but not about whether the concept includes nuclear. Perhaps they take their cue from the leaders of climate-focused non-governmental organizations that also steer clear of nuclear. Perhaps it’s just easier to raise money and win votes without using the N-word. Perhaps they just don’t know any better.

Political leaders in other leading countries don’t have this inhibition. The United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, China, India and other key countries readily acknowledge that nuclear must play a central part in keeping the planet cool.

“As Prime Minister, I pledged that the government I lead would be the greenest government ever. And I believe we’ve kept that promise. We’ve more than doubled our capacity in renewable electricity in the last four years alone. We now have enough solar to power almost a million UK homes. We have the world’s leading financial centre in carbon trading. And we have established the world’s first green investment bank. We’ve invested £1 billion in Carbon Capture and Storage. And we’ve said no to any new coal without Carbon Capture and Storage. We are investing in all forms of lower carbon energy including shale gas and nuclear, with the first new nuclear plant coming on stream for a generation. Now, as a result of all that we are doing, we are on track to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.” — UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Speech to the UN Climate Summit, September 23, 2014

Politicians who avoid this nuclear fact have a problem. They promote an incomplete public understanding of the decarbonization path ahead of us. In effect, they are leading their people to over-invest in certain other solutions. We’re talking about wind and solar in particular, but also biofuels, geothermal, and many currently unproven technologies that might not work, not be ready soon enough, or not be able to scale up enough to help.

It’s not that these don’t belong on the world’s list of climate answers. It’s that nuclear is on that list too, and it’s near the top. That’s because it’s already proven, it’s already available, and it’s on a large enough scale to help.

“As detailed in the Climate Action Plan, President Obama is committed to using every appropriate tool to combat climate change.  Nuclear power, which in 2014 generated about 60 percent of carbon-free electricity in the United States, continues to play a major role in efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.” — The White House, November 6, 2015

By pretending nuclear’s not on the list, Canadian leaders are hurting, not helping, the climate cause. They’re committing to plans for greenhouse-gas reduction that are only partially effective. They’re sidetracking this country from the practical road forward to a world free of fossil fuels and their emissions. We need to act if we want to prevent a very ugly future for the only planet we have to live on. We need to overcome political inhibitions. It’s time to speak the truth about nuclear.

“The whole world is worried about global warming and climate change. People in air-conditioned rooms discuss this issue. But if India succeeds in generating clean energy, one-sixth of the humanity will take responsibility for addressing the climate change. For that nuclear energy is important. But the reactors will need uranium which will be given by Canada.” — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, April 16, 2015

Environment

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.Supplier to Host CountryEFEWG has already been involved in at least one valuable regulatory research project:  INPRO’s “Case Study 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.

Environment Guest Blog Nuclear Energy

Talking Climate Change at WiN Global

By Heather Kleb
President
WiN Canada

In late August 2015, I had the pleasure of joining more than 400 Women in Nuclear (WiN)–Global members, from over 60 countries, at our annual conference in Vienna, Austria. Hosted by WiN–IAEA at the offices of the United Nations, the conference featured sessions on: medical use of radiation, safeguards and non-proliferation, nuclear security, and energy, environment and climate change.

Agneta Rising
Agneta Rising

One of the highlights of the conference was a climate-change panel with representatives from six countries. Among them was the Director General of the World Nuclear Association, Agneta Rising. Ms. Rising reminded participants of how quickly nuclear ramped up in the 70’s and that only one country (Germany) is now phasing out nuclear. This important context needs to be included in any discussion of the future of nuclear, and its role in mitigating climate change.

Climate change was also the focus of discussions during the WiN–Global board and executive meetings, where board members agreed to call for member support of a “Declaration of Nuclear for Climate.” The Declaration, which builds on the May 2015 agreement signed by 39 nuclear associations and 50,000 scientists from 36 countries, supports Nuclear for Climate’s global initiative to recognize the contribution of nuclear as a solution to climate change.

The WiN–Global declaration further reinforced that any discussion of low-carbon solutions that excludes nuclear is incomplete. Members of WiN-Canada were among the signatories to the Declaration, which requested that the “UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Protocols recognize nuclear energy as a low-carbon energy option, and that it be included in its climate funding mechanisms, as is the case for all low-carbon energy sources.”

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.

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.

Environment Nuclear Safety Waste Management

The Deep Geologic Repository and Canadian Nuclear Safety

By Dr. John Barrett
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

Now that it has closed the record on its extensive public hearings, the Joint Review Panel appointed to examine OPG’s Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) can get on with the final phase of its work – developing recommendations.

The panel faces a difficult task. Should it recommend that the project proceed? Or should it prefer that low- and intermediate-level waste remain stored in concrete trenches and warehouses above ground?

It’s not an easy choice, because either approach yields the same result – safe, secure storage of radioactive materials.

In two appearances before the review panel, the Canadian Nuclear Association expressed confidence in OPG’s proposed repository. The company has developed a credible case for moving its waste underground – a plan developed with input from many specialists from a wide variety of disciplines.

OPG concluded—and I have seen no persuasive evidence otherwise—that the repository will likely not cause significant adverse environmental effects.

It’s significant that three federal departments, as well as the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), all reached the same conclusion upon reviewing OPG’s case.  In short, OPG has more than satisfied the need to assess properly the risks posed by the DGR.

There exist four waste-management options. Two require storage above ground, and two below ground. A review by a panel of independent experts has shown all four options, including the proposed DGR, can be carried out safely and securely. Any one of them would do. The real question is whether any option is inherently better than the others.

The answer finds its roots in our sense of moral responsibility. My generation, and yours, benefitted from the use of nuclear-generated electricity. We also bear responsibility for the waste. We should manage it. The DGR provides a way to do so safely and securely. In the end, the joint panel will assess whether the repository provides a responsible improvement on current practice.

Observers should not fail to note the broader issue – that the nuclear industry, alone in the energy sector, takes full responsibility for managing its waste. We do so safely and securely, using ample detection and alert systems to ensure public and environmental safety.

Could we do better? Certainly. We can always improve safety. At the same time, let us recognize that the Canadian nuclear industry enjoys an impressive safety record.

In fact, the nuclear regulator recently concluded that no fatalities related to radiation safety have ever occurred in the Canadian nuclear industry. How many industrial activities of any kind–let alone of nuclear’s scale and complexity–have this kind of record?