Category Archives: Nuclear Energy

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 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.”

CNA Responds Nuclear Energy

Finding Facts in the Fog of Fiction

By John Stewart
Director of Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Have you seen the email that says, “The nuclear industry doesn’t want you to think about Quebec”? Well, we actually do want you to think about Quebec, because the argument that Ontario could import cheap electricity from Quebec and scrap the refurbishment of the Darlington generating station just doesn’t work.

Commission report on Quebec's energy futureQuebec’s commission on energy policy turned in a report in February 2014 on its public consultations – the same report used as the foundation of the import-from-Quebec argument.

As we pointed out last week, the business case to import Quebec electricity just isn’t there in today’s power market. Don’t just take our word for it. Look at these direct quotes from the commission’s report. (The translation is ours.) It turns out that Quebec is awash in supply that it’s been overpaying for in costly, misplaced efforts to encourage alternatives:

“Electricity demand has flattened…. Despite this, Quebec has added important sources of production: wind, small hydro, biomass…. This reality results in an annual subsidy to electricity producers that will reach $1.2 billion in 2017, at the expense of power consumers and taxpayers.” (p. 21)

“In North America, including Quebec and Ontario, authorities subsidize renewable energy on their own territory… rather than pay a premium for clean energy imported from outside….” (p. 181)

That new supply has been costing Quebec much more than its traditional big hydro. To cover that cost, Hydro Quebec needs to export power at peak periods. Otherwise, it loses money:

“Today, these surpluses can only be disposed of on export markets. The first 10 TWh are exported at peak periods at high prices and are profitable for Quebec. The rest, about 20 TWh, is exported in off-peak periods at an average price of $0.03/KWh. But, the cost of energy from new production sources added since 2008 varies between $0.06/KWh and $0.12/KWh.” (p. 21)

The export channels, or “interconnects,” that export those profitable 10 TWh/year cannot handle a greater load:

“The additional (20 TWh) cannot be sold at peak periods because the current interconnects with neighbouring markets are saturated; it can only be sold in off-peak or base periods at prices that are too low to make recent investments profitable….” (p. 176)

More interconnects are not the answer in this market. Rather, the commission recommends against new export deals, and it calls on the Quebec government to trim the subsidized sources of supply within the province:

“There is no doubt in the Commission’s mind that the government of Quebec must immediately cease new requests for the production of electricity and that it must cancel contracts in the process of renewal….” (p. 184)

As we pointed out last week, this is one reason why actual deals for long-term electric power have been expensive in 2014 (more than 10 cents per KWh in the New England power pool).

Electricity exporters have to earn much more than the average cost of production from their big, efficient base-load generating stations – hydro dams in Quebec, and nuclear energy stations in Ontario. They also have to subsidize pricey alternatives. That’s why they need a sales price that covers production costs plus subsidies.  And any power supply that replaces Darlington must be not only large (over 3,000 MW), but available around the clock – not just off-peak or whenever the interprovincial connections allow it.

The bottom line: facts are facts. The price of power is what people pay for it, and not some made-up number based on flawed assumptions. In today’s market, a profit-seeking Hydro Quebec wouldn’t want to sell electricity to Ontario on a sustained basis below the cost of its most expensive production.

Here’s another fact: nuclear energy safely delivers reliable, low-cost power to Ontario. And, in displacing coal and natural gas from Ontario’s supply mix, nuclear energy reduces Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 90 megatons per year.

You’d think an organization that promotes clean air would celebrate nuclear’s zero-carbon emissions rather than generate a fog of fiction.

International Nuclear Energy

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!

Nuclear Energy

Meeting Governor Haley and Opportunities in the Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster

By Dr. John Barrett
President
Canadian Nuclear Association

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and CNA President John Barrett.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and CNA President John Barrett.

On April 1, I was invited by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to attend a dinner to meet the Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley.  It proved to be a very interesting evening on a number of fronts.

First, Governor Haley: first elected in November 2010, she has since then, according to the promotional material, “worked tirelessly to create jobs and to improve the overall business environment in South Carolina. Under her tenure as Governor more than 44,500 jobs have been created and over $11 billion has been invested in South Carolina.”

I can believe every bit of that.  She gave a strong, spirited and convincing presentation about her efforts to bring South Carolina out of the doldrums, languishing with an 11 per cent unemployment rate, to a state bursting with drive, pride and accomplishment.  A state on the upswing economically, full of energy.

And I use the word “energy” with special meaning.  Many of our CNA members will already know of the “Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster,” a hub of nuclear expertise, supplying more than 11 per cent of the United States’ nuclear power generation.  This nuclear cluster has been described as a consortium of industry, higher education and non-profit organizations working together to support energy and economic development.

More to the point, North Carolina has five nuclear reactors in operation, providing 32 per cent of the state’s electricity generation.  South Carolina has seven operating reactors, with 52 per cent of the state’s total electric generation — and two new units under construction.

If there’s a region that would be a natural partner to Southern Ontario’s own nuclear cluster, it would be the Carolinas, with South Carolina showing its optimism in the future of nuclear with two new builds.

Speaking with Governor Haley afterwards, she expressed considerable interest in the Canadian nuclear industry and its priorities and prospects.  She insisted that I come and visit her soon to continue the conversation and see what opportunities for collaboration there might be in the Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster for our CNA members.

This southern hospitality was further extended by the former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, who sat next to me at dinner.  He said he’d be happy to introduce me to the folks in the South Carolina nuclear industry, since he knew them all personally.

I checked in the next day with OCI President Ron Oberth to see whether he’d been to the Carolinas to visit their nuclear industry.  Indeed he had, but he thought it’d be very useful for the CNA to visit, especially since the invitations were coming from the highest level in the state.

So this is now on my list of places to visit and relationships to build on behalf of CNA members.  If any of you reading this have advice or insights on what opportunities and business connections we can forge with the U.S. nuclear industry in the American southeast, please let me know.

CNA President John Barrett and U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman
CNA President John Barrett and U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman

I should add that the dinner provided an opportunity for me to meet the U.S. Ambassador-designate to Canada, Bruce Heyman, and his wife, Vicky.  He presents his letters of accreditation to the Governor General at Rideau Hall on April 8, after which he will officially take up his ambassadorial duties.  He is arriving brimming with enthusiasm and eagerness to get to know Canada and Canadians.  We wish him and his family all the very best in their new assignment, and I am looking forward to meeting with him once he is officially accredited.

Some quick points on South Carolina:

-South Carolina’s four existing nuclear power plants supplied 57 per cent of the state’s net electricity generation in 2013; two new reactors are under construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station site in Fairfield County. (Source: US EIA. http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=SC)

-In the Carolinas (North and South), the nuclear energy industry directly provides 29,000 jobs, has more than $2.2 billion in direct payroll , and more than $950 million paid in state and local taxes, according to a 2013 analysis by Clemson University. (Source: NEI.http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.ca/2014/03/why-should-you-consider-career-in.html)

The NRC decision to approve new build, back in 2012, was the first construction licence issued since 1978. (Source: Media. http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/219277-regulators-approve-construction-of-second-new-nuclear-reactors-in-decades)

Here’s a quick profile of the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgil_C._Summer_Nuclear_Generating_Station

Nuclear Energy Nuclear Policy

Harper Skeptical of Germany’s Goal to Phase Out Nuclear

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

You can add Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the list of skeptics of Germany’s decision to phase out its nuclear power plants.

During a question-and-answer session at a business event in Germany on March 26, Canadian Press reported Harper had this to say when asked about Germany’s energy policy.

He expressed skepticism that Germany would be able to meet its goal of phasing out fossil fuels and nuclear while having a scant supply of hydro power.

“I do not know an economy in the world that does not rely heavily on at least one of those, so this is a brave new world you’re attempting; we wish you well with that,” he said to seemingly nervous laughter from the crowd.

He said it would be very challenging for Germany not to rely on some combination of fossil fuels, nuclear and hydro, but said Canada was ready to help.

Germany plans to phase out all of its nuclear plants by 2020 and its so-called “Energiewende” calls for the country to have 80 per cent of its energy supplied by renewables by 2050.

Renewables, nuclear and hydro are the only energy sournces that release no emissions during generation. But only nuclear and hydro can provide a stable baseload of energy supply.

So far the transition to renewables has not reduced greenhouse gas emissions and German industry figures published in January 2014 show that bituminous coal and lignite together contributed 45.5 percent of Germany’s gross energy output in 2013, up from 44 percent the previous year.

The German government has defended its decision to phase out low-carbon nuclear as a baseload and increase its reliance on coal in the short term. Germany’s environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, even told a reporter in January, “We must not demonize coal. We still need to transition to a guarantee security of supply.”