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Hurricane Florence no threat to nuclear power plants

Satellite image of Hurricane Florence

Nuclear power has once again withstood threats from Mother Nature.

Hurricane Florence, which battered the U.S. East Coast in September, was worse than predicted.

“Many of the dire predictions came true,” wrote Grist magazine reporter Eric Holthaus. “In the past few days, Hurricane Florence has become the worst rainstorm in history for North Carolina, as well as the entire East Coast.”

The four-day rainfall accumulation of nearly 36 inches, which was measured in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, is above the previous record for a hurricane anywhere on the East Coast. It broke the North Carolina record by nearly a foot.

In the lead-up week before Florence made landfall, the media was full of stories about how as many as nine nuclear reactors could be in its path.

According to Bloomberg News, out of the nine nuclear plants that were potentially in the path of Florence before the storm landed Friday, just one was forced to close.

Brunswick nuclear power plant in North Carolina

The Brunswick nuclear facility was the only one taken offline because of the Hurricane.

While there were concerns about access to the plant due to flooding in the wake of Florence, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a statement on September 18, to reassure the public about the situation.

“The plant’s two units remain shut down in a safe condition, and flooding in nearby areas has not affected the plant site,” the statement read. “While there are still some site access issues, it is possible to move personnel and supplies to and from the site. Access to the plant is expected to improve over the next couple of days.”

This is the second year in a row that nuclear power plants were tested in the U.S. South during hurricane season.

Last year, Florida’s two nuclear power plants withstood the fury of Hurricane Irma. Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear power plants which serve approximately 1.5 million customers are designed to withstand the natural force of such extreme events like hurricanes. Florida’s nuclear plants sit approximately 20 feet above sea level and are constructed to withstand the force of severe flooding and storm surges. Backup safety systems are also in place to ensure site safety.

Concerns about nuclear power plants being affected by hurricanes makes great headlines, but because of preparedness, problems are averted.

Ted Kury, director of energy studies at the University of Florida’s Public Utility Research Center, explained it best in a piece for The Conversation.

“To prevent accidents, the outer wall of reactor containment systems are made out of reinforced concrete and steel,” he wrote. “Since they are designed to withstand the impact of a large commercial airliner, flying debris – even if it’s propelled by 200 miles-per-hour winds – is unlikely to pose much of a threat.”

According to Kury, utilities prepare for storms by inspecting power stations, securing equipment, testing backup pumps and generators and stocking critical supplies in case workers have to stay on site.

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QP Briefing ads show nuclear is good for Ontario

Ad #1 online throughout July 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ad #2 online throughout September 2018.

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Hill Times ads promote the benefits of nuclear in Canada

Ad #1 published in the “Energy” brief on August 13, 2018.

Ad #2 published in the “Innovation” brief on October 1, 2018.

Ad #3 published in the “Energy” brief on December 3, 2018.

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Shocking Exposé: A Year with an Electric Car

By Morgan Brown, Nuclear Engineer and Systems Analyst, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories
Originally published in the North Renfrew Times, November 14, 2018

It began with a display by Ontario’s Plug’N Drive, a non-profit organization promoting electric vehicles (EVs).  They brought their EV Roadshow to Chalk River Labs in the spring of 2017, along with a plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt.  I was intrigued, and told Catharine all about it.  Fine, she said, and booked a visit to a Kia dealer in Ottawa the following weekend.  We went, we saw, they (the dealership) conquered; we purchased a 2017 all-electric Kia Soul, my post-mid-life-crisis car.

I had long wanted an EV, and they appeared to have come of age.  Normally I’m on the trailing edge of technology, content with what I have and without a desire for new toys.  But it was time to put money where my mouth was, especially with respect to reducing my impact on our one and only planet Earth (the one with no Plan B).  Electric cars, in a place like Ontario with low-emission electricity, have significantly lower lifetime overall environmental damage compared with an internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicle like our SUV.  The reason I got into the nuclear business, some thirty years ago, was precisely because it has a relatively low impact on our world; it was now time to make a personal commitment.

The Kia Soul EV is similar to the ICE version, in terms of the exterior look and interior fittings.  There are a number of ICE versions in and around town – it’s a funky-looking useful car with a hatchback and room for five (ok, a bit squishy).  I have no problem transporting my bari sax, a not-inconsequential (foghornish?) music instrument.  The Kia (not the bari) has an 81 hp electric motor driving a single-speed transmission to the front wheels.  It can easily go over 100 km/h, despite how I drive; the pickup is pretty peppy from a standing start, due to very high torque.

The EV cost us $43,005 including all taxes, substantially more than the ICE version because of the expensive batteries.  We received an Ontario taxpayer subsidy (thank you!) of $14,000, bringing the price down to about that of the ICE Soul; frankly, the subsidy was a little rich and didn’t seem to have any mechanism for decreasing as EVs became cheaper, but that’s another story.  Note that, because the EV is more than $10,000 more expensive than the ICE version, we paid over $1500 more tax.

So what about the “lack of infrastructure” that gets bandied about?  That’s a fallacy – the infrastructure is everywhere in the form of standard 120 V outlets.  For the first few months we used only the Level 1 (120 V) charger with which the car was equipped.  Yes, it takes a long time to fully charge (about 24 h for 30 kWh), but we never fully drain the battery and rarely fully charge it.  Essentially the Level 1 charges at about 6 km per hour (a velocity?).  Plugged in overnight at off-peak prices gives about 2 round trips from our Deep River home to the Chalk River Labs.  Canadian Nuclear Laboratories has provided six EV Level 1 parking spots, which gives another nine hours charging when I drive the car pool; interestingly, the six spots are no longer enough for all the EV owners on site!

The Level 2 charger is the next step up, charging the batteries at 240 V.  We paid $1895 (including >$200 tax) to purchase and install such our Level 2 charger, but received a $747 taxpayer subsidy (again, thank you).  This charger is about six times faster; frankly, plugging in the car when needed is similar to plugging in a cell phone – no big deal!

We have used a fast charger once, namely the one at the Deep River Tim Horton’s, just to see how it worked.  While it charged the car to about 85% of full capacity (to avoid frying the battery) in under about one half hour, I estimated it cost 5 times the price we would pay at home!  However, we are appreciative that such charge stations are available.

So, how has the EV performed?  Our main driving is around town or to the CNL plant site.  Occasionally we take it to Pembroke or Petawawa, but leave the (rare) Ottawa trip for the SUV.  The full-charge range (nominally 149 km) varies from about 120 km in winter to 180 km in summer – the winter decrease is primarily due to the batteries being cold, although the electric heating also takes a toll.  It would be nice to have the ~10% greater range of the 2018 Kia Soul, and some claim the 2020 version may be as high as 350 km.  Regardless, our EV does a fine job, and we’ve moved on from “range anxiety” to “range awareness”.  The average electricity consumption (Sep 2017 – Aug 2018) was 16.2 kWh/100 km.  Assuming a 15% loss due to charging, and an average $0.19/kWh (our 2016 total electricity cost divided by total kWh), this works out to about $3.60 / 100 km.  An equivalent ICE Kia Soul, at 7.6 l/100 km (highway) and $1.20 per litre for gas, costs about $9.10 per 100 km.  If I use a much more accurate “incremental cost” of electricity and charge overnight, the cost is less than $3/100 km.

Overall we’re very pleased with the EV.  If we lived in a city, we would ditch the SUV, keep the EV, and rent a vehicle for long trips.  Sure, the EV lacks the range you might want, but things are improving.  The initial cost is higher but it is much cheaper to operate (did I mention the lack of oil changes?).  However, economics was not our prime motivator – it really does reduce our damage to the environment, and is fun to drive.

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Harriet Brooks’ great-great niece to inspire next generation of women in science

Canada’s first female nuclear physicist Harriet Brooks

Harriet Brooks was the first Canadian female nuclear physicist, who worked as a graduate student with Sir Ernest Rutherford at McGill University around the beginning of the 20th century.

She was among the first persons to discover radon and to try to determine its atomic mass.

Well known in Canadian nuclear circles, Brooks is not a household name like Marie Curie, under whose supervision Brooks briefly worked.

While Canadian Nuclear Laboratories recently named a nuclear research laboratory at Chalk River in her name and she is a member of the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame, she hasn’t made an impact in the non-academic and non-science culture like Curie, who was honoured, for example, with a Google Doodle on the anniversary of her birth.

Now, 85 years after she passed away, one of her descendants is trying to bring her story to life on stage.

WONDER is a stage production in development about the gender barriers faced by Brooks. It is the first play written by Canadian actor Ellen Denny, Brooks’ great-great-niece.

“With this project, I hope to honour the countless women in science who have been silenced, and invigorate those who continue the fight for gender equity,” says Denny.

“It is also an important goal of mine to connect this historical science story and play of Harriet Brooks with the contemporary science community.”

Opening of the Harriet Brooks building at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories

Brooks left the world of physics at the peak of her career upon marriage to assume the occupation of wife and mother.

In an interview with Maclean’s magazine, Geoff Rayner-Canham, a chemistry professor at Newfoundland’s Memorial University who has written about Brooks, explained why she left the science community.

“What happened was that she got engaged to a physicist at Barnard College, which is an old women’s college in the States, and she told the dean she was planning to marry. The dean sent a letter back saying that she was not willing to have anyone in the department who put her work second, but didn’t think it was appropriate for a married woman to put her career before her family.”

While what happened to Brooks could be attributed to social mores at the time, Denny believes her story is relevant to the barriers that still exist for women today who balance career with family.

Canadian actress Ellen Denny

In a slick video on her Kickstarter campaign page she launched to fund the production, Denny lists some current stats on gender and science. For example, in 2010, just 12.4 per cent of physics faculty at Canadian universities were women and only 30 per cent of female high school students take physics, compared to 60 per cent of male high school students.

“The play WONDER is a chance to build a bridge between the science and arts communities, and to spark discussion about how to build workplaces with equitable opportunity for all,” she explains.

The reaction to Denny’s project has been positive so far. Her Kickstarter campaign to fund a workshop of the play has raised over $2,000, almost triple her original goal.

Before WONDER is ready for its premiere production it needs some time in the lab – in theatre this is called a “workshop.” One week of in-studio script development and physical exploration with a team of professional artists is slated for early 2019 and Denny is hard at work raising funds for this critical next step.

You can follow along with the development of WONDER on Twitter and #WonderThePlay.

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Nuclear Advocates Unite for Nuclear Hill Day in Ottawa

By Matthew Mairinger, Senior Advisor Stakeholder Relations, Ontario Power Generation
Originally published at naygn.org, November 16, 2018

On October 28th and October 29th North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN), Women in Nuclear (WiN), Canadian Nuclear Workers Council, and industry representatives came together for the Canadian Nuclear Association’s (CNA) Nuclear Hill Day in Ottawa, Ontario. Sunday included a discussion of the overview of the political climate in Ottawa as well as an overview of important bills currently in senate such as bill C-68 and bill C-69.

October 29th had a full agenda with 13 teams assembled with 3-4 members on a team. Each team would visit with MPs/ministers/senators from all political parties with the goal of informing the politicians about nuclear power and sharing the passion the individuals have in the industry. There were six representatives from North American Young Generation in Nuclear from the Bruce Power, UOIT, Mississauga, Durham and Chalk River chapter.

Matthew Mairinger, NAYGN Canadian Affairs Chair, stated that “It was great to participate in the nuclear hill day organized by CNA and have the opportunity to share the opinions of young professionals with politicians. The largest hurdle for nuclear acceptance is education, so speaking directly with policy makers is a great stride forward to ensure that clean energy through nuclear is part of Canada’s long term energy future.”

Dan Arnold, Mina Shinouda, Matthew Mairinger, Osama Baig and Owen Marshall-Glew

Justin Hannah, Director Marketing, Strategy & External Relations – SNC-Lavalin; the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Milton MP; Matthew Mairinger, NAYGN Canadian Affairs Chair & Senior Advisor Stakeholder Relations – OPG; Jennifer Rowe, SVP Corporate Affairs – OPG; Mike Glade, LVP Bruce – Society of United Professionals

David Shier – National Director Canadian Nuclear Workers Council; Katherine Ward – VP Communications, SNC-Lavalin; Senator David Adams Richards; Alanna Favretto, NAYGN Bruce member

Mina Shinouda, NAYGN Mississauga member; Dave Van Kestern, Chatham-Kent—Leamington MP; Andrew Thiele, Strategist, Government & Stakeholder Relations – Bruce Power; Rebecca Caron, Society of United Professionals unit director

Alanna Favretto, a NAYGN Bruce member, stated that “participating in the CNA hill day was very rewarding.  Informing government stakeholders on the nuclear industry, especially challenging stereotypes and myths about the industry, was an amazing opportunity.  The day also provided the chance to learn from senior industry leaders and provided me with experiences and ideas that I will take back and share with the NAYGN Bruce Chapter.”

Osama Baig, former NAYGN UOIT president, stated “CNA’s Hill Day arranged a platform to discuss with Members of Parliament Canada’s Nuclear industry and its contributions towards fighting climate change, supplying lifesaving radioisotopes to millions worldwide, trailblazing progressive SMR technology and facilitating NAYGN’s role in sparking a  nuclear renaissance.”

Dan Arnold, NAYGN Chalk River advocacy & activism co-chair, stated “through the cooperation of many NAYGN chapters, WiN, Industry, Labour and of course CNA I enjoyed a tremendous day learning from amazing nuclear professionals while making a positive lasting impression about nuclear on our elected officials.”

Mina Shinouda, NAYGN Mississauga member, stated “It was an insightful experience being part of CNA’s Hill day representing NAYGN in interacting with industry stakeholders and making our voices heard.”