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Millennials concerned about climate change, support new nuclear

By John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
Originally published in QP Briefing, February 26, 2019

This Wednesday, the Canadian Nuclear Association kicks off its 2019 Conference and Trade Show at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa.

The theme of CNA2019 is: “New Nuclear: Generating Solutions for Climate and Health.” Over 800 attendees will talk about the innovations in nuclear technology – and how that makes the future of nuclear energy so different from the past.

There is growing evidence that the millennial generation evaluates and supports innovative technologies more strongly when they are seen to bring real solutions to society’s challenges. First and foremost among the solutions is whether the technology can significantly reduce GHG emissions and help decarbonize our energy supply.

This is where new nuclear comes in. The nuclear industry is undergoing a renaissance in innovative solutions that hold the promise of lifting communities out of energy poverty or coal dependence, while enhancing public health through clean air and medical isotopes. Small, ultra-safe reactors could hold the key to significant reductions in GHG emissions, while providing copious amount of clean electricity to communities and industries alike.

In advance of CNA2019, the independent firm Abacus Data was commissioned to measure the views of young Canadians on climate change and the role that nuclear and small modular reactors (SMRs) may play in reducing emissions.

The findings of the online poll* will be presented by Abacus Data CEO David Coletto at a keynote address at the conference on February 28. But here in advance are some of the highlights.

  • Young people were the most concerned about climate change. Sixty-two per cent of those 18-to-29 in age said they were extremely or very concerned about the issue, compared with 54 per cent nationally.
  • Those 18-to-29 were also more likely to say a shift from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources was extremely or very important – 69 per cent, compared with 58 per cent for the general population.
  • While the 18-to-29 age group was most likely to believe that nuclear energy created more carbon pollution than oil, they were strongly in support of nuclear replacing higher emitting energy sources after being informed that nuclear was a low-carbon technology.
  • Eighty-nine per cent of those 18-to-29 supported or were open to using nuclear in this scenario, compared to 83 per cent of the overall population.
  • The poll also found that 86 per cent of those 18-to-29 supported or were open to SMRs as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Most importantly, the data shows that when young people, who are most concerned about climate change, are informed that nuclear and new nuclear are low-carbon sources, they quickly become strong supporters.

Canada is home to new nuclear. The innovation is happening throughout the nuclear industry.

It is happening in advanced reactor design, refurbishment of our CANDU fleet, development and use of robotics and 3D printing and artificial intelligence, development of alternative clean power sources such as hydrogen that can be generated through nuclear power.

Canada is emerging internationally as a leading country for the research, development and regulation of small modular reactors, which offer to small and remote communities the possibility, hitherto beyond reach, of unlimited, reliable clean electricity and heat on a 24/7 basis.

All this tells us that new nuclear is not a dream. It’s not around the corner. It’s here now. Come to CNA2019 and see for yourself!

*The survey was conducted online with 2,500 Canadians aged 18+ in February 2019. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample is +/- 1.96 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census to ensure sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, education, region.

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CNA Makes Specific Commitments on Gender Equality

In May 2018 at the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM-9) in Copenhagen, Canada and Sweden jointly launched the “Equal by 30” campaign, which is aimed at reaching 30% representation of women in the energy sector by 2030.  Parliamentary Secretary Kim Rudd, head of the Canadian Delegation, signed on behalf of Canada. Details of the campaign, its principles and objectives, can be found at www.equalby30.org

Several CNA member companies have become signatories to “Equal by 30” in support of the endeavour and its objectives. CNA signed up in its capacity as the association representing the nuclear industry.

Next step in the “Equal by 30” process is for signatories to develop specific commitments that, once developed and communicated to the “Equal by 30” organizers, will be put on the campaign’s website. The signatory will then be encouraged to report regularly on progress made.

CNA already has a pay equity plan and has reached overall gender balance in its staffing. CNA has flexible working hours and working-from-home arrangements that help to support family-related responsibilities.

In addition, CNA is prepared to make the following commitments, bearing in mind that CNA cannot undertake commitments that are within the sole responsibility and control of its members:

  1. Encourage CNA member companies not currently signatories to the “Equal by 30” campaign to consider signing up to it;
  2. Encourage CNA member companies that are signatories to “Equal by 30” to aim for at least 30% representation of women by 2030 in company positions in which women are currently under-represented;
  3. Encourage CNA members to identify qualified women candidates for election to the CNA Board, with the aim of reaching 30% representation of women on the CNA Board by 2030;
  4. Encourage the CNA Board to nominate a senior leader to support initiatives towards a gender-diverse work environment in the nuclear sector;
  5. Undertake to promote “Equal by 30” and its principles, including facilitating the exchange of best practices and knowledge-sharing where possible within the nuclear sector; and
  6. Continue CNA’s active support of Women in Nuclear (WiN) Canada.

The “Equal by 30” campaign and corporate commitments from energy sector signatories will be a feature item of the forthcoming Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM-10), hosted by the Government of Canada in Vancouver at the end of May.

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Nuclear industry eyes more federal support of ‘small modular reactors,’ as advocates push for Ottawa to hit pause

By Jolson Lim
Originally published in The Hill Times, December 3, 2018

The Canadian nuclear industry is looking for more federal government involvement in supporting the development of a new generation of reactors, after Natural Resources Canada put out a “roadmap” report earlier this month, spelling out steps different players in the sector could take.

The small modular reactor (SMR) roadmap was published on Nov. 7, and was co-developed between different public and private sector stakeholders. It recommends that federal, provincial, and territorial governments, along with utilities, industry, and the federally-funded national laboratory support demonstration of the use of SMR technology.

It also proposed: financial risk-sharing between the different players to support early deployment; the modernization of legislative and regulatory requirements to make development economically viable and timely; the development of a “robust knowledge base” for SMR technology; and for commitment to proactively engage with Indigenous communities.

SMRs are typically defined as nuclear reactors generating less than 300 megawatts of energy, and proponents see it as a promising source as the world struggles to fight climate change.

In Canada, backers see SMRs as a way to phase out diesel power for remote and Northern communities. However, to make it economically feasible within a small window of time for it to become a tool in reducing emissions, it would require demonstration soon, and eventually would require a fleet of reactors so manufacturers could benefit from more efficient and financially stable production.

But there is strong opposition to new nuclear energy development based on both environmental and safety concerns.

Nevertheless, any future development would likely have to involve government funding to support demonstration, on top of a regulatory review and placing a stronger emphasis on such technology in climate change plans.

“What would be so important now is for the government to show its policy support,” said John Barrett, president and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA). “But that kind of holistic policy statement is not available yet.”

Mr. Barrett’s association submitted a letter addressed to Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.) following the release of his fall economic update in November.

The letter calls for the extension of clean technology and clean infrastructure funding and support programs, such as the ability to expense of 100 per cent of capital investments and loan guarantees, to nuclear technology in the next budget.

It also asks the federal government to recognize nuclear as part of Canada’s suite of clean energy technologies and to create a funding mechanism for applied research and development of the next generation of reactors.

“Such measures would go a long way in creating the supportive business innovation climate needed in Canada today to encourage clean technology developers and start-ups in the nuclear sector,” it reads. “Only with a significant scale-up of such sources can Canada meet its Paris climate targets.”

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) is currently partnering with small-reactor proponents to get a prototype built at one of its sites by 2026 for future demonstration. The company wants to prove the commercial viability of such reactors, and position Canada as a global hub for testing and development.

The company is aiming for it to occur at its Chalk River research facility, which sits about 200 kilometres northwest of Ottawa. CNL manages and operates the two research laboratories in Canada for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the crown corporation that owns such facilities.

Interest in SMRs is particularly strong in New Brunswick, where the local utility, NB Power, has partnered with an American firm to develop a small reactor in the province.

Mr. Barrett said Canada is in a commanding place with the development of SMRs, given its good regulatory and research environment and interest from different players. Globally, it makes the country an attractive place for development.

However, he said more federal focus is needed on nuclear energy.

“Nuclear is one of the tools that is sitting in the box and government hasn’t really pulled it out and taken a good look at what it can do,” said Mr. Barrett, adding it has a lot of export potential as well.

Concerns with SMRs

There are concerns that nuclear’s advantage as a low-carbon energy source is offset by serious safety and other environmental concerns.

Ole Hendrickson, a researcher for the advocacy group Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area—where the Chalk River facility is located—said proponents of nuclear energy ignore other emissions, including various noble gases, iodine, and radioactive waste that has to be expensively and carefully managed. Such waste remains dangerous long after its use, and disposal remains a major concern and question.

“We don’t see small modular reactors as any different,” he said.

Earlier this month, the group appeared on Parliament Hill alongside Green Party leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.) to voice their concern over SMRs ahead of the release of the roadmap report.

Lynn Jones, a member of the citizens’ group, also questioned whether federal government funding is worth it, given there are concerns about its economic viability that has recently seen nuclear power struggle to grow globally.

“They can’t possibly succeed without significant government subsidies, the private sector has backed away from them all over the world,” she said. “They’ve come to Canada to try and get the government to subsidize them.”

Her group recently submitted two petitions to the Auditor General of Canada, with the first voicing concerns that any investment in future nuclear power would tie-up funds that would otherwise go to other proven renewables that could more quickly and effectively reduce carbon emissions. The second petition asks federal ministers to provide a justification for considering nuclear power to be a form of clean energy.

“It would take way too long to develop SMRs, apart from the fact there’s lots of other concerns about them,” she said.

The road ahead

John Stewart, director of policy and research at the CNA—speaking as the project manager of the SMR roadmap—said the report makes recommendations to a wide range of players, including governments, waste management organizations, industry, researchers, and the regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

He said the “logical next step” is for one facilitating player to survey all those players to see what commitments they’re willing to make to further SMRs development.

“You need someone to do all that and elicit offers from the different players, get them to make specific commitments and eventually translate that into sort of national action plan,” he said.

He said he was pleased to see Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi (Edmonton Mill Woods, Alta.) attend the roadmap launch last month, despite not seeing a “lot in the way of signals” for nuclear power from the federal Liberal government.

Mr. Stewart said if the federal government offers a strong signal that SMRs can be a serious energy source, other players will follow up with tangible commitments.

“That would be a positive signal for other players to step up,” he said.

Nuclear energy accounts for almost 15 per cent of all electricity generated in Canada, particularly from two massive power plants in Ontario providing power to the Toronto region.

Mr. Stewart said nuclear power’s outlook has improved, but attitudes toward the severity of climate change haven’t matured fast enough that would see countries move quickly on SMRs.

“It looks better than it has in the past. Good would be going too far,” he said.

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WiN-Canada sponsorship opportunities

Women in Nuclear Canada (WiN-Canada) is coming to the end of it’s annual funding campaign for 2019. We have experienced strong support from our industry partners once again. However, there are a few outstanding opportunities for those who have yet to sponsor us, but would like to show their support. Note that there will also be opportunities to show your support at our upcoming conference in Bruce County (September 22-24, 2019) and at the WiN-Global conference that we will be hosting in Niagara Falls (October 4-9, 2020).

WiN Sponsorship Package 2019

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Canada thinks big about small

By John Stewart, Director of Policy and Research, Canadian Nuclear Association
Originally published in Nuclear Engineering International, December 2018

Canadians are thinking about how to dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions from a modern economy like Canada’s, without destroying economic activity and living standards.

According to those who have seriously studied this problem, like the Trottier Energy Futures Project (TEFP), there are two steps. First, you convert many energy applications – lawn mowers, boat motors, building heat, and other fossil fuel burners – to electricity. Then, you generate electricity for that while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

In this article, we’ll see that generating electricity in a reliable and economical way, without setbacks in incomes and living standards (and therefore lifespans), requires much more nuclear energy. TEFP scenarios, for example, see nuclear power generation growing by more than 200% in Canada.

Where in Canada do we need to build all this electrical generating capacity?

The answer is, pretty well everywhere. Particularly as long as power transmission lines remain as unpopular and as hard to build as they are today, generation will have to be physically close to the demand, and power demand will grow just about everywhere.

That being said, growth in demand for low-emissions power looks to be concentrated in certain types of locations:

  • where fossil-fuel-burning power plants reach the end of their lives (notably coal plants in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and perhaps Nova Scotia) and need replacing with something cleaner;
  • at energy-intensive industrial sites, particularly oil sands operations (which often burn natural gas in large quantities) and remote mining sites (which generally use diesel fuel for heating, vehicles, and power generation); and
  • in communities that currently use diesel-fuel-burning generators – of which there are hundreds across Canada’s provinces and territories.

No, wind and solar won’t do it here.

So what clean energy source can help meet this demand?

Biofuels aren’t the option they’re made out to be, partly because they can’t be scaled up to the extent that would be required (we need land to grow food and other crops), and partly because, on a full life-cycle basis, they’re really not very low-carbon.

Hydro power is wonderful, where dams can be built. It’s clean (at least once the dam is constructed), and stations can be run on a schedule that fits demand. But only so many places have undeveloped hydro sites, and the public and Indigenous acceptance challenges are usually large.

Other renewables have severe limitations. In remote communities, for example, accumulating experience is suggesting that, even when generously subsidized, wind and solar only dent the use of diesel by 20% or so, and then only at the expense of building triple infrastructure (diesel, renewables, and storage) in one place to carry the same small load.

Similar conclusions apply to larger power grids, due to the variability of wind and solar over time. When their contribution gets above something like 20-25% of the power supply, grid stability becomes a serious problem – one that’s hard to mitigate, even with large-scale storage.

So, even with contributions from each of these options, there’s a large need for another low-carbon energy source that can be sited close to demand. That includes urban areas, where a small land footprint will be essential, and also very remote locations, where the unit should be modular, transportable when new, and re-locatable later.

And in many cases, particularly in Canada, the source should supply heat (such as piped steam) in addition to electricity, so it can help heat a building complex, smelt metal from ore, cook wood pulp, or melt bitumen out of oil sands.

Nuclear reactors – on a much smaller scale in size but covering a wider area than today – could deliver low-carbon power to homes, offices, and businesses. They could also deliver process heat to industry and heat to buildings, and support clean fuels through battery charging or hydrogen generation for vehicles.

The industry making the nuclear reactors could:

  • streamlinethe servicing and refuelling;
  • achieve economies of scale in design, construction, and operation (the reactors may be smaller, but could be more standardized);
  • simplify designs and add many inherent safety systems;
  • ideally, move the reactor location if customer needs require it;
  • locate reactors underground, increasing security; and
  • supply fleets of many identical modules, with units that need refuelling or servicing being swapped out and returned to the factory.

Most nuclear power reactors are built to a certain scale (600-1400 megawatts of electricity, or MWe) mainly to achieve economies of scale in power production. But nuclear reactors can be orders of magnitude smaller than this.

Reactors that currently drive marine vessels (submarines, aircraft carriers, and icebreakers) are much smaller than most power plant reactors.

These propulsion reactors have a 60-year record of operating in hundreds of moving vessels that spend long periods in remote places.

Canadians have designed small or very small reactors for research, electricity generation, and district heating.

Demonstration units (Canada’s early NPD and Douglas Point reactors) and research units (currently operating at six Canadian universities and at research institutes around the world) are also small, extremely low-power, very safe, easy to regulate and operate, and easily secured.

There’s plenty of precedent for small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada.

How close is the vision of widespread, commercial SMR deployment in Canada, and what does the path forward look like?

A pan-Canadian team recently roadmapped the path through a 10-month multi-stakeholder process. More than 180 individuals representing 55 organizations across 10 sectors and sub-sectors were engaged in workshops and Indigenous engagement sessions. Five expert groups looked at issues related to technology, economics and finance, Indigenous and public engagement, waste management, and regulatory readiness.

Canada’s SMR Roadmap, released in early November 2018, charts a path forward across four thematic areas:

  • Demonstration and deployment – The Government of Canada and provincial governments interested in SMRs would help pay for demonstration projects with industry.These governments would share the risk with private investors as incentive for the first commercial deployment of SMRs in Canada, with the potential of exporting SMR technologies and related innovations developed in Canada to international markets.
  • Indigenous engagement – Building on the helpful dialogues launched under the Roadmap, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, together with utilities interested in SMRs, would have meaningful, two-way engagement with Indigenous communities about SMRs, well in advance of specific project proposals.
  • Legislation, regulation, and policy – The Roadmap includes recommendations on federal impact assessment, nuclear liability, regulatory efficiency, and waste management. For example, the Government of Canada is asked to make sure that changes to its federal impact assessment process don’t get in the way of initiatives to develop and deploy infrastructure like SMRs that can help deep de- Another recommendation is asking key players to make sure future waste streams from SMRs are part of waste plans.
  • International partnerships and markets – The federal government, with support from industry, laboratories, and academia, would continue strong and effective international engagement on SMRs, in particular to influence international

What’s the SMR Roadmap’s vision?

SMRs are a source of safe, clean, affordable energy – opening opportunities for a resilient, low-carbon future and capturing benefits for Canada and Canadians.

What’s the CNA’s take on all this?

The CNA, as just one of the organizations involved in the Roadmap, has this view:

  • SMRs are real and they are happening now. Utilities in Canada have begun to consider SMRs as a low-emissions replacement for fossil-fuelled electricity generation.
  • Decisions made in 2018-19 could lead to SMRs supplying power to Canadian electricity grids by around 2030, particularly where coal plants need to be replaced.
  • Mines and oil sands operations could be using SMRs for heat and power around the same time (2030) or soon thereafter, if technology decisions were made soon. These reactors would be different in scale and technology from those deployed on public electricity grids.
  • Application of SMRs in small, remote communities has great potential to improve energy supply, local air quality, and emissions by replacing the burning of diesel fuel – potential that has attracted attention from Canadian governments and others. While we too are excited by this opportunity, strong stakeholder engagement processes (including capacity-building in many cases) are needed to build understanding. Also, many of these communities are small, so the commercial business case is very constrained. These factors could put these applications on longer time-lines, depending on the extent of policy-level support.
  • Canada is one of only a few countries that have built up their investments in the full spectrum of civilian nuclear capabilities, from uranium mining, to fuel design, to manufacturing, to power generation, to life sciences and nuclear medicine, and to world-class excellence in regulation and governance. These strategic assets matter.There is an opportunity for Canada to lead the world on SMRs.

In summary, small modular reactors aren’t another over-hyped or far-away technology – some are based on reactors that have been operating for decades. SMRs are under construction now in at least three countries. In Canada and worldwide, these reactors have the potential to meet real, growing needs. What’s more, SMRs draw on skills that Canadians excel in. Because strategic partnerships are key, Canada’s SMR Roadmap has a plan of action that will engage many players. The CNA will continue reaching out to share information and help the players work together.

More on the SMR Roadmap can be found through www.cna.ca or www.smrroadmap.ca.

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NAYGN Lobbying for Nuclear at CNA Queen’s Park Day

By Matthew Mairinger, Senior Advisor Stakeholder Relations, Ontario Power Generation
Originally published at naygn.org, January 14, 2019

Similar to when North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) participated in the Canadian Nuclear Association’s (CNA) Parliament Hill Day, NAYGN participated in the CNA Queen’s Park Day on Nov. 26.

With 50,000 Ontarians employed across the province’s nuclear industry and nuclear supplying 60 per cent of Ontario’s needs, the politicians at Queen’s Park seemed quite receptive to nuclear.

The day kicked off with a briefing and overview of government priorities and then participants from NAYGN, Women in Nuclear (WiN), labour unions and the CNA broke off into 11 teams. The teams travelled to Queen’s Park to meet with Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs), policy advisors and deputy ministers to advocate for nuclear. During the day, participants also attended Question Period which turned out to be a heated discussion since General Motors had just announced the closure of the Oshawa GM plant.

From left, Jay Patel (NAYGN Bruce), Bonita Chan (NAYGN Chalk River), Hon. Greg Rickford (Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs), Matthew Mairinger (NAYGN Canadian Affairs Chair), Fabricia Pineiro (NAYGN Mississauga) and Yousef Yacoob (NAYGN Kinetrics).

“The Queens Park Day organized by CNA was a great opportunity to promote the importance of having a sustainable nuclear workforce,” said Fabricia Pinero of NAYGN Mississauga. “The engagement of young professionals is vital to help shape policies that support our generation’s priorities and encourage future ones to join.”

From left: Julie Bartlev (WiN-Canada), Yousef Yacoob (NAYGN Kinetrics), Hon. Bill Walker (Minister of Government and Consumer Services) andAndrew Thiele (Bruce Power).

“I’m very glad that I had the opportunity to meet with MPPs Nina Tangri, Vincent Ke, Norm Miller, the Hon. Bill Walker, and other members of our Legislative Assembly at the Canadian Nuclear Association’s Queens Park Day,” said Yousef Yacoob, of NAYGN Kinetrics.

“It was a pleasure to share some of the current innovations driven by Ontario’s nuclear industry; including the far-reaching impacts in medicine, clean energy, technology, and our local economy; and the role of the young generation.”

From left: Bruce Harris (IBEW Representative), Jay Patel (NAYGN Bruce), Amarjot Sandhu (MPP – Brampton West), Laurie Fraser (WIN representative) and Elan Thomas (Kinectrics).

“Participating in the Queen’s Park day organized by CNA was a very rewarding experience,” said Jay Patel from NAYGN Bruce. “It was a great opportunity for all representatives to advocate for nuclear energy and speak of its societal benefits to MPPs.

“It was admirable to see other CNA, WIN and Labour Union representative’s passion about nuclear energy and jobs in the industry, while advocating in front of all MPPs. The day also provided an opportunity for me to meet successful leaders within the nuclear industry and learn from their years of experience, which I can then take back to share with my co-workers.”

From left: Sandra Sylxhoorn (OPG), Bonita Chan (NAYGN Chalk River), Natalie Des Rosiers (MPP for Ottawa-Vanier) and Terry Armstrong (ES Fox).

“It was very rewarding to be reassured by MPPs that what we’re doing with NAYGN makes a difference in the industry,” explained Bonita Chan of NAYGN Chalk River. “Things like volunteering in the community we live in, advocating for the industry, providing career development opportunities for young nuclear professionals are just some of the things that they were happy to learn NAYGNers are partaking in.”

From left: John Stewart (CNA), Matthew Mairinger (NAYGN Canada), Paul Calandra (MPP for Markham-Stoufville, PA to the Minister of Energy), Michael Courtney (SNC Lavalin) and Ralph Chatoor (Society of United Professionals).