- January 2015 (4)
- December 2014 (6)
- November 2014 (2)
- October 2014 (11)
- September 2014 (7)
- August 2014 (4)
- July 2014 (9)
- June 2014 (8)
- May 2014 (6)
- April 2014 (3)
- March 2014 (10)
- February 2014 (10)
- January 2014 (2)
- December 2013 (1)
- November 2013 (11)
- September 2013 (1)
- July 2013 (1)
- May 2013 (5)
- April 2013 (2)
- March 2013 (9)
- February 2013 (2)
- January 2013 (5)
- December 2012 (5)
- November 2012 (9)
- October 2012 (9)
- September 2012 (3)
- August 2012 (4)
- July 2012 (9)
- June 2012 (7)
- May 2012 (9)
- April 2012 (8)
- March 2012 (12)
- February 2012 (9)
- January 2012 (7)
- December 2011 (10)
- November 2011 (5)
- October 2011 (5)
- September 2011 (14)
- August 2011 (11)
- July 2011 (8)
- June 2011 (20)
- May 2011 (13)
- April 2011 (1)
December 11, 2014 – 14:50
By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association
You find your seat, stuff your bag in the overhead, sit down, and put your lap-belt on.
Sixteen inches from your face, the video lights up.
Welcome aboard our flight today. I’m the Chairman of this airline’s board of directors, and I’d like to ask for three minutes of your help.
Our customers are the heart of what we do.
Our Board is trying to decide how far that can go. With this in mind, we’ve drafted some possible new guidance for our great airline. We want to hear from you, our customers – the reason we fly.
Please touch the screen to express your support for each of the following measures on a scale of 1 to 4 (where 4 expresses greatest support).
- Customers were under-represented in past decisions around fuel mix, engine technology, flying altitude, and emergency procedures. We propose to consult you regularly from now on. Based on passenger consultations, the airline CEO will make sure customer concerns are addressed.
[Your fellow passengers tap their screens in response. You hesitate and look around. You see your seat-mate touch 4.]
- Criteria for making weather-related flight cancellations should reflect customer needs. The airline CEO will lead a consultation process to review these criteria. The decision criteria in poor weather may be relaxed if customers believe they were needlessly inconvenienced by past cancellations.
[Your seat-mate touches 3.]
- The airline CEO will transition our company to full “flight deck transparency.” Conversations within the flight deck, and between aircraft and ground, will be available for you to monitor on Channel 3 of our audio system.
[Your seat-mate hesitates, then touches 2.]
- In the next level of “flight deck transparency,” passengers will be able to submit real-time comments on those flight deck conversations. Comments will be moderated by the flight director and read to the pilot.
[Your seat-mate starts looking around the cabin. Others are doing the same. An audible murmur starts.]
- In the next level of “flight deck transparency,” warning signals and alarms from our avionic systems would be broadcast on the cabin speakers. We plan for passengers to be able to record their level of concern online at fifteen-second intervals. At each interval the pilot would hear a reading of the current average concern level. When multiple alarms are sounding, this reading frequency to the pilot would be shortened to five-second intervals.
The murmur of worry gets louder; hands move away from screens.
Absurd? Not entirely.
Sure, nearly all of us probably want to let the pilots fly the planes – and not distract them with our “concern level.” Whether it’s because we trust their professional qualifications, or we trust those who regulate them, or just because we aren’t sure we know better than they do, we let them do their jobs.
What about the “pilots” of the other critical systems in our modern world – those who plan and maintain city drinking water supplies, for example? Or the public health officers who manage disease outbreaks? Or fire marshals who regulate our office and apartment buildings to reduce fire risks? Do we let them do their jobs? In these cases, mostly the answer is yes, particularly as long as their record of protecting us is good.
Look further and the situation gets muddier. In CNA’s mid-2014 poll, nearly one in four respondents did NOT agree that the government agencies that regulate Canadian nuclear power plants are taking the issue of safety “seriously.” Attend public regulatory hearings and you’ll hear the same message in even less polite terms from those citizens who turn out to state their views. Canadians say they trust the corporations running the plants just as much as they trust the independent public regulators, if not more so. And trust in the public regulators seems to be trending downward.
It’s not just nuclear. A similar trend seems to affect a wide range of industry regulatory activities: from health product approvals to food inspection to environmental assessments to electricity generation. Canadians appear less and less willing to trust the people and processes inside regulatory bodies. The result is that more and more, public regulatory decisions get fought out in sidewalk protests, social media, TV news, legislatures, or election campaigns.
This is surprising when you consider that over the past 250 years, the rise of our professional standards of practice, product codes, and independent regulatory agencies have advanced ordinary people’s health and safety by orders of magnitude. (See “How can Nuclear Power be Safe?”)
By the evidence, this is one of the great successes of western society, owed to quiet technocrats who stayed out of politics and applied objective scientific and economic measures to find the public good.
Yet we now seem willing to discard it in favor of political processes where the winners are more likely to be the loudest screamers, the best-resourced lobbyists, or the richest property owners. In re-politicizing regulated industries, we don’t necessarily democratize decisions; rather, we may empower the noisy few. And much clear, demonstrable progress toward better decision-making may simply get undone.
It’s a big issue. It threatens to be a big step backward. And it’s something we should be talking more about. Pilots aren’t perfect; they’re human. So are their managers, and their CEOs, and their Boards, and their regulators. Oversight is always needed. But are we going to let them do their jobs, or not?
November 25, 2014 – 09:23
By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association
Northern Saskatchewan has been leading in nuclear technology since the early 1950s. That’s when researchers at the University of Saskatchewan pioneered cobalt-based therapy for cancer.
One of those researchers was a student named Sylvia Fedoruk, the medical physicist and oncologist who also contributed to the development of nuclear medical scanning systems.
Today, the Saskatoon-based Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation funds a wide range of research initiatives in nuclear technology, many of them in the health sciences.
Last week the Fedoruk Centre hosted two back-to-back events. On November 20, nuclearFACTS presented funded projects in nuclear research, development and training in Saskatchewan in the areas of nuclear medicine, nuclear energy and safety, materials research and environmental studies. It drew a total of about 80 participants.
And the following day, the Accelerate workshop, which CNA proudly sponsored, provided a day of discussion of nuclear research, innovation and financing. The researchers shared knowledge of fields from veterinary medicine to applied physics to venture finance.
A central theme coming out of this wide-ranging discussion was that nuclear technologies are “both new and old.” Like steam engines in the 1820s, electricity in the 1920s, or telephony in the 1980s, nuclear today has been around for decades – yet may be just beginning to find its most powerful applications.
November 19, 2014 – 10:46
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?