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New Brunswick environmentalist does a 180, now supports nuclear

Saint John, New Brunswick

The growing movement of environmentalists supporting nuclear came to Canada in March.

CBC News reported that New Brunswick environmentalist Gordon Dalzell has dropped his opposition to nuclear power and now sees its role in the fight against climate change.

“The world is really at a disastrous tipping point and we need to really seriously consider nuclear power as a viable option, because we know how serious it is,” said Dalzell, who CBC described as Saint John, New Brunswick’s “best known environmentalist.”

Dalzell told CBC News he no longer believes energy efficiency, wind and solar alone can contain the growth of emissions as developing countries rise out of energy poverty.

In other countries, a large number of prominent environmentalists have come over to the pro-nuclear side due to the urgency of tackling climate change. This includes people like former California gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger, author Gwyneth Cravens, Kirsty Gogan, executive director of Energy For Humanity, Ben Heard, director of Bright New World, and Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy.

In Canada, fewer environmentalists have joined the pro-nuclear movement, which begs the question why?

Is it a refusal to recognize the benefits of nuclear energy, which includes a large amount of power with a small environmental footprint, safer new technologies and, most importantly, carbon-free electricity generation that addresses climate change?

Environmentalists have interpreted a recent United Nations report as suggesting that there is only a 12-year window for governments to take action and avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.

“We do not have much time,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May recently stated. “If we miss the goal of reducing emissions globally by 45 per cent in 12 years, that one last chance is lost. Forever.”

Assuming we only have 12 years left, then why can’t more people in the environmental movement have open minds about nuclear? They don’t have to necessarily be supportive, just be open to viewing it as one of the tools, along with all other clean energy technologies, available to tackle climate change.

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World nuclear output reached new high in 2018

The latest International Energy Agency (IEA) numbers are out and nuclear power continued to grow in 2018, despite concerns about reactor closures in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In its March “Global Energy & CO2 Status Report,” the IEA said overall global energy consumption grew by 2.3 per cent due to “a robust global economy as well as higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world.”

The increase in energy consumption meant CO2 emissions rose 1.7 per cent last year, a new record high.

Gas accounted for 47 per cent of the new energy growth and nuclear represented seven per cent of new growth.

The growth in nuclear was based largely on new capacity in China and the restart of four reactors in Japan, according to the IEA.

In related news, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that nuclear output reached a peak in 2018, surpassing the previous peak set in 2010.

This happened despite the fact that seven reactors have been taken out of service since 2010 and only one new reactor has been added to the grid. The increase was due to reactor upgrades that improved efficiency and reactors shortening the time they are out of operation for maintenance.The IEA has been more vocal in recent months about the importance of nuclear energy.

In February, the IEA held a workshop on the role of nuclear power in the clean energy system, which will lead to a report on the issue, and IEA Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol spoke on the margins of the Canadian Nuclear Association’s annual conference in Ottawa.

“Nuclear energy plays an important role in both energy security and sustainability in today’s energy mix,” Birol said at a recent IEA workshop.

“However, without appropriate policy attention, its contribution will shrink, creating challenges for meeting our energy policy goals in the future. As an all-fuels and all-technologies organization, the IEA monitors the development of nuclear energy and its potential role in the clean energy transitions.”

The IEA has an important role in making policymakers understand the scope of the challenge the world faces in providing clean and reliable electricity as transportation electrifies and more and more people in the developing world become electricity consumers.

Governments need to act pragmatically and, like the IEA, realize the role all technologies can play in the energy system of the future.

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Three reasons to think about nuclear on Earth Day

Monday, April 22 marks Earth Day.

The first Earth Day in 1970 is considered by some the birth of the modern environmental movement.

Nearly a half century later, the day has become an international event.

This year’s Earth Day theme is Protect Our Species, focusing on how human activity contributes to the extinction of species, whether that be climate change, deforestation, pollution or a long list of other things.

Nuclear technology and research has an important role in protecting the environment. Here are three ways nuclear can help protect our species.

#1 Stopping the spread of disease among animals

Nuclear techniques are used to diagnose livestock diseases and improve livestock growth and resistance to disease. Radioimmunoassay methods are essential in stopping the spread of animal diseases, such as rinderpest. Thanks to the role played by nuclear technology, rinderpest is now an animal disease of the past, having been completely eradicated worldwide.

Seventy countries use disease diagnostic and monitoring tests to assist their animal disease prevention, control and eradication programs.

#2 Studying how toxins move through marine life

Radiotracers track the effects of acidification on ocean chemistry and marine life. Nuclear techniques monitor the oceans’ shifting chemical balance caused by ocean acidification – vital information to protect the marine environment.

#3 Assessing animal migration

A nuclear technique known as stable isotopes has helped uncover migratory routes, trophic levels, and the geographic origins of migratory animals. It can be used on land as well as in the ocean and has revolutionized how researchers study animal movement.

Nuclear technology is involved in many areas of research and technology and the advances play an important role in protecting marine and wildlife.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of nuclear, please read “The Role of Nuclear in the World.”

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Clean versus renewable energy: What’s the difference?

Since declaring climate change a national emergency on June 7, Canadian government leaders across parties are moving to develop their own policies on the issue to demonstrate they are poised for action.

Terms such as clean and renewable energy are being used in climate plans. But what do they really mean?

An article from earlier this year points out that the terms clean energy and renewable energy are sometimes used interchangeably, leading to confusion. Clearly defining what these terms mean and including them in climate change policies will be essential as Canada works to lower emissions and meet international commitments.

According to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada 2019-2022 (FSDS) clean energy is defined as “Renewable and non-emitting (such as nuclear) energy sources, and carbon capture and storage technologies, as well as the reduction of energy usage through energy efficiency.”

The FSDS defines renewable energy as “Energy obtained from natural resources that can be naturally replenished or renewed within a human lifespan.” Both definitions appeared for the first time in the Strategy’s Glossary of Terms in 2016 – the year the Paris Agreement was signed.

Yet Generation Energy, a report released by Natural Resources Canada in June 2018, refers to clean energy as “electricity produced from renewable energy (hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, etc.), as well as energy efficiency solutions.” Nuclear energy, the second largest low-carbon power source in the world, is left out of the definition entirely.

The term non-emitting is included separately in the report’s glossary defining it as “electricity produced from sources that produce no carbon pollution, such as hydro, wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, and tidal.”

If these definitions continue to change from one policy document to the next, it could result in energy plans changing as well, which could slow progress.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently reported that global declines in nuclear power could result in severe strain on the energy grids of advanced economies. Renewables would have to ramp up at an unprecedented rate resulting in $1.6 trillion in investments. This could affect not only cost per kWh but delay our ability to lower emissions and establish energy security.

By following the example of the FSDS and designing national strategies that include non-emitting sources such as nuclear in the definition of clean energy, and including clean energy along with renewables as part of the clean energy mix, Canada will be more likely to lower emissions quickly and efficiently.

Consistent use of the terms clean energy and renewable energy in climate change policies is not just about preventing misunderstandings; it could represent the difference between meeting our climate targets and missing them.

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John Gorman visits SNC-Lavalin mock-up facility

On Wednesday, July 3 CNA’s new President and CEO John Gorman had the privilege of visiting the SNC-Lavalin control room simulator and manufacturing shop in Mississauga, Ontario.

Below are some photos they took during his visit.

John in the CANDU 6 Main Control Room Simulator speaking with Navid Badie (Senior Vice-President, Engineering & Chief Nuclear Engineer), right, and Michael Courtney (Advisor, Marketing, Strategy & External Relations)
John in the CANDU 6 Main Control Room Simulator looking at the Main Heat Transport Panels
Jeffrey de Beyer explaining to John how the single-rail slide table of the Calandria mock-up functions for training and tool qualification
Elisabeth Leon (Manager, SP3 Project Delivery) and John in front of a pressure-test system for Fuel Channel Closures
John holding a part made for the iron chamber with Peter Schicht (Manager, Manufacturing)
Peter Schicht showing John the waterjet which uses water to cut various materials
John looking into the Radiation Lab (largest in Canada) with Greg Squires (Senior Project Management Specialist)
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On Queen Street: new president of Canadian Nuclear Association excited about emerging technology for industry

By Jesse Cnockaert
Originally published in The Lobby Monitor, May 15, 2019

As Canada works to reduce its carbon footprint, John Gorman sees his background in the solar power industry as something that will be of benefit in his new role as president of the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA).

“It’s going to take more than wind and solar and battery storage to meet all of the challenges that we’re facing when it comes to decarbonizing the electricity system and meeting this growing demand globally,” said Gorman, who took over at CNA on May 13. “From where I come from, I just can’t see how we can meet those challenges without nuclear energy. So, when the opportunity came to lead the CNA, particularly at this time when there are exciting new technologies in nuclear coming out, I thought it was an important opportunity to be able to contribute and promote Canadian technology here and abroad.”

Gorman takes over the position from former president John Barrett, and is currently registering to lobby on behalf of CNA.

He comes to CNA after more than seven years as president of the Canadian Solar Industries Association, the trade group that represents the solar energy industry across Canada.

Now with CNA, Gorman will be leading the organization that represents Canada’s nuclear industry.

Gorman may have switched his professional allegiance to a different source of electricity generation, but he considers both solar and nuclear as renewable forms of energy. He said his involvement in the energy industry stems from a personal desire to contribute in some way to climate change solutions.

“I think there’s a lot of work that has to continue in terms of educating the public about the role nuclear plays in Canada and can continue to play globally,” he said. “We’re going to need everything we’ve got in terms of clean energy for these problems.”

Two of CNA’s priorities in their discussions with the federal government are the international trade of nuclear technology, and greenhouse-gas emissions trading under Canada’s commitment in the Kyoto Protocol, the registry shows.

In the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty signed in 1997, countries accepted targets for limiting or reducing carbon emissions. Any countries with emission units to spare – emissions that are permitted but not used – can engage in “emissions trading,” where those units are sold to other countries that have exceeded their targets.

Gorman also sees this as an important time for the nuclear industry because of the emerging small modular reactors (SMRs) industry. SMRs are nuclear fission reactors designed to be smaller in size than conventional nuclear reactors, and can therefore be produced in larger numbers. These reactors are made to be portable and scalable, so that nuclear energy can be taken to smaller power grids and off-grid areas, like northern communities and reserves.

In November 2018, Natural Resources released the SMR Roadmap, a document intended to establish a long-term vision for Canada’s nuclear industry. In the roadmap, Canada is described as having “one of the world’s most promising domestic markets for SMRs,” and places the potential value for SMRs in Canada at approximately $5.3 billion between 2025 and 2040.

Natural Resources called SMRs an emerging global market that could be valued at approximately $150 billion per year by 2040, in a news release accompanying the roadmap.

Gorman’s background in energy also includes more than six years representing Canada’s solar industry as a member of the executive committee of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA is a policy advisory organization made up of 30 member countries to promote clean energy and share ideas for best practices.

He is also a former board member of the Green Ontario Fund, which prior to its cancellation in 2018 by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, was a non-profit provincial agency tasked with reducing greenhouse gas pollution in buildings and industry to help the province meet emission reduction targets.