CNA2017

Sponsored Content: Why Quebec Hydro Doesn’t Work For Ontario

The idea of importing hydro electricity from Quebec into Ontario is often cited by some environmental groups as a viable clean-energy alternative to the baseload provided by Ontario’s nuclear fleet. At face value, this may sound like a good idea. After all, Quebec’s electricity prices are the lowest in the country and Quebec already exports vast… read more »

CNA2017

The Canadian Space Agency’s Nuclear Connection

A competition for two new astronaut spots launched by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) received over 3,000 applicants from outstanding Canadians looking to be part of the new frontier in space exploration. From a list of thousands, the race to space is getting narrow, just over a dozen candidates remain. The candidates are as different as their backgrounds and include military personnel, doctors and engineers.

Amongst those in the final running to be selected to join the CSA’s elite team is Alex DeLorey, a project manager for the Bruce Power Nuclear Refurbishment and a SNC-Lavalin team member.
DeLorey is hoping to be one of the final two to earn a coveted spot with the CSA.

Courtesy: Alex DeLorey

“The round of seventy-two was very physical, testing what you’d need to do to be successful on the job, including a grip test while wearing a space suit which is pressurized. The pressurized suit makes it harder to close your hands and demonstrates the difficulty of using tools in space. The round of thirty-two was survival testing,” according to DeLorey.

The survival testing included a series of drills that involved everything from simulating a helicopter crashing into ocean water to various emergency situations, such as fires and floods. To prepare for the trials, DeLorey spent time with the Milton fire department running through different scenarios that included re-enacting rescuing a person from a burning building; containing hazardous materials and rappelling down three stories on a rope. The man who looks to David Saint-Jacques as the astronaut he admires most, spent last summer learning to scuba dive, skydive and fly an airplane, all of this even before submitting an application.

“I had done quite a bit of research on the last recruitment campaign and tailored my preparation for it. I still fly at least once a week to keep my skills up and once it warms up I’ll try to get some scuba and skydiving in,” said DeLorey. “I have been going to the gym regularly at 6:00 am every weekday for the past four years and I also swim a few times a week.”

His strict regimen includes studying all things space related and keeping up with his French language training, even though he is already bilingual. Then there’s his day job as a Project Manager on the Bruce Power Refurbishment: A background which he believes has helped him in his outer space quest.

“I think it helped prepare me quite a bit. I’ve been on the reactor face for Wolsong (A nuclear power plant in South Korea) breathing out of a tube. The places and the situations are very stressful and they can be dangerous if you make wrong choices and so it has prepared me in that sense,” according to DeLorey. “Nuclear is a small industry but an international industry and I have experience of working with international teams so it’s given me quite a bit of preparation.”

The biggest challenge for this astronaut contender is time management. On top of the tremendous amount of training that has been required to get him this far, he continues to maintain his full-time job as a member of the SNC-Lavalin team. He also makes sure he can get out into the community and engage with students about the importance of pursuing your dreams and he recently became a dad for the first time. To make it all happen, DeLorey relies on a strong support network and he gives credit to his wife for his successes to date.

DeLorey speaking to students

Recently, the Trump administration signed a bill in support of NASA, support which could see a manned mission to Mars. It’s a mission this Canadian hopes he will be a part of.

“The plans for space missions in the future include sending astronauts beyond the moon for deep space testing and finally further to Mars,” stated DeLorey. “I would most like to be a part of any of those missions and get to be on the call back to Earth to tell everyone that we had made it to the destination and be a part of the excitement that would come from that.”

CNA2017

Nuclear Science and Your Java

Most of us can’t live without our morning cup of java. According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), almost 9 million bags of coffee are exported globally every month. Our caffeine addiction is rising at a growth rate of just under 2 per cent annually; making our morning pick me up big business.

But a disease known as coffee leaf rust could take the zap out of your coffee cup. Coffee leaf rust or Hemileia Vastatrix is a fungus that attacks the leaves of coffee crops. First documented in the late 1800s, coffee leaf rust can cause enormous economic damage to coffee production.  As has been widely reported, Sri Lanka was forced to give up coffee production thanks to a damaging outbreak of coffee leaf rust in the 1860s.

Credit: Krutar/Shutterstock

In 2013, Guatemala was one in a series of countries to declare a national agriculture emergency following an outbreak of the organism which destroyed about 70 per cent of coffee crops in the area. The impacts of this disease are profound. Over the last four years, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have lost approximately one billion dollars in revenue.

The coffee leaf rust organism works by attacking the leaves on coffee plants, leaving behind a yellow-orange coloured looking lesion or spot on the bottom of the leaf. These rust-like lesions reduce a plants ability to conduct photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight and water to produce oxygen, sugar and carbon dioxide. Reducing photosynthesis, or a plants ability to feed itself, results in lower coffee yields thanks to smaller berry and vegetative growth. Long term impacts of the infection include death of the shoots and roots of the plants, thereby reducing the amount of coffee production overall.

Nuclear science is fighting back against coffee leaf rust.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and other partners are hoping for a nuclear solution. They are attempting to breed plants that are resistant to the deadly fungus. A team of experts gathered in early October with the goal of producing resistant coffee plants through a nuclear technique called plant mutation breeding.

Plant mutation breeding works like this. Small doses of radiation are used to alter the DNA or genetic make-up of a plant, making them more resilient to disease and pests such as coffee leaf rust.

“Plant mutation breeding is a fast way to develop improved crops with new and useful traits,” said Stephan Nielen, FAO/IAEA geneticist in charge of the training. “The method also offers a widely accepted, economical and environmentally sustainable approach to protect yield and ensure adequate quantities of pesticide-free crops.”

The work being done in the labs is critical. Climate change is already taking its toll in coffee producing areas.  More heat and rainfall has equaled larger outbreaks of pests and diseases like coffee leaf rust, threatening the livelihood of an estimated 120 million people, often the world’s poorest, who rely on coffee income. An increase in temperatures and precipitation has provided a perfect breeding ground for this deadly disease. The problem has become so severe that in 2010, countries teamed up to form an initiative coffee and climate, a response to climate change and its impacts on the coffee industry. They are looking to help more than 70,000 farmers respond to climate change.

The work being done in labs with the IAEA will also provide another tool for the coffee industry, providing more genetically diverse, resistant plants, helping the environment and those who rely on it for their livelihood.

CNA2017

Nuclear Science Meeting Sustainability

As the global population continues to swell and pressures on natural resources escalate, thanks in part to increased demand and climate change; governments, industry and academia are looking to science for solutions.

“Nuclear power can bring health and prosperity to the 1.1 billion people in the world who currently do not have access to electricity,” stated World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 60th Annual General Conference in Vienna, Austria.

Courtesy: Tanapakorntungmana/Shutterstock

In the fall of 2015, the global community met at the United Nations in New York and agreed to seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs).  The goals; ambitious and universal, seek to end poverty; provide access to affordable, clean energy; make communities more resilient and combat climate change. Investments in SDGs have the ability to make noticeable improvements to the health, environment and economics for both developing and developed countries.

The commitment to realize the achievement of SDGs by 2030 requires nuclear.  Nuclear science and technology meet nine of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, making investments in these sectors critical components to a prosperous tomorrow.

In Spain, where nuclear power supplies about 20 per cent of the grid, a combination of factors including premiums placed on renewable energy has resulted in sky-high electrical bills as prices rose by almost 60 percent in the six years from 2006-2012. The result of the increase is that millions of people, especially those on fixed incomes, have been left in the dark.  Reliability and economics are key to improving the living conditions of people all over the world and the United Nation’s goals will hope to close the gap between energy security and the economics of electricity.

At the same time, energy choices must not further damage the environment with high carbon emissions.

The sector responsible for the greatest amount of emissions is electricity and heat production.  The fast and effective decarbonizing of this sector will require heavy investments in all low-carbon technologies. The Union of Concerned Scientists, amongst many others, has voiced that “limiting the worst effects of climate change may also require other low or no-carbon energy sources, including nuclear power.”

As a low emitter, nuclear power produces virtually no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants and avoids an estimated 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide yearly. At the same time, nuclear power has the ability to meet the increasing energy demands of an expanding population in a sustainable, clean way.

Moving towards a successful 2030 may be challenging but one thing is clear, in order to get there nuclear power must be part of the solution.

CNA2017

Nuclear Science: Mapping Out Alzheimer’s

Canadian women over 65 are at the greatest risk for developing dementia and that number is drastically rising. It is predicted that the number of Canadians living with dementia will almost double, affecting one million people by 2030. In the United States, a person is diagnosed with dementia every 66 seconds.

A large aging population and rising dementia rates are placing tremendous strains on an already stressed health care system, particularly long-term care facilities. Across the country, wait lists for long-term care varies from province to province but wait times in excess of a year are not unheard of. An overwhelming care demand coupled with a shortage of beds has meant many seniors are forced to stay at home longer.

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is an important step in planning for both patients and their families. A step that is closer to reality thanks to nuclear science and the stable isotope labeling kinetics (SILK) technique.

Inside your brain’s nerve cells are tau proteins. These proteins work to stabilize other proteins in the brain known as microtubules. These microtubules are responsible for cell structure and movement.  New findings from the  Washington University’s School of Medicine in St. Louis this past spring reveal the importance of tau proteins in early Alzheimer’s progression.

“Tau is abundant in the brain’s nerve cells, where it stabilizes the scaffold-like microtubules that play a critical role in transporting cargo within cells. But in Alzheimer’s disease as well as other “tauopathies,” such as progressive supranuclear palsy and frontotemporal dementia, clumps of tau protein are abnormally deposited in nerve cells in tangles.”

In order to assess the health and levels of tau protein a patient is given a stable isotope of amino acids and then through a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, the amount of labeled tau produced in the brain is measured. Knowing how much tau is produced, researchers can then calculate how fast the protein is produced and cleared away by the brain.

Research has shown brains that are prone to dementia tend to have a buildup of dysfunctional proteins and have a harder time clearing the excess proteins away compared to brains of healthy patients. While it’s not a cure, this discovery could lead to new hope for patients and their families.

“Usually we can only diagnose patients later in the disease process, when brain function already is diminished,” according to senior author Beau M. Ances, MD, PhD, an associate professor of neurology.  “We want to develop ways to make an earlier diagnosis and then design trials to test drugs against amyloid buildup and against tau buildup. While we currently cannot prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease, delaying the onset of symptoms by 10-15 years would make a huge difference to our patients, to their families and caregivers, and to the global economy.”

In addition to their work on tau proteins, the school was recently awarded $4.3 million dollars from the Alzheimer’s Association to expand an international clinical trial which will attempt to identify drugs that can slow down or prevent Alzheimer’s in patients who are genetically predisposed but are symptom free. Working towards a cure and improving the lives of patients around the world, thanks in part to nuclear science.

CNA2017

A Nuclear Ride

An atom and a 3D printer may drive the next generation of vehicles. That’s the idea behind Russian automobile designer Grigory Gorin and his concept for a nuclear fusion powered car.

The AUDI Mesarthim F-Tron Quattro concept car was inspired in part by Michel Laberge.  Dr. Laberge founded General Fusion in 2002 with a goal of creating a future powered by energy from nuclear fusion.

This past spring, the work of General Fusion was acknowledged by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) with a grant of just over 12 million dollars to further the research into fusion power.

“I think it’s a really terrific idea. I love it,” exclaims Gorin. “I’m very inspired when I see people that are involved in finding solutions to issues related to clean and secure energy.”

Gorin’s fascination with cars dates back to his childhood. The AUDI Mesarthim, named after one of the Aries star constellations, would transform automobile production, producing minimal environmental impact while providing virtually unlimited power.

The stars in our solar system are energized by nuclear fusion. In the center of the star, the fusion process takes place. When two atoms come together to form a heavier atom they release a tremendous amount of energy.

The concept of the car is quite simple. As the electric car speeds up and generates energy, the reactor would be activated. Four Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), systems which recover excess energy and store it in a battery, which would serve as back-up support. A small amount of hydrogen would fuel the reactor almost indefinitely.

Gorin was inspired by the changing state of ecology in his region of Russia.

“I’ve observed completely abnormal temperatures. (As an example), 2010 was so hot that forests began to burn,” states Gorin. “Winters have (also become) very warm, this year there was no snow in December and February and it was raining,” he says.

Concern for Russia’s environment has reached the Kremlin. President Putin, looking to raise public attention to environmental problems has made 2017 the Year of Ecology in Russia.

While Gorin’s invention is still years away from becoming a reality, he believes that the cars of the future will be able to carry an on-board device to produce energy such as a fusion reactor.

“The reactor can be installed on any chassis with any body so it can provide energy where needed,” he states. “It could also probably be used in conjunction with non-motile (stationary) reactors,” according to Gorin.

His proposed car would rarely, if ever, need refueling and wouldn’t produce harmful emissions like current fossil fuel powered vehicles.