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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.

CNA2019

Innovation in action panel at CNA2019

Left to right: Jeff Lyash, Gaëtan Thomas, Mike Rencheck

On Thursday, February 28, at 2:00 p.m., Jeff Lyash, Mike Rencheck and Gaëtan Thomas will take the stage at CNA2019 to discuss new nuclear, innovation in action.

Not everyone realizes the full range of climate and health solutions offered by nuclear technology. Many of these solutions flow from the operations of nuclear utilities. Refurbishment and Major Component Replacement are sources of highly innovative advances in environmental protection, clean energy generation, and life-saving medical isotopes. New Nuclear is innovative, relevant to society’s needs, capable, job-creating, and impactful.

Jeff Lyash is President and CEO of Ontario Power Generation (OPG)  Jeff was formerly the President of CB&I Power where he was responsible for a full range of engineering, procurement and construction of multi-billion dollar electrical generation projects in both domestic and international markets. He also provided operating plant services for nuclear, coal, gas, oil and renewable generation.

Mike Rencheck is President and CEO of Bruce Power. Over the past 30+ years, Mike has served in a number of roles and most recently was the Deputy Chief Operating Officer for AREVA overseeing its extensive Global capital portfolio of nuclear and renewable projects. Prior to this, he served as President and CEO of AREVA Inc. in North America leading its diverse nuclear services business in Canada and the United States with a workforce of about 5,000 people.

Gaëtan Thomas is President and CEO of New Brunswick Power. He is a committed industry leader and agent of change, driven by his deep connection to customer and employee grassroots.

His vision for NB Power includes a made-in-New Brunswick smart grid supported by customer-centric technology and a workforce aimed at creating a greener, more sustainable province. This plan, now in its fourth year, is helping to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, lowering costs and keeping customer rates low and stable.

For more information about CNA2019 visit https://cna.ca/cna2019/.

CNA2019

The promise of SMRs and energy communities panel at CNA2019

Top to bottom: Bernd Christmas, Mark Lesinski, Madeleine Redfern

On Friday, March 1, at 10:30 a.m., Bernd Christmas, Mark Lesinski, and Madeleine Redfern will gather onstage at CNA2019 to discuss new nuclear, the promise of SMRs and energy communities.

New Nuclear holds the promise of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and how these may be integrated with other sources, such as Variable Renewable Energy, to create energy parks or “hybrid” energy communities. What kind of scenarios can we foresee for smart, integrated/hybrid energy systems, with SMRs providing the load-following foundation? Will such ideas be a defining characteristic of New Nuclear?

Bernd Christmas is the Chief Executive Officer of Gitpo Storms Corporation, a national Indigenous firm. He is also a member of Investors Group Board of Directors and the President of Outside Looking In. He is a recognized and accomplished leader in the Indigenous and business communities. He was the first Mi’kmaw to become a lawyer in Canada.

Mark Lesinski is President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology laboratory managed by the Canadian National Energy Alliance (CNEA). He has a distinguished career in nuclear science, operations, projects, and decommissioning. His 38 years of experience spans commercial and government nuclear facilities, from power reactor operations and major retrofit projects to management of decontamination and decommissioning (D&D).

Madeleine Redfern is the mayor of the City of Iqaluit. She was elected mayor in a by-election on December 13, 2010. Redfern graduated from the Akitsiraq Law School before becoming the first Inuk to be offered a clerkship at the Supreme Court of Canada.

For more information about CNA2019 visit https://cna.ca/cna2019/.

CNA2019

Environmental Impact and Climate Change Targets Panel at CNA2019

Top to bottom: Steve Aplin, Andrew Rowe, Laurie Swami

On Thursday, February 28, at 3:30 p.m., Steve Aplin, Andrew Rowe and Laurie Swami, will gather onstage at CNA2019 to discuss new nuclear, environmental impacts and climate change targets.

Our governments promise evidence-based approaches to policy. Nowhere is such an approach more needed than in the analysis of climate change impacts and GHG reduction. How to temper high-flown aspiration with hard data and engineering? New Nuclear aims to make a real contribution to the low-carbon economy, while protecting the environment. Can we find new ways to engage communities on science-based solutions and gain their support?

Steve Aplin is data strategist at emissionTrak. He has launched and led energy- and environment-related projects dealing with current and future energy production and use at the macro and micro levels. In addition to the technical, technological, and organizational aspects, all these projects involve also a political dimension, which often necessitates advocacy at various levels of government as well as in the public arena.

Andrew Rowe is the director of the Institute for Integrated Energy Systems, and professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, at the University of Victoria. He is a principal investigator with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions’ 2060 Project examining decarbonization of Canada’s energy system.

Laurie Swami is President and CEO of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO). She was appointed to the role in 2016 and is responsible for implementing Canada’s plan for the long-term management of used nuclear fuel. Ms. Swami previously served as Senior Vice-President of Decommissioning and Nuclear Waste Management at Ontario Power Generation (OPG). She holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Chemistry from Queen’s University and a Master of Business Administration from the Schulich School of Business.

For more information about CNA2019 visit https://cna.ca/cna2019/.

Uncategorized

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).
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Nuclear technology increases rice crop yields

Rice terraces in Indonesia

There has been a wealth of studies examining the impact climate change can play in reducing the yield of rice crops.

Whether it be less rain or a shortened growing season, many are concerned about the future of rice production. And this could have a negative impact on the health and economies of the developing world.

But nuclear technology could offer a solution.

In Indonesia, scientists at the country’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN) have developed 22 rice varieties using irradiation to generate new and useful traits in crops. The process is known as mutation breeding.

As the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) explains, “Mutation breeding uses a plant’s own genetic make-up, mimicking the natural process of spontaneous mutation. The mutation process generates random genetic variations, resulting in plants with new and useful traits.”

Ripe rice crops

In Indonesia, scientists use gamma irradiation to induce mutations in seeds and to speed up the natural mutation process. The new plants are then tested and those displaying useful traits are selected for further breeding and subsequent distribution to farmers.

After two years, the new rice has been a success. Two hundred farmers in the region of East Java have used the rice variety called Inpari Sidenuk, which is Indonesian for “Nuclear Dedication.” According to the IAEA, the farmers have doubled their yields to nine tons per hectare.