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Innovations we Need – Now, and for Generations

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

In case you missed this in the early January darkness: A Canadian team based at Vancouver-area TRIUMF has demonstrated a practical answer to the impending shortage of medical isotopes.

Technetium-99m (TC-99m), a commonly used isotope for medical imaging and diagnosis, has until now mainly been derived from molybdenum-99 from the NRU research reactor in Ontario. But the NRU is scheduled to end molybdenum production in 2016.

Industry experts were warning that this would leave global supplies of TC-99m very tight and vulnerable to shortages. But Canada’s nuclear science and technology know-how, with support from the federal government, has been working on answers. The team uses a common brand of medical cyclotron – developed and manufactured in Canada – to make TC-99m without a reactor.

Yanick Lee (right) and Ran Klein (centre) show off the Ottawa Hospital’s cyclotron.
The cyclotron at the Ottawa Hospital produces isotopes used for PET scans, which allow cardiac and cancer patients to receive precisely targeted treatments.

Nuclear technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s an integral part of our health care system, helping Canadian doctors to help their patients faster, better, and less intrusively. Not to mention an integral part of our materials science, which supports our whole manufacturing and engineering capability. Not to mention an integral part of our low-carbon, low-cost electric power supply.

Nuclear technology solves real-world problems that affect our quality of life: How long we live. How well our cars run. How safely our planes land. How affordable energy is.

As we noted in our last post, timely solutions like the isotope breakthrough may only be the tip of the iceberg compared to what nuclear innovation could bring humanity in coming decades. The world’s demand for low-carbon energy and clean air is probably the biggest single challenge we face as a species.  And it is increasingly clear that nuclear is the only minimal-carbon energy that can be there on the scale we need, when we need it.

Many reactor designs can be part of that solution, which will be global in scale. Here are some examples of CNA member organizations working in science and technology partnerships right now to make it happen:

  • Burnaby, BC-based General Fusion, which has a prototype fusion reactor, has a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, and is putting them in place with the Lawrence Berkeley National and Princeton Plasma Physics labs.
Terrestrial
Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR80.
  • Mississauga, ON-based Terrestrial Energy, which is developing integral molten salt reactors, recently announced an initial collaboration with USDOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the home of the original working MSR design.
  • CNA members GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GHNE) and Westinghouse Electric, plus Areva Federal Services, have joined with USDOE’s Argonne National Laboratory in a partnership on next-generation reactors.

National laboratories don’t form these partnerships just to make headlines. They’re looking to solve big problems. Canada and CNA members are going to be part of those answers.

Messages Mining Nuclear Energy

National Aboriginal Day in Canada – June 21

Did you know: The Canadian uranium industry is the leading employer of Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan, and Cameco is the leading industrial employer in Canada overall?

Our industry takes great pride in the communities in which it operates. We know our neighbors and we contribute to the economic, environmental, and social prosperity of the cities and towns where we work and live.

Today, on National Aboriginal Day, TalkNUclear would like to highlight the contributions of three of our members who rely on Aboriginal communities as a valuable part of their workforce and for input into their planning and projects for the benefit of all of Canada’s people, including its First Peoples.

Did you know: Canada produces 18% of all global uranium, making us the second largest producer in the world. Our uranium industry directly and indirectly employs about 14,000 people in Saskatchewan.

Cameco is a proud sponsor of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) fourth National Event in Saskatoon, taking place from June 21-24 at Prairieland Park. “The TRC Saskatchewan National Event is an opportunity for all Canadians, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to learn more about and bear witness to the legacy of the residential school system,” said Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the TRC.

Did you know: The province of Saskatchewan has the largest number of Residential School Survivors in Canada.  Approximately 10 per cent of them reside in Saskatoon.

Visit www.trc.ca for more information.

If you’re in the area, join the AREVA office in La Ronge for the AREVA Celebration BBQ! Celebrate Summer and National Aboriginal Day, Thursday, June 21 at 4:00pm. Enjoy a burger and a pop while you meet some of AREVA’s employees and management, and learn more about AREVA’s operations, jobs and contracting opportunities.

Don’t know La Ronge? La Ronge is the largest community in Northern Saskatchewan with over 3500 people residing in the town itself and about 2000 people on the adjacent First Nations lands of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and some 1000 people residing in the bordering settlement of Air Ronge.
Learn more here: http://www.townoflaronge.ca/Welcome/Introduction.php

Bruce Power is providing its employees an opportunity to learn about the cultures of Canada’s Aboriginal people with a celebration that includes a tradition drum circle, Native dancers, and cedar tea and cake. The event is hosted by the Bruce Power Native Circle, which is a group of 30 self-identified employees of Aboriginal heritage. “The day will be about sharing our rich and beautiful culture,” said Sismo – Pam Schwartzentruber, the chair of Bruce Power’s Native Circle. “I find not everyone in our area is aware of the unique parts of our First Nations and Métis communities.” Festivities and learning takes place June 21 from 10am-12pm at Bruce Power. More details here: http://www.brucepower.com/6124/news/bruce-power-to-celebrate-aboriginal-day-on-june-21/

Guest Blog Mining Nuclear Education Nuclear Energy Nuclear Pride Nuclear Safety

Going Deep Underground: Cameco and AREVA Uranium Mine and Mills Tour

This is a guest blog by the CNA’s Regulatory Affairs Officer, Matthew Hickman. Looks like it was a great tour at a truly impressive set of facilities!

AREVA’s McClean Lake mill in northern Saskatchewan is the only facility in the world capable of processing high-grade uranium ore without diluting it.

On June 13, 2012 AREVA and Cameco hosted the staff and Board of Directors of the Canadian Nuclear Association on a tour of their mining facilities in northern Saskatchewan.  Tour participants had the incredible opportunity to see the mining and milling operations at the McArthur River uranium mine and McClean Lake mill.

 

The day started at AREVA’s McClean Lake site after a quick flight from Saskatoon. The McClean Lake site is located approximately 700 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, and is comprised of several uranium mines and the newest, most technologically advanced uranium mill in North America.  Our tour guide Glenn was very knowledgeable and provided us with a tour of the entire uranium milling process, from extraction to final packaging.  The milling facility was as impressive as it was complex and the safety features and processes were evident.

Cameco's McArthur River Operation: The main McArthur River head frame houses the hoist over the main (Pollock) shaft which deliver miners and equipment as deep as 680 metres below surface.

 

Our next stop was the Cameco McArthur River site, which is also located within the Athabasca Basin approximately 60 kilometers west from the McClean Lake site.  The first thing that stuck out to me was the small footprint of the entire mining operation – only about 4 square kilometers.  Equally fascinating was that the McArthur River site is the world’s largest high-grade uranium mine, with the average ore grade of 16.89%.

The primary themes that I have extracted from this tour are the unique and innovative mining techniques, employee pride and evident safety culture.  I can definitely say that the tour surpassed my expectations and would highly recommend it to anyone if they ever have the opportunity.  Finally, I would like to graciously thank our hosts, AREVA and Cameco for providing such an amazing opportunity to the CNA.

Nuclear News Nuclear Pride

AREVA’s Jean-François Béland Receives Award for Excellence

Jean-François Béland, executive vice president of AREVA Canada

Jean-François Béland, executive vice president of AREVA Canada Inc., received on May 11 an award for excellence from HEC (Hautes Etudes Commerciales) Montréal, one of Canada’s leading business schools. This award is presented annually to younger alumni of HEC Montréal for significant achievement in business.

Béland noted the role that the AREVA team has played in his accomplishments.

“In particular, I want to thank my colleagues at AREVA Canada who are to me like a family. This especially so because we travel so often to visit customers and our industrial sites.”

Béland is based in AREVA Canada’s Pickering, Ont., office and makes his home in Gatineau, Que.

Félicitations Mr. Béland!

Mining Nuclear News

AREVA Canada on AREVA in Canada (and Why they’ll be Sticking Around)

AREVA Canada Exec VP Jean-Francois Béland

AREVA Canada Executive Vice President Jean-Francois Béland appeared on Business News Network (BNN) today.

Mr. Béland talked about AREVA Canada’s involvement in the Canadian nuclear industry. They employ roughly 600 employees in Canada with projects on the go or planned in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nunavut, Quebec and New Brunswick. AREVA Canada services nuclear facilities in all the nuclear provinces.

The interviewer asked about the “big business” of nuclear (i.e. the economic contributions of the nuclear industry). We know that through the efforts of our people, the Canadian nuclear industry is a $6.6 billion per year industry, contributing $1.5 billion in tax revenues and $1.2 billion in export revenues.

And, as Mr. Béland mentioned, it provides roughly 71,000 direct and indirect jobs.

We also know that refurbishing nuclear facilities at Bruce and Darlington will create 25,000 jobs in the next decade and inject $5 billion into the Ontario economy annually. Big business, indeed!

The Cigar Lake mine in northern Saskatchewan, the world’s second-largest high-grade uranium deposit, is on track to start producing in 2013. 100% of its production will be processed at the McClean Lake mill.

AREVA Canada’s has some exciting mining projects in Saskatchewan too. The Cigar Lake mine, which they partner on with Cameco, contains what is considered among the best grade uranium in the world. AREVA and its partners are also investing $150 million to improve the McClean Lake mill, a project that when completed will create over 100 jobs in Northern Saskatchewan.

AREVA’s McClean Lake mill in northern Saskatchewan is the only facility in the world capable of processing high-grade uranium ore without diluting it.

Mr. Béland also talks about AREVA’s international business and the politics of energy in France, after the recent election that saw a change in the head of state.

Watch the full interview here.

CNA Responds Guest Blog Nuclear News

Minister Calls for New Regulatory Processes

A guest blog from our friends at AREVA.

Minister Calls for New Regulatory Processes

Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister for natural resources, said that new, more efficient regulatory processes are needed or the nation could miss out on vital economic opportunities. This issue is of major significance for Saskatchewan’s natural resources industry, which includes uranium mining. Saskatchewan is home to the world’s best uranium deposits and responsible for 17% of the world production.

“No one will stand around and wait for Canada to get its act together, and I doubt I’ll get much argument about that from this audience,” said Oliver before about 50 people at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Centre on Tuesday in Regina. Oliver’s 20-minute presentation was hosted jointly by the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and the Saskatchewan Mining Association.

Oliver noted that Saskatchewan stands to benefit from exporting uranium to countries such as China which are building new nuclear power plants. But, he noted, that under the current regulatory structure the country is at a disadvantage.

Click here to read the full article.

What TalkNUclear thinks:

A more efficient regulatory process has the potential to bring many benefits to Canada. The benefits are economic and social, but also environmental. We made this point when the CNA presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development when they were looking at how to improve the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). Environmental Assessments (EA), under the Act, are very important in our industry; they are a valuable planning tool. We think it’s important to remove process steps that add little or no value to the environment, and have the potential to draw attention away from what really matters.

Read more about our thoughts on regulatory reform, specifically the CEAA review:

Canadian Nuclear Association Encourages Government to Give Full Consideration to CEAA Report Recommendations, March 2012

Speech on the 7-Year Review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Nov 2011