Tag Archives: Canadian Nuclear Association

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Why We Say Nuclear Is Safe – And Why We Shouldn’t

Very few products market their safety.

For example, airlines do not advertise how many days it’s been since their last crash. In recent presentations, UK nuclear advocate Malcolm Grimston has taken the nuclear industry to task for its safety messaging approach.  He says safety is not the product. In a recent speech, he compared the nuclear industry that uses only facts to the Brexit Remain campaign, unable to counter the emotional arguments of the Leave side. In the case of the Brexit “Remain” vote, the facts were not enough.

Grimston is not alone. There is much research and literature on the perils of exclusively communicating facts. On some level, fear of nuclear can be a psychological phenomenon. Risk communication expert Peter Sandman says the risks likely to kill people are not necessarily the risks that concern them. There seems to be no correlation between the likelihood and severity of hazard and public fear. Many risks make people outraged but do little harm and other risks result in millions of deaths each year with little public outcry.

Then there is the backfire effect, which alarmingly shows that facts often don’t matter.  A Dartmouth experiment showed subjects two news stories – one with a misleading claim from President George W. Bush and the other with the claim plus a correction. Conservatives who read a news story which suggested Iraq had WMDs followed by a correction from a CIA study that indicated the opposite were more likely to believe Iraq had WMDs than Conservatives who read the story without the correction.  The research found that the effect of a correction is dependent upon one’s ideological predisposition. People engage in motivated reasoning. That’s because humans are goal-driven information processors, which means they interpret any information, positive or negative, to support their bias. Hence the backfire effect.

Despite what Grimston implies, the nuclear industry isn’t putting out facts about safety because it wants to. This is not happening in an experimental vacuum. A good deal of the safety messaging is to counter media coverage. Most people are aware of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. As this is written, a simple Google News search shows “Three Mile Island and nuclear” has a result from five hours ago, “Chernobyl and nuclear” has a result from two hours ago, and “Fukushima and nuclear” has a story from three hours ago. Nuclear energy runs 24/7, but so does news coverage of accidents that happened as far back as 38 years ago.

There is also the problem of frequency. People may perceive a greater probability of risk in something of which they are reminded on regular basis, whether it be by friends or the media.

In the mid-1960s, polling showed that a decrease in the amount of news coverage about nuclear power resulted in a decrease in opposition. But in 1968, news coverage of siting controversies increased the percentage of people opposed to nuclear. This trend was also seen in 1979 after the incident at Three Mile Island. Opposition increased in the two months after the accident in the spring, then steadily declined over the summer only to increase again in October and November when the media covered the Congressional report on the accident.

The media practice of featuring dueling experts in stories or on TV panels can have a negative impact on the nuclear industry’s safety message. This type of format leads to the public often concluding, “Well, if experts can’t agree then nuclear energy probably isn’t safe.”

Syracuse University sociologist Allan Mazur has found expert debates on technical subjects only increase public opposition to a technology. This means the media’s need to have a balance in coverage leads to a misconception that nuclear is not safe. Much like U.S. cable news networks have been criticized by environmentalists for giving too big a platform to climate change skeptics, an over exposure to the public of opposing views without factoring the scientific consensus can skew coverage of climate change or nuclear safety. “Thus truth in journalism is quite different from truth in science,” as Sandman has written.

Given this, what can those of us in the nuclear industry do?  Grimston’s advice to extol the benefits of nuclear can be effective. Polling conducted for the CNA has shown that providing respondents with positive information about nuclear in addition to safety, such as its role in climate change mitigation and how it can help those living in energy poverty or remote communities, can change opinions. Pre-information, 22 per cent of respondents supported nuclear, 31 per cent opposed and 47 per cent were undecided. Post information the number increased to 37 per cent in favour. While most of those opposed remained opposed, seven per cent of them supported nuclear post information and 36 per cent moved into the undecided group.

CNA2017

Attention environmentalists: Ontario, not Germany, is a clean energy leader

In 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a radical plan to close all the country’s 17 nuclear plants by 2022.  At the same time, the country plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 and up to 95 percent in 2050, compared to 1990 levels.  Many environmentalists and anti-nuclear types viewed this Energiewende (“energy transition”) as good news.

But Germany’s green Energiewende is producing one big not-so-green result. The regressive impact of Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power has done little to phase out coal-fired electricity.

Despite its ambitious plans, Germany remains the coal capital of Europe.

The German broadcaster Deutsche Welle recently reported the mining company RWE is planning the expansion of some of Europe’s biggest coal mines – Garzweiler and Hambach.

Yet these developments have not stopped advocates enthusiastic about wind and solar at energy conferences in Canada from using Germany as an example of a clean energy leader. This adulation is particularly puzzling, when these people just need to look in their own backyard to find a better example of a low-carbon leader.

In 2016, Ontario’s electricity generation was 90 per cent carbon free, with nuclear accounting for 61 per cent of power generation and coal zero. In contrast, 2016 estimates for Germany show their grid was 42 per cent carbon free (a mix of 13 per cent nuclear and 29 per cent from renewables), and coal still making up 40 per cent of electricity generation.

Unlike Ontario, which used a combination of nuclear, gas and renewables to phase out coal, Germany has increased renewables, cut nuclear with very little impact on coal.

Not only do these numbers raise doubts about Germany being able to keep its emission reductions commitments, they come at a cost.

An analysis of 257 of 280 coal-fired power plants in the EU found that their 2013 emissions caused over 22,900 deaths. In Germany, 3,630 people died from coal-related illnesses in 2013, the report by the Health and Environment Alliance, Climate Action Network Europe, WWF European Policy Office and Sandbag reported.

Germany’s electricity mix is still comprised of 23 per cent lignite coal, which is often referred to as “brown” coal, which causes the highest CO2 emissions per ton when burned.

Meanwhile in Ontario, nuclear energy played an important role in Ontario’s phase-out of coal in 2014 and ending smog days across the province.

Between 2000 and 2013, nuclear-powered electrical generation rose 20 percent in Ontario, coinciding with a 27 percent drop in coal-fired electricity. During the same period, non-hydro renewables increased to 3.4 percent from one percent.  Bruce Power doubled its fleet of operating reactors from four to eight, becoming the world’s largest nuclear generating station.

While more renewable energy did come on line, Bruce Power estimates they provided 70% of the carbon free energy needed to replace the power from the shutdown of coal plants.

All in all, this major transition to a cleaner Ontario could not have happened without nuclear.

The long-term results of Germany’s Energiewende experiment are not known. Based on current data it should stand as a cautionary tale for governments thinking about replacing low-carbon nuclear energy with carbon-creating fossil fuels.  It should stand as an example of a global clean energy leader.

CNA2017

Discover Your Inner Leader with Drew Dudley at CNA2017

Wake up bright and early on Friday, February 24, to hear from CNA2017 breakfast keynote speaker Drew Dudley.

Drew is a leadership educator who believes “leadership is not a characteristic reserved for the extraordinary.” Over the years he has worked to help people discover the leader within themselves.

Drew’s interest in developing people’s leadership began when he was the Leadership Development Coordinator at the University of Toronto. In 2010 he founded Nuance Leadership Development Services, a company that creates leadership curricula for communities, organizations and individuals. That same year Drew gave a TED Talk in which he called on all of us to “celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other’s lives.”

For more information about CNA2017 visit cna.ca/2017-conference.

CNA2017

CNA2017 Welcomes Laura Dawson as Keynote

CNA2017 is excited to welcome Laura Dawson to the stage as its lunch keynote speaker on Thursday, February 23.

Laura is the Director of the Canada Institute. Named one of Canada’s Top 100 foreign policy influencers by the Hill Times in 2014, Laura is a speaker, writer, and thought leader on Canada-U.S., NAFTA, TPP, and international trade issues. Previously, she served as the senior advisor on economic affairs at the United States Embassy in Ottawa and taught international trade and Canada-U.S. relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. Laura continues to serve as Emeritus Advisor at Dawson Strategic, which provides advice to business on cross-border trade, market access and regulatory issues. She is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute and serves on the board of the Council of the Great Lakes Region.

For more information about CNA2017 visit cna.ca/2017-conference.

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Setting the Record Straight on the Price of Electricity

By John Barrett
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

Environmental Defence has a new online campaign in which they are trying to pin the blame for Ontario’s electricity costs on nuclear, while at the same time ignoring nuclear’s role in helping Ontario’s landmark achievement of ending coal-fired electricity generation.

These alternative facts have been discredited by many, including the findings of Ontario’s Auditor General’s 2015 report on electric power system planning.

On electricity prices, the low cost of nuclear was recently highlighted in a news release from the Ontario Energy Board, which indicated nuclear accounted for only 38 per cent of the Global Adjustment while generating 59 per cent of the electricity.
In 2016, nuclear power generated 61% of Ontario’s electricity at well below the amounts paid to other generators. In fact, the average price of nuclear was 6.6 cents per kWh compared to the average residential price of 11 cents per kWh.

Wind and solar make up a small amount of Ontario’s electricity bill because they make up a small amount of Ontario’s electricity grid. Wind generated only six per cent of Ontario’s electricity in 2016 and solar less than one per cent. Despite this modest output, wind and solar nevertheless accounted for 26 per cent of the Global Adjustment.

There is a myth that, due to the capital investments required in nuclear power, the consequence is a high price of power. This simply isn’t true. That’s because nuclear facilities operate for decades and generate large volumes of electricity on a consistent basis. Ontario’s nuclear facilities have a demonstrated track-record of high reliability. That’s why the province is reinvesting in them now.

Environmental Defence has also failed to mention nuclear’s important role in Ontario’s phase-out of coal in 2014 and ending smog days across the province, suggesting it was new wind and solar alone that got the job done.

A fact check would show that between 2000 and 2013, nuclear-powered electrical generation rose 20 percent in Ontario, coinciding with a 27 percent drop in coal-fired electricity. During the same period, non-hydro renewables increased to 3.4 percent from one percent. This major transition to a cleaner Ontario could not have happened without nuclear.

During that period, Bruce Power doubled its fleet of operating reactors from four to eight, becoming the world’s largest nuclear generating station. While more renewable energy did come on line, Bruce Power estimates they provided 70% of the carbon free energy needed to replace the power from the shutdown of coal plants.

The long-term investment programs currently underway across Ontario’s nuclear fleet, including Pickering, Darlington and Bruce Power, will secure this low-cost source of electricity over the long-term, while meeting our needs today.

Nuclear-generated electricity was the right choice for Ontario decades ago. It remains the right choice today.

OPG and Bruce Power recognize the cost of electricity for Ontario families and businesses is an important issue across the Province. Both companies are committed to clean air and continuing to provide low cost electricity for Ontario homes and businesses in the short, medium and long-term.

CNA2017

It’s Not Too Late to Register for a Workshop at CNA2017!

In addition to a full conference and trade show, the CNA is holding two separate workshops on Wednesday, February 22, from 1-4 pm.

Workshop #1: Public Affairs

Participants of the public affairs workshop will hear from Michele Austin, Senior Advisor at Summa Strategies, about how to communicate effectively with the Trudeau government and the Trump administration, as well as how to leverage the power of social media.

Following, participants will engage in government-style roundtable discussions around honing the Canadian nuclear industry’s key messaging on the issues of:

  • Climate change & the environment
  • Waste management & decommissioning
  • Safety & security
  • Innovation & new technology
  • Jobs & the economy

Workshop #2: Regulatory Affairs

Participants of the regulatory affairs workshop will hear from a range of guest speakers on the latest regulatory developments impacting the nuclear industry, including:

  • The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
  • The Fisheries Act
  • The Navigable Waters Act
  • Regulatory framework updates by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)

Adding a workshop to your CNA2017 registration is easy!

If you’ve already registered for CNA2017, locate your confirmation email (“CNA2017 Registration Confirmation”) and follow the link to edit your registration as seen in the image below.

If you haven’t already registered for CNA2017, this is your opportunity to kill two birds with one stone! Visit https://cna.ca/2017-conference/registration/ for pricing information and the registration form. Hurry, though, because late fees apply as of January 28!