Tag Archives: Energy

Nuclear Policy

Kicking Off the Discussion for a Policy Exercise

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

A policy development forum recently asked CNA to identify a few key factors that shaped the development of Canada’s nuclear industry. We came up with eight. They range from the Western allies’ war needs in the 1940s (which invested us in uranium-based fission reactor technology) to Canada’s advanced cultures of medicine, public health and safety (which give us a culture of reactor safety, leadership in medical applications of nuclear, and leadership in irradiation and food safety).

The interesting thing about this analysis is how many advantages it reveals. Our industry faces challenges (notably cheap natural gas, lack of carbon pricing, and the problems of sustaining top-notch science and technology infrastructure). But the list of strengths is strikingly longer and more impressive than the list of challenges.

Even in a world where many reactor technology options are in development, it’s hard to beat a design series like the CANDUs that are familiar to regulators, with long track records of safety, reliability, and affordability. Then there’s the proliferation-resistance advantage of these designs, which is not diminishing and is probably growing as an asset in the 21st century. Canadian reactors offer the developing world an ideal combination of affordable, minimal-carbon electricity plus proliferation safety. And that Canadian nuclear brand is further strengthened by Canada’s reputation in safety, medicine and public health internationally.

Which brings up another asset on the list: Canada’s perennial and recognized openness to worldwide investment, technology and talent, and the tens of thousands of highly educated newcomers here who have links to foreign markets and practices. While this is a strength across the board in Canada’s economy, it’s especially powerful in a sector like nuclear that depends on global best practices and global market reach.

These thoughts are a very early step in a policy exercise that we’ll look forward to blogging about over the next few months.

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What Kind of Environmentalist Endorses Nuclear? An Informed and Realistic One.

There’s an interesting article on Slate.com today called The Pro-Nukes Environmental Movement: After Fukushima, is nuclear energy still the best way to fight climate change?

The article says what we’ve been saying for a while: that while renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are part of a clean energy mix, they simply can’t meet the world’s growing energy demands in the next few decades without some unforeseen leap forward in grid-scale energy storage. When the wind isn’t blowing, when the sun isn’t shining, and when you don’t have a way to efficiently store huge amounts of power, where does the power come from? Unfortunately in many circumstances, that need is filled by burning fossil fuels like coal and gas.

Nuclear’s reliable base load power, combined with advances in electrifying our transportation systems, is the cleanest way to get off fossil fuels that are, as this article says, cooking the planet.

But the article does raise some concerns – the same concerns that are always raised when talking about nuclear power: capital cost and waste. It also mentions the nuclear renaissance, which, before Fukushima, was underway as the world was recognizing the opportunity for nuclear to help us quit coal and reduce emissions.

The article concludes by talking about “next generation” technology: reactors that are able to efficiently burn the used-fuel and include even more redundant safe guards (our backups have backups).

I asked our policy director, John Stewart, to touch on the cost issue and explain a bit about next generation technology: How far away is it and what’s the hold up?

Well, first, let’s point out that “current generation” nuclear power is already very good – especially when you’re looking at the carbon issue.  A technology with zero carbon emissions in today’s operation is still going to be at zero in its next generation.  If it’s carbon you’re concerned about, today’s nuclear technology is unbeatable. I’m abstracting, of course, from marginal improvements in the way we build or refuel the plants – we can use cleaner trucks to deliver the uranium fuel to the plant, or lower-carbon concrete technologies when we pour the foundation, but that’s about it.

The reactor “generations” you’re talking about is a classification system developed by the US Department of Energy and described in detail at www.energy.gov.  Reactor technology has been advancing just like technology in many other areas over the past three decades.  In cars or phones or computers, we’ve all been aware of those advances because everyone buys the results.  In nuclear, reactors are advancing but virtually nobody in North America has been buying the results.  The reactors we see are mostly older technology, dating back often to the seventies and eighties.  They work just fine, they’re safe, they’re clean, they’re very economical, but they do not reflect the state of the art, which is mostly being bought and built in places like China and India – or will be over the coming decade or two.

So the short answer about next generation technology is it’s not far away, and the hold up is just demand.  Regulatory processes aside, advanced reactor technology is available – it’s largely a matter of building it.

DOE_ReactorGenerations

Source: http://nuclear.energy.gov/genIV/documents/gen_iv_roadmap.pdf

Conversations about cost have to be clear – are we talking about up-front capital investment, that is the plant construction cost, or are we talking about the average cost of generating a unit of power?  Nuclear’s record is very clear – it is one of the most affordable ways to get a unit of power in the long run.   It’s now selling for about six cents a kilowatt hour in Ontario, a real bargain especially considering how clean it is.  One of the main reasons is that the plants are so durable, lasting for fifty to sixty years.  When a capital asset is amortized over a period that long, capital costs can be very large and they still shrink in importance.  The unit cost of power over that six decades is very low. 

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Journal Launch: AECL Nuclear Review

TalkNUclear is pleased to share the news that AECL has just launched AECL Nuclear Review, Canada’s newest journal for nuclear science and technology.

AECL Nuclear Review - Vol. 1, No. 1 June 2012

AECL Nuclear Review showcases innovative and important nuclear science and technology that is aligned with AECL’s core programs. The Journal welcomes original/novel articles and technical notes in a variety of subject areas: CANDU Nuclear Industry; Nuclear Safeguards and Security; Clean Safe Energy including Gen IV, Hydrogen Technology, Small Reactors, Fusion, Sustainable Energy and Advanced Materials; Health, Isotopes and Radiation; and Environmental Sciences. The accepted peer reviewed articles are expected to span different disciplines such as engineering, chemistry, physics, and biology.

AECL Nuclear Review welcomes Canadian and international research scholars and scientists from different disciplines to its new publication which reflects the integration of scientific researchers and industrial practitioners.

If you would like to submit an article for consideration, or, wish to reach any member of the editorial team, please get in touch:
JANL@aecl.ca or 1-800-364-6989 (Corporate Communications)

Click to download the first issue of AECL Nuclear Review (8MB)

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Sharing the Nuclear Story with the Distinctive Women of Ottawa

Denise Carpenter, CNA President and CEO, is featured in the premier Ottawa edition of Distinctive Women, a publication from Profiles of Distinction which exists to showcase excellence in its many forms.

At the Distinctive Women photo shoot.

Denise was chosen for profiling based on her strong career and leadership in the energy sector. Coming to the CNA from EPCOR Utilities in Alberta where she transformed the company’s reputation and strategy, Denise has been recognized by Global TV as a Woman of Vision; by the YWCA with a Woman of Distinction Award; and has twice been named one of Alberta’s 50 most influential people by Alberta Venture magazine.

But for Denise, it isn’t about personal accolades. “I look for any opportunity to talk about the many benefits and the daily contributions of nuclear technology in Canada,” says Carpenter. “Too few Canadians are aware of the positive impact this industry has had on our health and quality of life by way of nuclear medicine, reducing carbon emissions from the air we breathe, improving the safety of materials used in our cars, city infrastructure, and even the food we consume. I’m proud to be able to share this with as many people as will listen.”

Check out Denise’s profile in Distinctive Women.

At the photo shoot for Distinctive Women, scouting the perfect location.

Denise is one of many impressive women working in nuclear in Canada. You can meet some of them on the Women-in-Nuclear Canada website.

Who would you like to see profiled?

Distinctive Women – Ottawa Launch

The Profiles of Distinction family of publications is proud to announce the launch of its newest publication and online community, Distinctive Women, into the Ottawa area. Designed to showcase excellence in many forms, Distinctive Women celebrates the accomplishments of top female entrepreneurs, business leaders, healthcare professionals and non-profit organizers. Originally launched in Naples, FL just three years ago, Distinctive Women has now taken on a life of its own and can be found in Toronto and Ottawa, ON. This fall, the inaugural issue for Calgary, AB will be launched.

The Ottawa launch of Distinctive Women will be hosted by Ashley Robson of Profiles of Distinction and will be celebrated by upwards of 50 women on Tuesday, May 29th at Events in Style in the trendy ByWard Market. The publication will be distributed to affluent households on Wednesday, May 30th as an insertion in The Ottawa Citizen.

www.distinctivewomenmagazine.com

CNA Responds Nuclear Energy

Half-Truths and Outright Lies about the Cost of Nuclear in Ontario

This Letter to the Editor is in response to an article that appeared in the news today.

Mr. Jack Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance is using an Ontario Energy Board (OEB) report on Global Adjustments to twist the facts about the role nuclear power plays in providing clean, affordable, and reliable electricity in Ontario.

Mr. Gibbons takes one section of the report on Market Operations for 2010, and concludes that nuclear power is responsible for most of the price increases since 2006.

This isn’t correct. To better understand the costs of Ontario’s energy mix, plain and accessible information can be found in the provincial Auditor General’s December 2011 report.

Nuclear power provides more than half of Ontario’s energy. It does this reliably and at a low cost every day of the year, even when the wind doesn’t blow. Reasonably, it would be a large part of an energy bill, but Mr. Gibbons is ignoring basic math and calling it news.

Premier McGuinty understands the math and that’s why he’s committed to nuclear energy for the province in the Long-Term Energy Plan.

Nuclear has contributed reliable base load power and stable jobs for decades and will continue to do so for decades more. Our industry is committed to ensuring safety throughout all aspects of our operations and being responsible environmental stewards in all our communities.

Denise Carpenter
President & CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

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Nuclear Projects and Costs: Jobs and Affordability

In the article Rising electricity prices have little to do with renewable energy (May 5), Weis makes several omissions and extrapolations in the areas of transparency, cost and the role of nuclear energy projects in Ontario.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which is owned by the people of Ontario, produces about 60 per cent of the electricity used in Ontario and half of that comes from its 10 operating nuclear units. The price for this electricity is 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour, up from 5.5 cents two years ago.  This information is publicly available and is set by the Ontario Energy Board during a public process.

While “full costs associated with refurbishing existing units or building new ones has never been made public,” that’s because OPG and the government have yet to determine a projected cost, Similarly, OPG has yet to determine precise costs to refurbish the four units at Darlington. Both projects will be the result of competitive bidding processes. Setting a price before the bids are complete would not result in the best deal for consumers.

Building two new nuclear units will be a major undertaking. It will require thousands of skilled tradespeople, enormous quantities of cement, steel and other metals. It would require thousands of specifically fabricated components which will create numerous spin off jobs in the manufacturing sector.

According to a report released in July 2010 by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, 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.

For example, the contractor workforce for the Bruce Power refurbishment wrapping up this year, at its peak, included over 3,000 skilled tradespersons. The project has been employing thousands of people since 2006. In addition to this direct employment, there is also a significant amount of indirect employment in those firms that supply services and materials to the refurbishment projects. Ontario has an ambitious clean energy development targets and nuclear energy – an integral part of the province’s clean energy portfolio – is crucial to achieving those targets. Many people may not realize that nuclear’s clean, base load power is enabling the province of Ontario to be coal-free by 2014 and provides the stable base that is needed to bring renewables onto the grid.

Reaching these clean energy goals does have associated costs and to better understand the costs of Ontario’s energy mix, plain and accessible information can be found in the provincial Auditor General’s latest report, which cites what the Ontario Energy Board itself said in 2010:

“In April 2010, the OEB completed an analysis predicting that a typical household’s annual electricity bill will increase by about $570, or 46%, from about $1,250 in 2009 to more than $1,820 by 2014. More than half of this increase would be because of renewable energy contracts” (page 95).

Nuclear energy provides over half of the province’s electricity. It’s clean, reliable and affordable. The CNA invites Canadians to read the Auditor General’s report and make an informed decision on energy costs.

We also invite you to join the conversation on our TalkNUclear blog, Facebook and Twitter and ask us about the topics that are important to you. Our NU microsite NUnuclear.ca is an excellent tool that illustrates the role nuclear technology plays in our daily lives beyond power generation. From life-saving nuclear medicine to enabling materials safety, we depend on nuclear for much more than just keeping the lights on.