Tag Archives: Energy

Nuclear News

Top Ten Nuclear News Stories in 2014

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Greater media coverage and government concern about climate change powered a steady supply of nuclear energy issues in the media in 2014.

As 2014 closed, Japan pressed ahead with plans to restart its nuclear reactors, Germany’s Energiewende continued to raise questions about whether renewables can replace fossil fuels, and more and more environmentalists came to support nuclear power.

Here, in no particular order, are 10 of the most-talked-about nuclear energy issues of 2014.

China

The nuclear industry’s Asian expansion continued, with China leading the way. Not only is the country’s economy expanding, lifting millions out of poverty, but its middle class is fed up with coal-driven pollution in major cities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama announced a surprise climate agreement in December that would see China’s CO2 emissions peak by 2030.

Not surprisingly, Chinese leaders have begun to rapidly develop nuclear power, as the negative impact of Japan’s nuclear crisis in 2011 wanes. Under the country’s National Energy Administration’s latest Five-Year Plan, China will invest $196 billion in 101 new reactors between 2015 and 2030.

Canada will play a role in this scale-up. Candu Energy Inc. announced in November that its Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR) earned a positive review from a Chinese scientific panel. The review will lead to further development and construction with significant benefits to the Canadian industry.

“It’s a big step toward our entry into the biggest nuclear market in the world,” Jerry Hopwood, vice-president of Candu Energy, told the Toronto Star.

Radiation in perspective

Stories that brought perspective to radiation exposure were popular in social media, catalyzed in part by a United Nations report that dispelled one of the most popular myths regarding the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) said in its April report that it did not expect “significant changes” in future cancer rates that could be attributed to radiation exposure from the reactor meltdowns.

Social media also took note of a study by a Scottish mountain climber and radiation-protection advisor who found climbers scaling Mt. Everest received a radiation dose five times more than the average annual exposure of a UK nuclear power worker.

Google’s Energiewende

google hqWind and solar energy’s continuing unpredictability gained widespread attention thanks to in part to a viral story about Google’s decision to scrap its renewable energy program, RE<C.

“Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach,” wrote Google’s Ross Koningstein and David Fork in a piece published in IEEE’s Spectrum.

“We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope—but that doesn’t mean the planet is doomed.”

Climate debate

Nuclear’s contribution to climate change mitigation gained further global recognition. The Economist published a chart that listed nuclear power as the third-biggest contributor to GHG reductions, trailing the Montreal Protocol (which reduced chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons) and hydroelectricity, but much further ahead of renewables.

To slash or to trim

Also the latest policy report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) included nuclear among the clean energy technologies whose total output must quadruple to help avert catastrophic climate effects.

Environmentalists continue to go nuclear

Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy
Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy

More environmentalists and scientists joined the likes of James Hansen and Mark Lynas as public advocates of nuclear energy.

Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, joined the advocacy group Nuclear Matters.

Browner said in a Forbes piece that she had been anti-nuclear, but changed her position because of nuclear’s beneficial role in offsetting climate change.

In December, 75 conservationist scientists wrote an open letter to environmentalists urging them to reconsider nuclear energy because it helps preserve biodiversity.

Here’s the quote from their letter:

“Although renewable energy sources like wind and solar will likely make increasing contributions to future energy production, these technology options face real-world problems of scalability, cost, material and land use, meaning that it is too risky to rely on them as the only alternatives to fossil fuels. Nuclear power—being by far the most compact and energy-dense of sources—could also make a major, and perhaps leading, contribution. As scientists, we declare that an evidence-based approach to future energy production is an essential component of securing biodiversity’s future and cannot be ignored. It is time that conservationists make their voices heard in this policy arena.”

Energiewende

Germany continued its nuclear phase-out in 2014, creating a need for more coal-fired electrical production. Enough said.

Ontario goes coal-free thanks to nuclear

Ontario became the first North American jurisdiction to end the use of coal in electricity generation. The event was even noted by former U.S. vice president Al Gore.

Nuclear power played a major role. Between 2000 and 2013, nuclear-powered electrical generation rose 20 percent, coinciding with a 27 percent drop in coal-fired electricity. During the same period, non-hydro renewables increased from one percent to 3.4 percent. This major transition to a cleaner Ontario could not have happened without nuclear.

DGR

Also in Ontario, OPG’s proposal to create a deep geologic repository for low- and intermediate-level waste remained in the headlines.  The CNA appeared for the second time before the joint review panel to voice our support for the initiative.

OPG, with the support of the surrounding community, has proposed a permanent management solution for these materials. This speaks to the proactive and responsible environmental management to which all members of the Canadian Nuclear Association are committed.

Fusion

One of the biggest news stories featured an announcement by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division that it had made a breakthrough in developing a fusion reactor and could have one small enough to fit on the back of a truck in 10 years. The announcement stunned nuclear-savvy observers who had thought such a development would take much longer than a decade.

Quebec imports

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard signed an agreement November 21st on electricity. Ontario will make 500 megawatts available to Quebec to manage its winter demand peak, while Quebec will reciprocate for Ontario’s summertime peak.

The capacity amounts are small, representing about 1.4 percent of Ontario’s installed generating capacity of 33,771 megawatts (MW), and less than four percent of Ontario’s nuclear generating capacity of 12,947 MW.

In announcing the Quebec agreement, Ontario’s Premier Wynne rejected suggestions that imported electricity could reduce Ontario’s reliance on nuclear power. “We’re not anywhere near having a conversation like that,” Wynne told reporters.

Uncategorized

What’s it like discussing nuclear energy with some climate activists?

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Imagine you’re a freshman math student, and you’re meeting the head of your university’s mathematics department.

You ask him to set a tough problem for you.

“Well,” he says, “we’re in great need of a number to put between twelve and fourteen. It has to be the sum of ten and three, and it also has to be half of twenty-six.”

2+2

You pause before replying, wondering where the trick is. “Um. Wouldn’t that be thirteen?”

“Don’t say that.”

“What?”

“What you just said.”

“Thirteen?”

“Ssshhh.”

“Why not?”

“It’s bad.”

“Why?”

“Always been. Inherently dangerous number. Killed thousands. Toxic legacy. That question’s settled. Now back to our problem.”

“Okay,” you say. “Where do we stand so far?”`

“I’d like you to take a look at four and a half. There’s a big constituency for four and a half around here. Always has been. We think it can be the solution… just needs a bit of work.”

“What kind of work?”

“We think some help from eight will be enough.”

“Four and a half with help from eight?  Isn’t that twelve and a half?”

“We don’t put it that way.”

“Why?”

“That would be almost you-know-what, and we’re just not going there. Anyway, now we’re getting a subsidy for eight, so we really want to keep eight in the picture.”

“Do you really think four and a half with help from eight is going to satisfy the specifications of the problem?”

“It’s between twelve and fourteen.”

“Well, yes, but it’s two numbers, not one. It’s not equal to ten plus three, and it’s not half of twenty-six.”

“I understand your point, but there are bound to be a few gaps. We think users of the number system are ready for change. With education, lots of them will accept four and a half.”

“What if they don’t? What if they only care whether it works? They’ll expect it to equal ten plus three. They’ll expect it to be half of twenty-six.”

“What would you suggest, then, smart guy?”

“I suggested thirteen a while ago.”

find x“SSSHHH!  You trying to get us both in trouble? Listen, maybe you have a point. But we need to keep this department working as a team. This you-know-what, it’s too divisive. We can’t shake them up like that.”

“How about you let me work on you-know-what, as long as I don’t say it?”

“No need. A bunch of us are already working on it.”

“Thirt—”

“SSSSHHHH! Yeah, that. We’ve got an action team. Anytime anyone mentions it, we tell them it’s bad.”

“Are they developing mathematical proofs that show it’s not between twelve and fourteen? Or that it’s not equal to ten plus three, or that it’s not half of twenty-six? You said something about it killing thousands, something about a toxic legacy – how about a straight-up factual comparison between you-know-what and four and a half?”

“We could, but we don’t need much of that.”

“Why not?”

“People have been hearing it’s bad all their lives. We’re mathematicians. They’ll take our word for it.”

Uncategorized

The Thousand Islands Energy Research Forum

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

The Thousand Islands Energy Research Forum took place at the University of Ottawa this past weekend. CNA took advantage of this great opportunity to present the recent Hatch life cycle emission study, which had been launched on October 8 at our Toronto fall seminar.

John Stewart presentation

TIERF, an annual academic event that mixes energy policy and technology, drew about 40 university, government and industry participants this year. They brought presentations and technical posters on energy technology research, ranging from shale gas to geothermal to nuclear.

CNA director of research and policy John Stewart delivered a summary of the Hatch study along with CNA’s key messages from it. While nuclear is roughly as clean-emitting as wind for power generation, wind cannot stand alone due to its intermittency, and any assessment of wind’s environmental effects must include the impact of managing that intermittency.

In Ontario today, new wind farms are only generating about 20% of their capacity, and when the wind fails to blow, the difference is generally made up by burning natural gas, a fossil fuel. This means that building new wind capacity means building in more, not less, GHG emissions to Ontario’s supply mix – undoing some of the benefits of the province’s successful exit from coal.

CNA’s presentation on October 25 was preceded by an excellent analysis by u of O’s Olayinka Willliams on “The Integration of Wind Power Generation with Hydroelectricity in an Electric Grid,” which expounded the many problems of bringing randomly intermittent wind power into a grid, even when hydro is available to back it up.

GHG emissions by energy type

According to the Electric Power Research Institute, “the existing electric power grid, especially its distribution systems, was not designed to accommodate a high penetration of distributed energy resources while sustaining high levels of electric quality and reliability.” (“The Integrated Grid,” February 2014). Bollen and Hassan’s 2011 engineering text Integration of Distributed Generation in the Power System says the problems include increased risk of overload and increased losses; increased risk of overvoltages; increased levels of power-quality disturbances; and impacts on power-system stability and operation.

Uncategorized

Nuclear Fear is Unscientific

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Nuclear energy is safer than most people think, yet a fear factor persists.

A great new talking point in the media and politics in recent years has been the use of the term “evidence-based” policy.

The concept of evidence-based policy is taken from the scientific and medical world and argues that all government, social and economic policy should be based on rigorous empirical study, not popular public opinion.

The hope or belief is that such a method will result in the best possible public policy outcomes.

Perhaps no technology has to deal with the lack of evidence-based policy like nuclear energy.

Nuclear is safe, yet it is feared and in some cases hated. The industry is well aware of this.

In a recent blog post on Brave New Climate, Australian environmental writer Martin Nicholson explained it perfectly.

“When people express their nuclear hatred, they usually argue about: the dangers from radiation leaks, the risk of weapons proliferation, the nuclear waste problem, that nuclear power is too expensive and in any case we just don’t need it!,” he wrote.

“None of these reasons have solid scientific backing. If they did, countries around the world (like USA, UK, France, Finland, Russia, China, India, South Korea, UAE) would not continue to build new nuclear power plants to supply their growing need for energy.”

Nicholson’s blog post examined the issue of risk perception and nuclear based on a 2010 book by risk consultant David Ropeik.

In short, Ropeik argues that often times fear overcomes the facts based on a number of psychological factors and internal individual questions, such as “Is the risk natural or manmade?” (Solar radiation vs. nuclear radiation) or “Can it happen to me?”

According to Nicholson, the book tells us that risk perception is “an intrinsic, biologically rooted, inescapable part of how the human animal behaves.”

This gives environmentalists opposed to nuclear energy an edge in the public and media debate.

Many would have you believe that nuclear energy is the most dangerous or deadly energy source, when the facts show otherwise.

In June, Forbes columnist James Conca wrote about an energy source’s “death print,” which he defined as “the number of people killed by one kind of energy or another per kWhr produce.”

Based on research done by Next Big Future, when you factor in direct deaths and epidemiological estimates based on pollutants released, coal has by far the worst death print and wind and nuclear have the best.

The data shows that for every person killed by nuclear power generation, 4,025 will die due to coal based on energy produced.

Evidence-based policy would favour nuclear because TWh for TWh it is one of the safest energy sources.

Deaths per TWh of power produced
Deaths per TWh of power produced
Uncategorized

Nuclear Helping in the Fight Against Ebola

By Erin Polka
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

A nuclear-derived technology which allows for early detection of the Ebola virus has been developed by the IAEA and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

The technology, known as Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), can detect Ebola within a few hours, compared to other technologies which take several days.

RT-PCR will be made available to Sierra Leone, following a UN Security Council appeal, and support is expected to extend to Liberia and Guinea as well.

Early diagnosis of Ebola can significantly increase victims’ chances of survival, while limiting the spread of the disease by isolating victims and treating them earlier.

The full story is available on the IAEA website.

Uncategorized

By the Numbers: 3,000!

Twitter

by Romeo St. Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

In baseball, having 3,000 career hits is almost a guarantee to entry into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

On Twitter, having 3,000 followers won’t get you into any Hall of Fame, but it is a milestone worth celebrating.

Having just reached 3,000, we would like to thank our followers and all those who retweet our tweets, spreading the good word about nuclear energy.

Part of the reason for a recent rise in new followers is our commitment to tweet what the people want.

By using social media tools, we have identified the themes that are popular with our followers and the best time of day to reach them.

At the moment, stories about nuclear power’s contribution to reducing GHGs, the growing number of environmentalists embracing nuclear and the fallout from Germany’s decision to close nuclear plants are very popular with our followers and are shared the most.

The CNA will continue to use Twitter to leverage more of its original brand journalism content and blogs on these themes and others. Expect more infographics in the future too.

Until we tweet again.