Tag Archives: IAEA

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Nuclear Science: Addressing Marine Pollution

The International Marine Organization (IMO) recently imposed new regulations to limit the amount of sulphur used in the fuel of cargo ships by 2020. The limit will decrease the amount of sulfur used in fuel oil from 3.5% to 0.5% within the next 2 years, stating that the new regulations will “significantly reduce the amount of sulphur oxide emanating from ships and should have major health and environmental benefits for the world, particularly for populations living close to ports and coasts.”

When it comes to monitoring the oceans for contaminants, nuclear and isotopic techniques provide a unique source of information for identifying nuclear and non-nuclear contaminants and tracing their pathways in the environment, as well as for investigating their biological effects.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has worked for decades in this field with various United Nations environmental organization.

“To assist Member States in addressing coastal and marine pollution, the IAEA has developed a number of science-based tools and techniques that help decision-makers protect the marine environment,” according to the IAEA. “The Agency maintains environment laboratories in Monaco and Seibersdorf, Austria, that use nuclear and isotopic techniques to study pollution processes and fingerprint pollutants’ sources.”

Last year, the IAEA Environment Laboratories in Monaco held training courses for scientists on techniques to measure and monitor pollutants in the marine environment.

Since starting a collaboration with UN Environment in 1986, the IAEA has jointly organized to date 56 training courses and 34 Proficiency Tests with representatives from Mediterranean countries to strengthen pollution monitoring. In addition, 57 recommended methods for the analysis of trace elements and organic pollutants in marine samples were developed, in association with UN Environment and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO).

“Over the past 40 years, the IAEA has jointly conducted 33 extended Quality Assurance missions to check and improve the quality of contaminant analyses, 93 instrument service missions, and installed new instruments for the analysis of contaminants in Mediterranean laboratories,” according to the IAEA.

As an IAEA policy study concluded, “Most major pollution problems facing the marine environment can only be investigated using nuclear and isotopic techniques, which offer the diagnostic and dynamic information needed to identify the source of contamination, its history of accumulation, its  environmental pathways and its impact on the environment.”

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Nuclear Science: A Window to Heart Disease

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, 50,000 Canadians are diagnosed with heart failure every year.  It is estimated that half of all Canadians will be touched by heart failure, costing the health care system close to $3 billion annually. Globally, heart disease is responsible for over 30% of all deaths.

Enter cardiac nuclear medicine.

Instead of performing surgery, doctors, by using small amounts of radioactive material, can look inside the human body to diagnose diseases like heart disease. This noninvasive procedure involves injecting small amounts of radiation and looking at the heart at a molecular level, providing accurate and early diagnosis, which is key to treating and saving lives.

Argentina is increasing investment in nuclear medicine to help patients with cardiovascular disease, as recently highlighted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Through a collaboration between the Argentinean government and the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA), the IAEA is offering up training and equipment in order to provide increased access to nuclear medicine services.

“The multimillion-euro investment involves building six new centres across the country that will offer high-quality nuclear medicine and radiotherapy services. The new centres will be operating in the Argentinean provinces of Río Gallegos, Río Negro, Santiago del Estero, Formosa, Entre Ríos and La Pampa,” according to the IAEA.

There are two different types of tests that can be used to scan the heart. The main difference between the two is the type of radiotracer used. In a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan, positrons work with a tracer to take pictures of a patient’s heart. The pictures can detect blood flow; identify heart attack scars; and even detect if arteries are narrowed.

The second test that relies on nuclear medicine is a SPECT (Single Photo Emission Computed Tomography) scan.  It allows doctors to get a 3D image of a patients heart in order to determine overall heart health, including blood flow; whether or not a patient has had a heart attack; and to diagnose coronary artery disease or a build up of plaque inside the heart’s main arteries.

Investments in early cardiac detection and treatment are key. According to the World Health Organization (WHO); “Ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive lung disease and lower respiratory infections have remained the top killers during the past decade.” In Argentina, it is the leading cause of premature death.

Managing your diet, sleep and even stress levels can all lower a person’s risk for developing heart disease. Early detection can help to identify risks in time for treatment to save lives. Thanks to nuclear medicine this can be done. And before it’s too late.

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Nuclear: Challenging Our Notion of Risk

Risk surrounds us daily. We are constantly making decisions based on our perceptions of it. Our travel plans, our commute to work, our relationships and even our perceptions on social and political issues, all relate back to our perceptions of risk. Parents try to mitigate the risk that surrounds their children and of course there are the messages circulating around risk which can often be contradictory or too complicated to be easily understood.

Investigating risk and risk assessment is the latest project by documentary filmmaker Robert Lang, who sought out the world’s experts on the subject for his latest project, “Risk Factor”. “It’s complicated. We are all exposed to risk and we react to it whether we know it or not. And we hear about it in the news practically every night, whether it’s Zika or a terrorist attack or some health issue like the benefits or the dangers of drinking coffee, etc.”

The concept of risk also includes our perception of climate change and the risk behind certain energy sources such as nuclear.

“I have been an environmentalist for decades and for most of that time was anti-nuclear and wary of any form of radiation, because of the perceived threat of nuclear disasters …in general that’s in line with what environmentalists are supposed to think.” stated Lang. “But when you start looking at the facts and weighing relative risks and don’t lump all radioactivity risks into one basket, the picture becomes more nuanced. There are lots of benefits of radiation and nuclear power. I would say that the film made me confront some of my preconceptions and my understanding of what was going on in my hometown of Port Hope.”

The safety of nuclear power generation is often ignored. An analysis of the safety of each power source found that nuclear was one of the safest forms of generation. This analysis broke down fatalities by terawatt hour. Only rooftop solar had fewer deaths than nuclear, which was found to be safer than wind, hydro and even gas.

Misconceptions of safety around nuclear were highlighted in a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that tracked the impacts of Fukushima. On March 11th 2011, the sea floor opened up causing a massive earthquake and tsunami with wave heights over 10 meters high. More than 15,000 people were killed with thousands more missing in the aftermath. However, no one was killed as a direct result of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant. In fact: the “United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) found that no discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public and their descendants.”

Lang is hoping that his investigation of risk will challenge us to rethink our preconceptions and separate fact from fiction. The filmmaker notes that how we perceive danger is connected to cultural affiliations. Our social networks and interactions are largely based on aligning ourselves with others that we believe to share a similar mindset.

Robert Lang will be a featured guest and will host the Public Affairs Workshop, at CNA2018 where his film “Risk Factor” will be screened. For more information go to: https://cna.ca/2018-conference/

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Nuclear Science, Climate Change & Sustainable Development: An Idea Worth Sharing

The fury of the Atlantic was on full display in late summer and early fall as hurricanes lined up to batter the Atlantic coast. Harvey, Irma and Maria knocked out power to millions of people and left communities in ruins. The power of Irma destroyed or damaged almost all the buildings on Barbuda, forcing the entire island to be abandoned. Meanwhile the force of Maria was enough to knock out power to all of Puerto Rico and citizens could be in the dark for months.

The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recently reported that ocean warming, resulting from climate change could have direct impacts on future hurricanes.

“Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause tropical cyclones globally to be more intense on average (by 2 to 11% according to model projections for an IPCC A1B scenario). This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.”

It’s not just through hurricanes that we see the direct impacts of climate change on human life. Climate change plays a huge role in access to food, water, health and the environment. As such, it is one of the contributing factors affecting sustainable global development. There are other factors to be sure. Together however, they condemn large parts of the world to poverty, underdevelopment, poor health amid a deteriorating environment. So, what to do?

To make life better for both developed and developing countries, the United Nations, in partnership with the global community, set out seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. These goals focus on meeting our needs today without compromising our future.

Thanks to uranium atoms, we can provide the necessary power to help lift people out of energy poverty, provide clean drinking water and help protect the environment, thereby bettering the lives of billions of people around the world. Nuclear science meets NINE of the seventeen sustainable development goals.

2 Zero Hunger:  Using nuclear science to alter the DNA of plants is a proven effective method to make them more resilient to climate change and is in use by 100 countries.

3 Good Health And Well-Being: A nuclear by-product, Cobalt-60, plays an important role in nuclear medicine. Low-grade Cobalt-60 is used to sterilize medical equipment such as syringes and catheters. High-Speed Activity (HSA) or medical-grade Cobalt-60 is widely used to treat cancer patients. Over 70 million people have been treated thanks to nuclear science.

6 Clean Water And Sanitation: Nuclear science using electron beams (e-beams) can break apart chemical bonds. China, the world’s largest textile industry, recently opened-up an e-beam wastewater treatment facility to treat and reuse wastewater used in clothing manufacturing.

7 Affordable And Clean Energy: According to IAEA projections, energy demand will rise by 60-100% by 2030. To help lift people out of poverty and realize the climate goals set out in Paris, low-carbon, cheap energy is needed. According to the Ontario Energy Board, in 2016, nuclear cost just under 7 cents per kilowatt hour, making it one of the most cost-effective, clean sources of energy. (Solar costs 48 cents per kilowatt hour and hydro 6 cents.)

9 Industry, Innovation And Infrastructure: Innovation in nuclear technology includes Generation IV reactors, hydrogen fuels, small modular reactors (SMRs) and fusion energy.

13 Climate Action: Globally, nuclear power avoids 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions every year, equal to taking approximately half of all (520 million cars) off the world’s roads. Nuclear power is the largest non-hydro source of low-carbon, clean energy worldwide, providing almost 12% of global electricity production.

14 Life Below Water: Nuclear science techniques that use radioisotopes can diagnose the impacts of ocean acidification on the food chain, giving scientists a better understanding of how rising acidity impacts both ecosystems and marine life.

15 Life On Land: Isotopes are a valuable environmental risk assessment tool as they can identify various contaminants which can help to assist with environmental monitoring and remediation of land areas.

17 Partnerships For The Goals: The global nuclear community has a long list of partnerships including various UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), universities and thank tanks and Indigenous communities.

While violent hurricane seasons are nothing new, the warming of our ocean waters, brought about by climate change, raise the concern that more catastrophic hurricanes, like the ones this season, could be the new normal. It’s just one example that underlines the importance of investments in sustainable science and technology, like nuclear, in order to keep the Earth on course to meet sustainable development goals today, ensuring a successful tomorrow.

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Next Generation Nuclear

Recently, the Government of Canada announced an initiative called Generation Energy; re-imagining Canada’s energy future. An energy future that, if climate goals are to be realized, must include a mix of clean, cost-efficient, reliable power. Several companies in Canada and beyond are racing to create the nuclear reactors of tomorrow.

Enter the next generation of nuclear. #NextGenNuclear

Image: Luke Lebel

Luke Lebel is one example of young leaders looking to slow down the impacts of climate change thanks to nuclear technology.

“I finished my undergrad degree in 2008 and I was thinking about grad school and was wondering where I could make a difference”, said Lebel, a Research Scientist at CNL. “I liked the idea of energy and helping to mitigate climate change, and I chose the nuclear industry because I think it can make the most amount of difference in replacing fossil fuel energy.”

Lebel concludes strongly that engaging with his peers and advocating for nuclear will be key to the industry’s future success.

“We have to start connecting with young people and have an image out there that makes us feel high tech. If you want to be like Google, you have to act like Google,” said Lebel.

Possessing a strong background in research and analysis, Lebel believes steering a successful next generation of nuclear will require information sharing, communication, mentoring and partnership.

“People of my generation are going to be working on the issue (Paris climate goals) the whole time. The role of younger people is really important just because of that,” said Lebel.

The International Energy Agency in its 2016 World Energy Outlook, estimates that 16% of the world’s population still lives without access to electricity.

Image: Rory O’Sullivan

“In order for people to lift themselves out of poverty, particularly in Africa, they need energy to be cheap and clean”, according to Rory O’Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer at Moltex Energy.

This need to help others is what lead O’Sullivan to forge a path in clean energy. A mechanical engineer by trade, his career took him through project management construction and wind energy before landing on nuclear and Moltex Energy was born.

Recently, Moltex Energy announced a partnership with Deloitte and is in talks with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), and major utilities to work together on this vision for #NextGenNuclear. Moltex team member Eirik Peterson was also recognized for his work on reactor physics by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as the recipient of a “Young Innovator” award in Russia recently along with Lebel.

“The waste is concentrated and produces a lot of heat, you can’t put it in the ground, but if you shield it and put it into a box, you can plug that box into a turbine,” said O’Sullivan. “That box can then produce power for 10 years, maintenance free. It can also be used to provide district heat to communities.”

This ability of #NextGenNuclear to recycle used fuel to provide heat and power will improve humanitarian conditions, ensuring a brighter future.

Image: Eric Meyer

Advocating for nuclear is exactly what Generation Atomic has set out to do. Founded by Eric G. Meyer, this grassroots nuclear advocacy group is self-described as “energizing and empowering today’s generation to advocate for a nuclear future.”

Using a combination of the latest in new digital technology and on the ground outreach, Generation Atomic is raising awareness about the importance of nuclear energy for people and the planet.

As the Government of Canada looks to reimagine its energy future, it is clear: the next generation of nuclear is here and is working hard to ensure that we have a clean, low-carbon tomorrow for the next generation and beyond.

Do you have a next generation energy story?

CNA Responds

Response to “Pickering’s nuclear waste problem just got bigger”

Re: “Pickering’s nuclear waste problem just got bigger” (NOW Online, July 20), by Angela Bischoff, director of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA).

Ontario Power Generation has safely stored used fuel bundles from the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station for more than 40 years. After they are removed from the water filled bays where they cool and become much less radioactive, they are placed in robust concrete and steel containers. Before being placed into storage, the containers are rigorously tested and safeguard seals are applied by an inspector from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The entire site is closely monitored by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which is Canada’s regulator.

Despite what the article argues, Canada has a plan in place to safely manage used nuclear fuel and identify a single, preferred location for a  deep geological repository (DGR) for used nuclear fuel. Potential sites are assessed by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) in a process that began when the communities formally expressed interest in learning more. The NWMO has narrowed a list of 22 potential and interested host communities down to five. A single site is expected to be selected in 2023 with licensing and construction to follow. It is expected that an operational facility will be available to begin taking used fuel shipments in the mid-2040s.

John Barrett, President & CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association, Ottawa