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Young People with Passion – That is the Future of Nuclear Power

By Milt Caplan
President
MZConsulting Inc.

Originally posted at http://mzconsultinginc.com/.

We talk a lot about the merits of nuclear power in this blog. From economics and reliability to environment, we focus on why nuclear is now and should be an essential part of our future energy mix. But how do we get there? Again, we often talk about the challenges associated with public acceptance and how we can better position nuclear as the energy solution we all know it is.

But today we want to focus on something different. People. We have been privileged to work in this industry for more than 35 years. Often it’s hard to believe that this much time has passed since we were so excited to start our first jobs as a young engineers working on nuclear safety. Over the years there have been many challenges as the industry slowed, in part due to the accident at Chernobyl, in part due to the slowdown in energy demand growth in many industrialized countries, to the challenges of building capital intensive large projects into deregulated markets. But one thing has not changed; our passion for the industry – our passion for making the world a better place with clean reliable economic nuclear power. And we are not alone.

At a recent industry event, I spoke to many of our colleagues, many of whom have come out of retirement again and again simply because their passion for nuclear power as a solution to meeting our ever growing energy needs is simply impossible to extinguish. Some are well into their 70s and their enthusiasm is as strong as when they were in their 30s.

With nuclear power growing once again, it is time to ensure its continuity by instilling this passion into a new generation of young people. It is the fuel that will ensure the industry continues to be innovative and reaches its full potential going forward. That being said it is important to focus on what is important to this new generation of engineers and scientists; what will keep them enthused and committed. It is hard to imagine millennials thinking of utilities or large industrial companies as the growth companies of the future. Rather they think of companies like Google, Facebook and Uber when it comes to large innovative exciting companies – or they believe in being entrepreneurs and starting their own tech start-up. This ad campaign by GE (one example below) is a brilliant one as it tries to show young people that it can indeed be exciting to be in this large industrial company – that not everyone has to be coding and developing the next app that puts hats on cats – but that to truly change the world, it is the future of things like transportation and energy that really matters.

I love it (There are a series of these ads, just go to YouTube and you can see more).

In the nuclear industry we have the problem of a gap in age. There are many people in their 50s through to retirement age that have been in the industry for decades, and then there is a new cohort of young people who have joined the industry in the last 10 years or less. This new young cohort has different work expectations than the older group. They expect to be able to find a place and make a meaningful contribution in a relatively short time. They are impatient and expect to change jobs many times in their career. They do not expect to join one company and stay there until they retire.

Yet we are an industry that believes that it takes years to learn and become an expert. We need people with 10 years plus experience and we need experts who continue to grow as they gain the experience needed to make a difference.

Therefore, as industry leaders we need to understand and address the desires and concerns of those just starting out. We need to remember that 30 years ago when we were younger we quickly developed into experts as new techniques were established and we did not have the benefit of people like us to show us the ropes. We were at the leading edge and we loved working in this exciting young industry. We learned on the job. We were excited with every opportunity and put our best into developing a product that we strongly believed in. These are the conditions we need to replicate for this next generation. We need to ensure they are actively engaged, play a strong role in new projects and in innovating as the industry moves forward. We need to provide them with the opportunities they crave to develop their passion for this exciting industry. Competition for these people will be fierce and we need to show that the nuclear industry is where they can truly make a difference in the world.

Sometimes as conservative engineers, or as some of the anti-nuclear activists may state – that it is not fair to leave problems for future generations to solve; we need to push back. As one quite learned colleague once said, why solve every issue – we need to leave some things for the bright young people following us to solve – because they will be smarter than we are and bring new thinking to old issues.

While many think the future of nuclear power depends on public acceptance, or solving the waste issue, or improving nuclear safety; it actually depends on building a passionate next generation of young people to take it in directions that none of us has even thought of yet. Life is about passion – so let’s all work to bring out the passion in a new generation of nuclear people. The future is open to us – but only if we can attract the best and brightest people needed to make it happen.

If you are under 40 and have read this post – please comment explaining why you are passionate about working in the nuclear industry.

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What’s it Like to Work Inside a Nuclear Power Plant?

The planned refurbishment of 10 of Ontario’s nuclear reactors is going to help keep electricity prices low in Ontario. It’s a big project that will take 15 years to roll out – and it’s expected to create more than 10,000 jobs, about 90% of them inside the province. But what kind of jobs are they?

Peter Weekes should know: he’s been at Bruce Power since 1977, and has worked on many of the key projects in running the plant. And the variety is something he likes. “Within the company, there’s a breadth of experience to be gained,” he says. “I’ve alternated my time between engineering, operations, and large projects.”Editorial - jobs

Some of those projects are the restarting of the Unit 1 and 2 reactors in 2012, and managing the replacement of steam generators for the upcoming refurbishment. He retired during the restart of Units 1 and 2, but loved the work so much that he came back the next day as a contractor. “I like working with the people, particularly in planning for the major component replacement for the refurbishment,” he says. “The people here want the refurbishment to go forward – we feel we’re contributing to the future, and we are. We’re extending the reactor’s life and making it better.”

One of the people he worked with throughout his career is his wife, Linda, who was involved in the restarting of Units 1 and 2, and in changing the reactors’ fuel channels. Peter says that she was the only woman in the engineering program at Queen’s in the late ’60s and early ’70s. “It’s come a long way since then,” he says. “It’s a very diverse workforce – gender-wise, ethnically, religion, sexual orientation, and so on.”

But that workforce still needs new talent, he says. “We need to get people into the front end of the chain, so that they’ll be experienced by the time they can lead the projects later on. I see a lot of people from the next generation working here, and it’s rewarding.”

One of that next generation is Matthew Saldanha, who joined Bruce Power in 2013. As a senior technical engineer officer, Matthew is part of a team that manages any design changes to the plant. He works with his mentors to ensure that the plants’ design integrity is kept intact. By doing this, the team is able to protect the stations’ assets and the public.

As a new recruit in the nuclear industry, Matthew says, “It was a little overwhelming, but I had my mentors, and worked with a good group around me. The learning curve was steep, but I wasn’t doing anything by myself.”

Matthew describes relations between the plant and nearby communities as very good. “Most people living in the town work at the plant, and in some way or another the plant touches everyone’s lives. It only brings positive things to this area,” he says. Peter agrees, noting that Bruce Power contributes to the community through social events such as beach parties and golf tournaments, and by supporting charities. And both are very comfortable living so close to the plant. “I would live right up against the fence if that’s where I had to be,” says Peter.

Matthew expects his stay near Bruce to be long too. “I see myself staying here, though probably not at the same job: there’s lots of room to move up, and the company is very receptive to that. I’d recommend it to anybody.” Peter says that the refurbishment has opened up new career opportunities. “I might not have recommended it ten years ago, because the industry had levelled off: plans for the next station after Darlington had been shelved. Now that we’re on the cusp of the refurbishments, I would certainly encourage people to get into the industry. This work will last another generation.”

And even after the refurbishments are done, the plants will keep running for decades, needing skilled people. According to Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, a single nuclear reactor employs about 640 people full-time, with great pay – and Ontario has 18 of these reactors.

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How Does Nuclear Energy Benefit Ontario?

Nuclear is the backbone of Ontario’s energy mix because it offers several advantages, including round-the-clock reliability, clean and environmentally-friendly operation, and affordability. The refurbishment project has also created thousands of jobs across the province.

The following infographic summarizes these advantages.

How Does Nuclear Energy Benefit Ontario - 2014

Click here to download your copy.

Nuclear Energy

Download “How does Nuclear Benefit Ontario” Infographic

Today’s Globe and Mail includes an infographic titled How does nuclear energy benefit Ontario? The image highlights nuclear as the best option for clean, reliable and affordable energy, as well as the number of jobs made possible by the refurbishment project.

Click on the image of the infographic to download your copy.

 

Infographic-Ontario

Nuclear Energy Nuclear News Nuclear Pride Nuclear Safety

Canada Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Nuclear Power Generation

The Canadian nuclear industry today celebrates the 50th anniversary of nuclear power generation in Canada!

On June 4th, 1962, in Rolphton, Ontario, the Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor began supplying electricity to the Ontario grid, producing enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.  Today, nuclear power generation supplies 15 % of Canada’s safe, clean, and reliable electricity, and almost 60% in Ontario alone.

Birds-eye view of NPD

“This historic achievement marks an important milestone in Canada’s leadership in nuclear energy and technology,” said Denise Carpenter, Canadian Nuclear Association President and CEO. “The NPD was made possible through the combined expertise and innovation of several companies we know today, such as AECL, and with the support and direction of the National Research Council.”

One of NPD’s essential roles was as a prototype for Canada’s homegrown CANDU technology as it was the first heavy-water power reactor in the world. It used Canadian natural uranium and assumed the horizontal pressure-tube arrangement, which is characteristic of all CANDU units to this day. This made NPD the first commercial power reactor to have a completely replaceable core, and the first to refuel while operating at full power – both signature CANDU traits.

In the five decades since, Canada’s CANDU nuclear fleet has grown to include 20 reactors with two more planned at Darlington in Ontario to help the province achieve its clean energy goals – similarly, this was the goal when nuclear energy was developed 50 years ago to compete with coal.

“Today also marks the kick-off of Canadian Environment Week,” added Carpenter. “This is particularly significant since nuclear energy provides a clean and reliable source of power that is an important part of Canada’s clean energy portfolio.”

The role of nuclear in Canada goes far beyond being a safe, clean, affordable, available, and reliable source of energy. Nuclear has an important role to play in medicine, research, food safety, highly-skilled jobs, and makes crucial contributions to other industries across the Canadian economy.

The women and men who worked to give us the gift of the clean, reliable, affordable nuclear power generation we enjoy today. Thank you!

The NPD was shut down in 1987 after having exceeded its operational goals. Our thanks to the women and men who brought us this strong symbol of Canadian innovation for a powerful, clean energy future.

For more information about nuclear in Canada and around the world, please visit CNA’s Factbook.

 

Additional Info:

AECL marks 50th anniversary of nuclear power in Canada – June 4, 2012

50th anniversary of nuclear power in Canada observed at UOIT – April 9, 2012

CNA Responds Nuclear Energy Nuclear Outreach Nuclear Pride

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.