Tag Archives: Nuclear Energy

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Small Nuclear Reactors to Power Canada’s Low-Carbon Future

By John Barrett, President & CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
Originally published in the Hill Times, August 13, 2018

Canada has a lot going for it as it seeks to establish itself as a leader in the nuclear energy space. It has world-class research and development capability, including the renowned Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and other industry-run, specialized labs, writes the CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association.

Imagine a Canada with a clean, affordable and diversified energy system that is a world leader in deep decarbonization and GHG emissions reduction. Imagine, too, an end to energy poverty in many small and remote Canadian communities that now struggle on diesel fuel.

Imagine a promising, innovative and cutting-edge technology that opens doors to economic competitiveness and puts Canada at the forefront of international supply markets hungry for clean energy solutions.

That imagined future is on the verge of becoming tomorrow’s reality. That is, if we seize the opportunity before us.

The opportunity lies in SMRs – small modular reactors.

SMRs are smaller, simpler and more portable than conventional nuclear power reactors. Many designs utilize advanced technologies to ensure intrinsic and inherent (passive) safety. Should they overheat, they automatically shut down without any human involvement or active cooling systems. Being self-contained, their environmental footprint and impact is next to nil.

These micro-energy systems will be made and fueled at the factory, transported to location, operated safely and affordably for the next five-to-ten years, then returned and replaced by another unit. Most importantly, they provide substantial quantities of clean electricity and heat on a 24/7 basis, independent of changes in wind, water or sunshine, and are designed to operate in harmony with renewable energy and storage technologies.

Canada is seen internationally as leading the way on SMRs. There are several reasons why.

First, nuclear is already a big part of Canada’s low-carbon energy supply, producing 20% of our country’s clean electricity. Nuclear power allowed Ontario to shut down its coal-fired generation for good; it supplies daily around 60% of Ontario’s electricity needs and over one-third of New Brunswick’s. That’s a fact, not an aspiration.

Second, there are distinct areas of the Canadian economy where SMRs are a natural fit. For example, SMRs can be added to existing grids, especially in jurisdictions aiming to reduce use of fossil fuels for power generation; they can be added in increments for the greater electrification needed to transition to a low-carbon economy. In addition, SMRs can be used off-grid in mining and oilsands production, providing large quantities of clean power for mine sites and bitumen extraction processes – thereby reducing GHG emissions significantly. And very small SMRs – essentially large batteries – can power remote settlements that today have no clean, reliable alternatives to diesel fuel.

Third, parliamentarians are recognizing that SMRs offer an opportunity too important to ignore. An all-party study by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources in June 2017 recommended that work be undertaken to examine and promote the beneficial contribution and impact that SMR development promises for Canada.

Fourth, in response to the Committee’s report, key public and private stakeholders have launched the SMR Roadmap Project – a series of policy discussions and workshops with Indigenous people, utilities, provincial representatives, major potential users in the resource extraction and industrial sectors, as well as communities in northern Canada. These consultations are exploring the human and environmental needs that SMRs can fulfill and mapping out the steps needed for SMRs to advance from development, to licensing, to deployment.

Fifth, Canada has an internationally recognized brand in nuclear. We have world-class research and development capability, including the renowned Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and other industry-run specialized labs. We have utilities and operators recognized internationally for their expertise and established record of safe reactor operations. We have the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, one of the world’s foremost nuclear regulators, to ensure that SMRs must demonstrate the highest safety standards before a license to operate is issued.

Sixth, the potential for exports of Canadian-made and Canadian-licensed SMRs to international markets is enormous, with considerable job creation and supply chain impact. There is a real appetite for clean energy in many parts of the world: SMRs are a solution to those human needs, which connect directly to better health and longer lives.

If these reasons aren’t compelling enough, then consider: nuclear technology contributes to nine of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals. With CANDU reactors, SMRs and our uranium fuel, Canada can help the world to de-carbonize, bringing our energy and environmental leadership together to provide real benefit to an energy-hungry humanity.

Dr. John Barrett is President & CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association and served as Canada’s Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

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Nuclear: A Part of Canada’s Energy Transition

The Generation Energy Council Report released last month is an important milestone in the continuous dialogue that must occur around energy innovation at the federal level. The Report highlights the importance of swift yet thoughtful decarbonization and proposes strategies to achieve the low-carbon future we all want.

The Canadian nuclear industry fully supports the spirit of the Report, and much of the advice. However, the industry would like to emphasize the greater role that nuclear energy can have in leading the energy transition.

Below are four ways in which nuclear can contribute to an energy future that is affordable, reliable and clean.

1) Small modular reactors for resource extraction, energy to remote communities and grid power

Small modular reactors (SMRs) have a smaller electrical capacity than most current power reactors, anywhere from 1-300 MW, and are modular in both construction and deployment.

SMRs are perfectly suited for on- and off-grid resource extraction, such as Canada’s oil sands operations and Ring of Fire mining. Substituting nuclear-generated heat into these processes would reduce greenhouse gases and conserve our natural gas wealth for higher-value uses.

SMRs also hold great potential for regions that currently rely on dirty diesel fuel, such as Canada’s remote and off-grid communities. Not only could SMRs provide clean energy to these communities, it could in many instances alleviate energy poverty.

Canada is already recognized internationally as a favourable market and regulatory environment for SMRs. Establishing a leadership position early would enable Canada to secure a significant share of the projected $400-600 billion global market for SMR technology.

2) Nuclear energy to produce hydrogen for fuel and energy storage

Not only can nuclear energy provide clean heat and electricity, it can also be used to produce hydrogen. Technologies that employ hydrogen as fuel or for energy storage are well established in Canada. Hydrogen-powered vehicles are on the rise, but unless the hydrogen is produced using clean energy sources like nuclear, they risk being just as polluting as gas-powered vehicles.

The comprehensive Trottier Energy Futures Project of the Canadian Academy of Engineering lays out in stark terms the magnitude of the challenge of decarbonization and concludes that to meet the government’s 2050 targets will require a massive increase in electrification of energy supply through a diverse set of low-carbon technologies, including nuclear.

3) New nuclear power reactors for on-grid power

The use of nuclear energy has allowed Canada to achieve a mostly clean energy portfolio. Nuclear energy is the largest source of clean energy after hydro, providing approximately 15% of Canada’s electricity, and 60% of Ontario’s electricity. Between 2005 and 2015, nuclear energy enabled Ontario to completely phase out coal, improving air quality and reducing respiratory illnesses and deaths.

Additional nuclear reactors could provide the same clean air benefits to other provinces that currently burn large amounts of fossil fuels, such as Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

As well as being a clean energy option, grid-based nuclear is affordable and reliable. In Ontario, only hydro is more affordable. Wind is about twice as expensive as nuclear, and solar is more than six times as expensive.

Nuclear generating stations are also extremely reliable, producing electricity day and night, regardless of the weather.

4) Social and economic advantages of a strong nuclear industry in Canada

Through clean nuclear energy generation in Ontario (60%) and New Brunswick (30%), radioisotope production for nuclear diagnoses and therapy, and numerous other technology applications throughout the country, the Canadian nuclear industry is an undeniable source of revenue, jobs and economic prosperity.

The nuclear industry employs 60,000 Canadians directly and indirectly. Careers in the nuclear industry offer challenging work, competitive salaries and benefits, and opportunities for advancement. Because many of the jobs require highly developed skills and advanced education, the nuclear industry offers a homegrown job market for skilled graduates and attracts international talent to Canada.

The nuclear industry is also in the process of refurbishing 10 of its reactors so that they can continue to provide another 30 to 40 years of clean, reliable electricity. The refurbishments are currently Canada’s largest infrastructure projects, and are progressing on time and on budget.

About Vision 2050: Canada’s Nuclear Advantage

The nuclear industry has developed a vision of nuclear technology’s role in Canada’s clean energy future. The vision (cna.ca/vision2050) describes how Canada can become a world leader in producing clean, reliable energy for all Canadians, while stimulating the economy and creating jobs. It also explains how nuclear and renewable energy can work hand-in-glove to tackle climate change. Most importantly, it sets out a pathway of partnership between industry and government which would help Canada achieve its energy policy goals.

About the Canadian Nuclear Association

Since 1960, the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) has been the national voice of the Canadian nuclear industry. Working alongside our members and all communities of interest, the CNA promotes the industry nationally and internationally, works with governments on policies affecting the sector and works to increase awareness and understanding of the value nuclear technology brings to the environment, economy and the daily life of Canadians.

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Low Carbon, Clean Energy: Making Communities Healthier

According to the U.S Energy Department’s latest International Energy Outlook 2016 (IEO), worldwide energy consumption will increase by almost 50 percent by 2040. Meeting global demand will require growing the renewable and nuclear power industries.

The IEA forecasts that worldwide nuclear power, which currently offsets an estimated 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions yearly, will slightly increase in its contribution to the global electricity grid. The forecasted 2 percent increase is not nearly enough. If countries like Canada are to meet COP21 targets and improve the health of our environment we need more nuclear.

Information confirmed in the latest IEO report found “even though non fossil fuels are expected to grow faster than fossil fuels (petroleum and other liquid fuels, natural gas and coal), fossil fuels will still account for more than three-quarters of world energy consumption through 2040.”

health2An extreme shift in weather patterns brought about by greenhouse gas emissions  has resulted in more heat and flooding, increasing the amount of ground-level ozone, carbon dioxide and particulates – all of which have negative health consequences

The climate change price tag for Canada’s healthcare industry is a hefty one. Data released by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) found that by 2031 air pollution related illnesses, including lost productivity and ER admissions could cost Canadian taxpayers close to $250 billion.

The projected ongoing use of fossil fuels is a concern both for meeting climate targets and for improving air quality which are critical components to improving overall health. In a 2014 news release, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported “in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.”

In Canada, the rates of Severe Asthma are rising, due in part to climate change. Over a quarter-million Canadians live with severe asthma.  Furthermore, allergies can be triggered by mold related to flooding and by increased pollen production from distressed plants.

“People with severe asthma may struggle to breathe even when they are taking their prescribed medication,” states Vanessa Foran, President and CEO of the Asthma Society of Canada.  “Environmental allergens are the primary triggers for 60-80 % of Canadians living with asthma,” she says.

Continuing to invest in low-carbon energy sources is an important step in improving air quality. The year 2000 saw a peak for coal-fired electricity generation in Ontario, with almost 50 million tons of GHG emissions being released into the environment. Fifteen years later, nuclear energy accounted for the majority of electricity generation – 66.5%, displacing over 90% of emissions, thereby cleaning the air and improving the health of Ontarians.

As Canada’s largest province moves forward in developing its next Long-Term Energy Plan, which has a key focus on clean, reliable energy, it is clear that nuclear must be at the forefront of discussions.

A safe and reliable energy source that contributes to climate commitments, nuclear power can help to improve the health of people around the world while meeting an increased global demand for energy.

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The Future: No Doomsday Cult Required

By John Stewart
Director of Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

DoomsdayMy adult son, who is a wise, reflective, intelligent and well-read man, recently shared with me his view of the world in a few decades. It was apocalyptic: dead oceans, cities run by criminal gangs… you get the idea. (He was trying to persuade me to retire early and enjoy life while I can).

Admittedly, there is reasonable evidence for his forecast. I happen to take a less pessimistic view. He and I don’t disagree much on facts, but rather on how we project them into the future.

I’m also more historically conscious: I’m more aware that it is not, and has never been, unusual to forecast that we are all doomed.

Doomsday predictions have been with us since ancient times. They are doubly useful. They employ fear to recruit believers into whatever religion we’re evangelizing. And they provide the satisfying glow of knowing what a terrible end awaits those who won’t join us and how they’ll realize, when that end comes, that we were right and they were wrong.

There is always evidence that can be pressed readily into service. Religious cultists generally point to society’s (always apparent) corruption and moral decline. Thomas Malthus noted the unrestrained fertility of the poor. Marx and the communist ideologues saw the clear drawbacks of industrial society, and predicted that capitalism would inevitably falter and collapse. 1960’s environmentalists overextended Rachel Carson’s solid, ground-breaking work on the effects of pesticides. The 1970’s resource-exhaustion panickers distorted the Limits to Growth report; they took commodity price spikes as proof that the world was running out of natural resources.

There’s a bit of moral superiority at work. Those who see the light, who invest in the new religion, are the wise and good. Those who don’t agree wholeheartedly with them are mentally and morally deficient. If they can’t be beaten in argument, at least they’ll see the error of their ways on judgment day.

These features have carried through from the ancient religious doomsday cults, to socialist ideologies, to present visions of Our Renewable Energy Future. The old system is doomed. The crash will come in our lifetimes (otherwise, why convert?). To save yourself and prosper in these dark times, you must commit to the new religion.

Belief in society’s moral decay gradually fused with belief in capitalism’s self-destruction, which apparently now has become belief in our biosphere’s demise. Indeed, the three have gotten quite muddled: consumerism is portrayed as a kind of moral and spiritual decay, which has been foisted on humanity by corporations. The system we’ve built is now destroying not just our souls, but itself and Mother Nature too. EarthTimeBomb

I realized this when listening to my son talk about the future: Our Renewable Energy Future is somehow mixed up with Original Sin, the population bomb, and the inevitable crash of the capitalist system. It’s repeatedly characterized as “inevitable,” the speed of its arrival is overestimated, and of course we can’t rely on failing corporate structures (or cities) to implement it. Somehow we’re all going to achieve it in small cooperative teams in the countryside.

There’s a lot of baggage here. But my son and I acknowledged it and got beyond it. And we continue to have the reasonable discussion we both want. It can be done.

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Toronto To Host Climate Talks

Toronto will heat up in July. Amid the heat and humidity of summer, it will play host to two global events — the Pan-Am Games, and the Climate of the Americas Summit. More people will watch the games than the summit, but the talks may be the more important event.

In mid-June the Ontario government, led by Kathleen Wynne, touted the province’s track record on improving air quality.

Wynne tweeted out, “Ontario is leading the way in clean energy and the fight against climate change.”

It’s a good record. Ontario is the first North American jurisdiction to abandon coal as a source of electricity– an accomplishment made possible through its reliance on affordable, low-carbon nuclear energy.  In 2014, nuclear generators delivered 62.7 percent of the electricity carried on Ontario’s grid.

Nuclear’s clean-air contributions were confirmed recently by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

NUCLEARFINAL

The report states:

The very low CO2 and GHG emissions on a life cycle basis make nuclear power an important technology option in climate change mitigation strategies for many countries. The figures demonstrate that nuclear power, together with hydropower and wind based electricity, remains one of the lowest emitters of GHGs in terms of  CO2-(equivalent) per unit of electricity generated.

If anything, Ontario’s nuclear experience offers an excellent case study for the climate-change summiteers. Nuclear energy provides a climate-stabilizing foundation for energy development. Between 2000 and 2013, nuclear power production in Ontario grew 20 percent while coal’s power production shrank.

Today, nuclear energy’s steady, reliable, around-the-clock performance enables Ontario’s experiments with renewable energy sources. If ever storage technologies advance sufficiently, the renewable energy sector may someday match nuclear’s proven grid-scale reliability. Until then, nuclear is Ontario’s best bet – and an excellent example for the summiteers to take home.

Environment Nuclear News

The Next Generation of Nuclear

June in Paris. It’s a time for lounging in the gardens just outside of the Louvre and stopping into Berthillon’s for a sweet escape from the crowds. It’s also where young professionals from all over Europe will gather June 22nd – 26th to discuss the next wave of nuclear energy.

PARISTOWERA 2014 report by the IAEA looked at the role of nuclear energy in the fight against climate change.  What the report found, was that if substantial measures are not taken to curb CO2 emissions we will see our pollution footprint rise to an estimated 20% by 2035.

Population growth and economic development are driving the demand for electricity, forecast to double by 2050. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the demands of industry and population growth will require that 80% of all electricity generation come from low-carbon sources.

One of the most effective ways to meet these targets is through nuclear power.  In May, 39 nuclear societies representing 36 countries signed an agreement in Nice, France in May to show their commitment towards helping the environment.

The building blocks of this commitment will continue to be strengthened as an estimated 400 students and young professionals from across Europe gather in Paris to tackle energy generation and the environment head on.  According to Sophie Missirian, the SFEN Young Generation President, it is a key role for the future of the industry.

“I believe it is the role of the young generation to defend the idea that nuclear is a solution to fight climate change and must be recognized as such.”

Six months ahead of the big climate summit in Paris, conference organizers and attendees will key in on how to find success in December. They will take on issues including the impact of uranium mining on the environment, waste management options and the physics behind building reactors. The success of this year’s conference has yet to be realized but as one attendee put it, “It’s great that we are having this nuclear renaissance across Europe and across the world.”

The Young Generation Network exists in 48 countries. It was established twenty years ago by the European Nuclear Society as a way to exchange knowledge and encourage the participation of young people in national nuclear sectors.