Tag Archives: Nuclear Power

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IPCC report stresses the need for nuclear

Once again, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recognized the importance of nuclear energy in climate change mitigation.

In its October 1.5° Celsius Special Report, based on limiting the increase from pre-industrial times to 1.5°C, the IPCC outlined what kind of greenhouse gas reduction measures will be required to meet this goal.

Not surprisingly, the rapid decarbonization of the global electricity sector will require, at first, the deployment of proven large capacity power technologies, such as nuclear power.

To show how this can be done, the report looked at four emission model pathways.

To meet the 1.5°C target, the four emission model pathways project an increase in nuclear power generation between 98% and 501% by 2050, relative to 2010.

With population growth and improved living standards in the developing world, it will take all forms of clean energy to lower overall carbon emissions over the next three decades.

This is not the first time climate change mitigation models noted the important role of nuclear.

In 2016, the Canadian government released Canada’s Mid-Century Long-Term Low-Greenhouse Gas Development Strategy report.  It models eight different scenarios designed to achieve drastic GHG reductions by 2050, and in all cases, nuclear is a contributing energy source.

“In all of the low GHG economy modelling analyses, non-emitting sources such as hydro, nuclear, wind, and solar replace fossil fuel generation well before mid-century,” the report stated.

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Nuclear industry steps in after GM layoffs

General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ontario.

Ontario’s nuclear industry has reached out to help General Motors (GM) workers affected by the company’s planned closure of their Oshawa, Ontario, plant.

On November 26, GM announced that it would close its Oshawa assembly plant the end of 2019 as part of global restructuring. The closure would affect more than 2,500 jobs at the Oshawa plant.

The layoffs will have a major impact on the Oshawa economy.  According to Unifor, the union representing GM workers, every job at the Oshawa plant is tied to seven spin-off jobs in the community.

But just four days later, Ontario’s nuclear industry stepped in to let Unifor know that it would do what it can to ease the blow to the community and workers.

Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) sent a joint letter to the leadership of Unifor, expressing support for workers at GM Oshawa.

“Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation recognize the role the auto industry and the Oshawa GM plant have played in Ontario’s economy for decades and we believe that we can play a part in keeping these highly skilled people in high-paying jobs in the nuclear industry,” the letter stated.

“Skilled tradespeople and skilled workers are one of our province’s biggest assets and there is a deficit being predicted in the Ontario labour market. Bruce Power, OPG and the Ontario nuclear fleet support employment and training opportunities for skilled workers.”

At over $25 billion, the refurbishment of Ontario’s nuclear power plants is the largest clean-technology investment in the country.

The refurbishment projects will put thousands of people to work and ensure economic prosperity for the province of Ontario for years to come.

“OPG’s Darlington Refurbishment Project and Bruce Power’s Major Component Replacement (MCR) Program are the two largest infrastructure projects in Ontario. We understand the value of a trained, skilled workforce for Ontario and we look forward to playing a part in keeping Ontario’s workforce employed,” the letter concluded.

CNA Responds

CNA response to “Ford and Wynne wrong on electricity costs”

Re: “Ford and Wynne wrong on electricity costs” (Hamilton Spectator, May 26)

Once again, the anti-nuclear Ontario Clean Air Alliance ignores the facts about the feasibility of replacing nuclear power with hydroelectricity imports from Quebec.

Currently, the people of Ontario benefit from the safe, reliable, low-cost energy generated at the Pickering nuclear power plant. Importing hydro from Quebec would require millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades, and result in higher consumer prices, less energy reliability, and result in thousands of job losses.

Last year’s report by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) said Quebec would not be able to supply Ontario with electricity during the winter season because it would not have enough to supply its own needs.

According to the IESO: “To be able to supply Ontario with firm year-round capacity, it is expected that Hydro-Quebec would need to build additional resources above what they have for internal capacity needs.”

The all-in cost of long-term large-scale purchases from Quebec, including the cost of required interconnections and transmission investment in Ontario and Quebec and the cost of new hydro generation investment in Quebec, would be significantly more than quoted by the OCAA

Like all things that appear to be a cure for all ills, the real solution is somewhat more complex. Portraying hydro imports as a cost-effective baseload replacement is a non-viable solution to a problem that does not exist.

John Barrett
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

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NASA and Nuclear Power

marssoilviewNASA’s history with nuclear power dates all the way back to the early 1960s when the U.S. Navy launched a navigation satellite powered by nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy’s ability to withstand the most extreme conditions has made it an important part of space missions, including the Mars 2020 mission. The next journey to the Red Planet will focus on bringing back soil samples and exploring the atmosphere of Mars to determine its habitability for human life.

NASA recently highlighted the significance of nuclear energy stating, “Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Europa, Saturn, Titan, Uranus, Neptune, the moon, asteroids and comets.  A number of these missions could be enabled or significantly enhanced by the use of radioisotope power systems (RPS).”

A RPS works like this: Through the natural decaying process, isotopes produce a tremendous amount of heat. In the case of an RPS, as the isotope plutonium-238 decomposes the heat is converted into electricity which in turn is used to power travel through space. Plutonium-238 is an artificial element with a half-life of 88 years. The longevity of nuclear energy makes the RPS an ideal and reliable source of power generation even under the harshest of circumstances.

The challenging environment includes temperature extremes not known to earth. Take the moon for example. Temperatures on the surface of the moon can fluctuate between highs of 125 degrees Celsius and lows of -175 degrees. Another challenge with travelling to the outer reaches of the solar system, such as with the New Horizons missions, is being able to conduct research in the dark, requiring a power source that can still operate without the energy of the sun.

For the Mars missions, a big factor in power selection is dust. During its infamous dust storms, the red planet can kick up dust to last for weeks at a time, coating “continent-sized areas,” according to NASA.

Nuclear power has the added benefit of being compact.

“Solar would be too big and we’ve that learned dust in the Martian atmosphere accumulates on the solar cells, so unless you have wind storms to clear them off, you will kill the missions off by running down the batteries,” according to Dr. Ralph McNutt, principal investigator for the New Horizons Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation (PEPSSI), from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “If you want to run rovers on Mars and do it accurately and if you want to go to the moon and really investigate in permanent shadows you need nuclear power.”

Compact size isn’t just beneficial, it’s required when working in outer space. Einstein’s theory of relativity (E=Mc2), essentially states that the further the distance you want to travel, the more speed is required, therefore the mass of the object travelling must decrease.

The Rover for Mars 2020 will be about the size of a car and will measure approximately 7 feet in height. The nuclear powered MARS 2020 mission will launch in the summer of 2020 and could provide new clues to past life on the not so distant planet.

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Powering Pluto

Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute
Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute

Nuclear technology is helping to make history on the solar system’s icy planet.

A “Pluto Not Yet Explored” stamp has pasted itself into history books after travelling more than 3.2 billion miles, over 5 billion kilometers, to Pluto and beyond.

The mission has landed NASA a spot in the Guinness World Record Books.

The accomplishment is no small feat. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was first launched just over 10 years ago, in early 2006, to study Pluto and the Kuiper Belt close-up. Cold, dark and almost 4 billion miles away from the sun meant that solar power, batteries and fuel cells weren’t viable options to power the mission.

In order to reach the outer icy reaches of our solar system, NASA needed help from an energy source that could survive the most extreme conditions.

So for Pluto, NASA went nuclear.

“We needed a reliable source of power and we’ve put a great deal of money and research into them (the power supplies) so that was really the way to do the mission and  have the highest reliability to run the space craft,” states Dr. Ralph McNutt, principal investigator for the New Horizons Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation (PEPSSI), from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

It’s called a radioisotope thermoelectric generator or RTG for short. Think of it as a “nuclear battery” to power spacecraft. RTGs are powered by an isotope known as plutonium-238, an artificial element which has a half-life of almost a century. As this isotope decays it produces heat which is converted into electricity. The electricity required to power the Pluto mission is about 200 watts, the same as using two one-hundred watt light bulbs.

In deep outer space exploration mere seconds can make all the difference.

“Pluto takes approximately 250 years to get around the sun so you have to really know where Pluto is,” according to McNutt.  “We were off by 85 seconds at closest approach [in July 2015], which was really good, but you have to realize we were travelling at 14 kilometers per second. Times that by about 100 seconds and that’s almost 1,400 kilometers, a little bit more than the radius of Pluto.”

In order not to miss out on the opportunity to capture a picture of the dwarf planet, the team of scientists instructed the camera to take pictures of a larger amount of outer space, so that they wouldn’t miss Pluto or its moons as the spacecraft flew by.

Since the miniature planets discovery almost 100 years ago, in 1930, little was known about Pluto. In 2015, images of the planet sent back by New Horizons raised new questions about our solar system. The images sent back reveal glacier-like activity, among many other features, providing new information on the history of our solar system.

The Guinness World Record – awarded for longest distance traveled  for a  postage stamp that engineers affixed to the spacecraft shortly before launch – came around the same time that NASA celebrated 40 years of robots on Mars. Soon, NASA will launch Mars2020 as a first step to hopefully bring back to earth a sample of soil from the Red Plant; a potential space accomplishment made possible thanks to nuclear power.

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Want to minimize radiation from power generation – build more nuclear

By Milt Caplan
President
MZConsulting Inc.

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

Yes, you read that right.  For years, there have been efforts to demonstrate that people who live near nuclear plants or work at nuclear plants are getting sick from all that darn radiation they are receiving.  Over the years these stories have been debunked as study after study has shown that there is no impact from radiation from living near or working at a nuclear plant.

But now a study has been done that shows that of most of the options to generate electricity, nuclear actually releases the least amount of radiation.  This is documented in UNSCEAR’s, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, most recent report to the United Nations General Assembly, on its study to consider the amount of radiation released from the life cycle of different types of electricity generation.

The Committee conducted the comparative study by investigating sources of exposure related to radiation discharges from electricity-generating technologies based on nuclear power; the combustion of coal, natural gas, oil and biofuels; and geothermal, wind and solar power. The results may surprise some, especially those that strongly believe that nuclear pollutes the earth with radiation, coal with a range of air pollutants and carbon, and that solar and wind are environmentally wonderful.solar-panels-and-wind-turbines

Coal generation resulted in the highest collective doses to the public, both in total and per unit energy.  Coal radiation emissions result from coal mining, combustion of coal at power plants and coal ash deposits.  The study also considered occupational doses to workers.  Here is the biggest surprise.  As stated “With regard to the construction phase of the electricity-generating technologies, by far the largest collective dose to workers per unit of electricity generated was found in the solar power cycle, followed by the wind power cycle. The reason for this is that these technologies require large amounts of rare earth metals, and the mining of low-grade ore exposes workers to natural radionuclides during mining.”  It is important to note that in all cases these levels of exposure are relatively low and have little impact to public health.

This study only addresses normal discharges during the lifecycle of the station.  Possible larger releases as a result of nuclear accidents are not considered and we recognize that many will argue it is accidents and their consequences that create the largest fear of nuclear power.

So why talk about this?  The reality is that this information is not likely to change even one single mind on whether someone supports nuclear power or fears it.  We live in a world where facts no longer matter – the only truth is the one that any one person believes.  Well, we believe that scientific study remains the best way forward to establish truth and that studies such as these are part of the path forward.  No one electricity generation technology is perfect.  Coal is cost effective and technically strong, but is also a strong emitter of a range of pollutants (including radiation); renewables such as solar and wind are clean but their resource is intermittent and they have issues with both their front end (mining of rare earths) and disposal at the end of their life cycle.

Nuclear power continues to have a good story to tell, with respect to its economics, reliability, environmental attributes and the many good jobs it creates for local economies.  Concerns about nuclear relate mostly to one major issue – fear of radiation.  And fear is a strong emotion that is not easily changed.  But at least what we have here is another study to show that radiation emissions from normal operations of the nuclear fuel cycle is not something to fear – and in fact if you really want to minimize the collective dose to the public, nuclear power remains the option of choice.