Tag Archives: Obama

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UN Experts: Triple Nuclear Energy

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By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

In discussing climate change, politicians and media often speak of the need to increase “renewable energy” sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Not to get bogged down in semantics, but it would be more accurate to say that we need more “clean energy” sources. Clean and renewable don’t mean the same thing. For instance, nuclear isn’t renewable – the Earth has finite but extensive uranium resources. But nuclear is unquestionably a source of low-carbon electricity, and offers real potential in slowing down the concentration of climate-changing carbon in the atmosphere.

For example, did you know that nuclear power has the approval of the United Nations’ climate change scientific advisory body?

In April of 2014, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommended tripling the amount of energy use from renewable energy and nuclear power in order to keep climate change within safe limits of two degrees Celsius.

The report recommends a massive transformation of energy policies, including calling for 80 per cent of electricity generation to come from low carbon sources, such as nuclear and renewable, by 2050.

“At the global level scenarios reaching 450 ppm (target for CO2 in the atmosphere) are also characterized by more rapid improvements in energy efficiency, a tripling to nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero- and low-carbon supply from renewables, nuclear energy AND fossil energy with carbon capture and storage (CCS) OR bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) by the year 2050,” the IPCC report states, as it clearly includes nuclear as part of the clean energy mix.

“Nuclear energy is a mature low-GHG emission source of baseload power, but its share of global electricity generation has been declining (since 1993). Nuclear energy could make an increasing contribution to low-carbon energy supply, but a variety of barriers and and risks exist,” the IPCC added.

The IPCC report is meant to offer guidance to policymakers.

Not surprisingly, nuclear is a part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s climate-change mitigation plan.

“The president continues to see nuclear energy as an important part of a diverse energy portfolio, and it’s part of his goal of doubling the national share of electricity from low-carbon energy sources by 2035,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a 2013 speech to the American Nuclear Society.

For what it’s worth, Ontario is already well down this road. Its Long-Term Energy Plan calls for more renewable power sources – while continuing the province’s strong reliance on nuclear energy.

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Reflections on the Nuclear Industry Summit and the Nuclear Security Summit

By John Barrett
President
Canadian Nuclear Association

From March 23 to 25, I and a number of Canadian nuclear-sector executives participated at the Nuclear Industry Summit (NIS) in Amsterdam. The NIS and the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague were designed by the Netherlands, as host and organizer, to overlap.

The 2014 NSS was the third in a series of Leaders’ Summits established in 2010 by U.S. President Barack Obama to address the security of nuclear materials and radiological sources and to prevent their illicit acquisition by criminal or terrorist entities.

nis-picture

Nuclear Security Background

The idea of an accompanying nuclear industry summit has gained ground. States participating in the NSS have recognized the important role of nuclear industry in implementing effective security arrangements in the handling of sensitive nuclear materials and radiological sources.

To those involved in Canada’s nuclear industry, this recognition of industry’s role in nuclear security likely comes as no surprise, given the regulations and procedures that they already stringently abide by.

This may be so here in Canada. But there is also an awareness that no comparable international regime exists for nuclear security as it does for nuclear safety.

Governments still struggle more with security because of the interplay between sensitive information – whether concerning physical protection or the whereabouts of nuclear and radiological material – and the transparency necessary to give assurance, both to domestic populations as well as to other states, that such materials remain secure. Getting the balance between the two is the challenge.

That is one of the reasons that forms of verification and confidence-building used increasingly in nuclear safety (note in particular the IAEA’s Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, following the Fukushima accident) such as “peer review” are sometimes more resisted by states when it comes to nuclear security. Perhaps they fear the potential embarrassment or additional costs associated with being held under the international spotlight of a peer review. Their deficiencies could become exposed. This is why achieving progress in transparency and assurances is often slower than one hopes.

Nevertheless, the three nuclear security summits give room for optimism. Building an international nuclear security framework cannot be achieved in one fell swoop. But we can learn from the experiences in other areas of verification and confidence-building in the civil nuclear sphere. In two other areas – nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear safety – the IAEA acts as a mechanism for verification. For states that are parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, they are legally bound to allow the IAEA to impose safeguards on their civil nuclear activities. For states parties to the Convention on Nuclear Safety (which includes all countries that operate nuclear power plants, except Iran), they are obliged to undergo peer reviews based on IAEA safety standards.

For nuclear security, however, no such role exists for the IAEA. Some countries insist that security is not part of the agency’s mandate, only safeguards and safety. Yet there is overlap between these two areas and nuclear security. How, for example, can one can talk about the safety of radiological sources without also including their protection and secure handling? Or protecting nuclear material from being diverted or traded illegally, taking into account the role of safeguards in ensuring only legitimate uses of such material?

Bit by bit, the pieces of a coherent nuclear security regime are being assembled. The IAEA offers International Physical Protection Advisory Services, along with Nuclear Security Guidelines. The agency is also the compiler of the Incidents and Trafficking Database. The Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material is signed, though not yet in force.

In short, it’s still a patchwork of agreements and initiatives with no unifying international legal framework. Many actions and commitments are voluntary for states, not binding. This non-binding dimension is not ideal when it comes to giving strong and transparent assurances to others that one’s own nuclear security house is fully and circumspectly in order.

So, given this background, what were some of the achievements of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit?

NSS Achievements

One thing heard often at both NSS and NIS discussions was that a harmful event involving nuclear materials anywhere can be considered to be a harmful event everywhere. The direct interrelationship between the security of nuclear materials in one country and its impact on other countries is clearly recognized by political and industry leaders alike.

The NSS allowed individual countries to show what they have done domestically and internationally to improve nuclear security. It also produced numerous pledges to do more by the time of the next summit in 2016. Canada showed itself very well in both instances.

The summit also made ground in “strengthening the international nuclear security architecture,” possibly by developing by 2016 the outlines of a unifying framework or instrument. In addition, a block of countries stepped forward to accept peer reviews as a means of demonstrating their intent to improve both transparency as well as the level and effectiveness of their national nuclear security measures. And the IAEA is now clearly the lead international institution to support and promote nuclear security.

The NSS encouraged: the minimization of stocks of Highly Enriched Uranium and separated plutonium; the minimization of HEU use through conversion of reactor fuel from HEU to LEU; efforts to use non-HEU technologies for the production of radio-isotopes; protection of high-activity radiological sources; the investigation of alternative technologies for such production; and security plans for spent fuel and radioactive waste.

Implications for Industry

The NSS made it clear that nuclear industry had “a crucial role to play in maintaining and strengthening nuclear security.”

Operators should put strong emphasis on effective safety and security culture, physical protection, and material accountancy. They should undergo regular and routine tests and evaluations, in line with the “principle of continuous improvement.” The summit leaders also emphasized the importance of information and cyber security, underlining that further exchanges between government, industry and academia were desirable.

However, it was in the Nuclear Industry Summit (NIS) that more specific measures for industry were identified. The NIS issued a Joint Declaration, as well as the reports of three working groups. Working Group 1 (under the chairmanship of Bruce Power CEO Duncan Hawthorne) dealt with corporate governance. Working Group 2 (chaired by Luc Oustel of Areva) examined enhancing of Information and cyber security.  Working Group 3 (chaired by Adi Paterson of ANSTO) looked at further reducing HEU and strengthening controls over highly active radiological sources.

The NIS Joint Declaration committed industry participants to:

  • Promoting a strong security culture
  • Ensuring that all personnel with accountabilities for security must be demonstrably competent
  • Clearly designating accountability for security
  • Conducting routine evaluations of the sufficiency of security provisions
  • Extending the spirit of cooperation and sharing of good practices
  • Reinforcing industry collaboration on cyber security topics
  • Fostering development of high-density fuel (LEU production of radio-isotopes)

Canadian Role

From a Canadian perspective, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced at the Nuclear Security Summit several initiatives and commitments that may have a bearing on industry. Canada is committed to:

  • Eliminating the use of HEU in the production of medical isotopes by 2016
  • Continuing the process of repatriation of its U.S.-origin HEU fuel by 2018
  • Minimizing HEU by providing technical support for a reactor conversion and cleanout project in Jamaica

In addition, Canada will undertake further nuclear and radiological security programming through the Global Partnership Program to: enhance physical security of nuclear and radiological materials in Southeast Asia; prevent loss, theft, and malicious use of radioactive sources, particularly those of Canadian origin, in Latin America and Africa; and combat illicit trafficking by enhancing detection capabilities in the Americas.

The prime minister also announced government co-funding of a Bruce Power and the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) project to develop senior-level training courses and instruction methodologies relating to nuclear security. The new WINS Academy was unveiled at the 2014 NSS and NIS Summits. The Academy is launching a Security Certification Programme, “The Route to Demonstrable Competence,” which is targeted at professionals who have management responsibilities for nuclear and radiological materials.

Furthermore, under The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), Canada will undertake a nuclear forensics initiative in partnership with a number of international partners, including Israel, the Netherlands and the US.

In the National Progress Report prepared by the Canadian government for the 2014 NSS, there is mention that Canada is undertaking a comprehensive national project designed to promote the development of a national nuclear forensics capability. To this end, Canada is participating as a programme committee member for the forthcoming International Conference on Advances in Nuclear Forensics. As regards cyber security, Canada is working towards the development and issuance of a national standard for cyber protection.

Furthermore, Canada is examining the potential to develop a Centre of Excellence to connect expertise from government, industry, regulators and academic institutions. The document also notes that both government and industry representatives are actively involved in the development of international recommendations, guidance and best practice guides for enhancing nuclear security, through the IAEA and WINS.

Quick Takeaways

What I drew in particular from the combination of the 2 summit meetings (NSS and NIS) was an emphasis on the following nuclear security areas:

  • Education, training and awareness-raising are key in developing a corporate and institutional “nuclear security culture”
  • Peer review and compliance, while still voluntary in many parts of the international nuclear security architecture, are essential and will be pursued and strengthened
  • Collaboration with industry is important, especially in promoting a nuclear security culture, raising the actual levels of physical protection, and dealing with increasingly salient cyber-security issues
  • There is growing recognition of the interface between safety and security and of how the latter can learn from the former
  • The IAEA is increasingly accepted as the focal point in future for improvements in the practice of nuclear security and in building an international nuclear security architecture
  • Focus is being put on improved detection methods and forensic technologies
Nuclear Energy Nuclear Policy Nuclear Safety

CNA and Members Among World Leaders at 2014 Nuclear Industry Summit

By Erin Polka
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Canadian Nuclear Association members will be among the world nuclear industry leaders participating at the third Nuclear Industry Summit in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from March 23 to 25.

The summit is organized in conjunction with the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. Leaders from 58 countries will attend the security summit, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama.

The industry summit is a high-level event for global nuclear CEOs focused on the security aspects needed to ensure that the nuclear industry is seen by society as valuable, now and in the future.

Canada will be well represented at the industry summit with Bruce Power CEO Duncan Hawthorne chairing one of the summit’s working groups on security governance and Cameco president Tim Gitzel is a featured speaker.

Ken Ellis, a long-time Bruce Power executive and current World Association of Nuclear Operators managing director, will also address the summit.

CNA president Dr. John Barrett will be in attendance as an observer, along with AECL CEO Dr. Robert Walker, Candu Energy senior VP of engineering Dezi Yang and and Canadian Nuclear Partners president Pierre Tremblay.

The industry summit will focus on promoting a strong security culture throughout the global industry, cooperation in dealing with cyber security threats and continuing to reduce the use of highly-enriched uranium in research reactors and radiological isotope production.

The conference will have three working groups – Strengthening Security Governance, Dealing with Cyber Threats, and Managing Materials of Concern. The chairs of these groups, including Hawthorne, will report later to the Nuclear Security Summit with recommendations on how the industry can help further enhance nuclear security.

Industry participation in global nuclear security is important. Industry operates facilities such as nuclear power plants and is responsible for safety and security of nuclear or radiological sources at such facilities.

Canada is not only a major player in all aspects of the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, but it is also a world leader in nuclear safety.

This year, the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative ranked Canada second behind only Australia in securing its nuclear materials for peaceful purposes.

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What’s Next on Climate Change? Let’s Hope it’s a “Poland Moment”

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Nothing unites human beings as quickly as a common threat. But even a common threat can take a long time to do the job.

German invasions took down Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark and Norway before “appeasement” was fully discredited.  Britain’s comfortable classes virtually had to see German guns across the water before they heeded Winston Churchill’s repeated calls to arms. In the end, the Allies stopped Adolf Hitler’s march – just barely.

The Second World War was the unifying struggle of the western democracies. But we came late and slow to the fight.

German soldiers remove Polish government insignia, 1939
German soldiers remove Polish government insignia, 1939. Source: German federal archive

Humans are brought together by shared experiences. In the century or two since human society has been an interconnected whole, no single and simultaneous global struggle has cemented our shared humanity. Today, we are united more by shallow popular entertainments, consumer goods, and designer brands than by values.

The last decade’s “global war on terror” came close to being such a common struggle, with its universal moral element. Popular revulsion of terrorist attacks reinforced the human preference for tolerance, social integration, and peace everywhere. But the legitimacy of that struggle got dissipated in places like Iraq and Guantanamo.  Democratic leadership did not rise to that occasion as Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman had to the totalitarian threat.

What challenges lie on this century’s horizon that might similarly threaten people around the world – threaten us enough to make us articulate, and stand up to defend, common values with the kind of selflessness and integrity they deserve?

Today the clear candidate is the creeping environmental disaster that comes from rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. This is mainly due to our sustained burning of natural gas, oil, and coal.

While the immediacy of this threat can still be debated, we are now as certain as we can be that it will raise sea levels and storm severity. This will inundate coastlines, low islands, and river deltas where our fellow humans live in large numbers. It will also increase drought, desertification, and erosion, while wreaking havoc with ecosystems and crops, and reducing the availability of fresh water. And this will happen in our and our children’s lifetimes.

Global average sea level change
Global average sea level change. Source: IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis

With atmospheric carbon concentrations now around 400 parts per million, this has already well begun. If this were fascism’s march across Europe, we would be in about March of 1939. That is, we might be somewhere just after Franco’s triumph in Spain, but just before Hitler’s sweep into Denmark and Norway.

If so, then the next step, metaphorically, would be the fall of Poland: an impossible-to-ignore moment that tumbles us from mere nagging unease into real, constant fear.

Our response today is still the familiar mix of denial, helplessness, and isolationism. “It might not be that bad.” “It’s beyond anything we can do.” “We’ll take care of ourselves somehow.” While a few of us may get rid of our cars, put solar panels on our roofs, and fly less, this is like watching adventurous individuals go off to fight fascism with the International Brigades in Spain in 1937. While theirs are commendable sacrifices, they are not widely enough shared, and thus will not change the outcome. A fall-of-Poland moment would make this all too clear.

British troops retreating from Dunkirk, France, 1940.
British troops retreating from Dunkirk, France, 1940. Source: U.S. War Department

President Obama’s climate plan, on which this writer has already commented, is much better than the defeatism that Churchill despised. But it is much less than a Churchillian call to make the sacrifices needed to fight the war to victory. Even the un-ignorable fall-of-Poland moment (indeed, even a fall-of France moment – a disaster that brings the wolves to our very doors) will draw further denial, helplessness, and isolationism.