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When We All Have a Say, Who Flies the Plane?

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

You find your seat, stuff your bag in the overhead, sit down, and put your lap-belt on.

Sixteen inches from your face, the video lights up.

Welcome aboard our flight today. I’m the Chairman of this airline’s board of directors, and I’d like to ask for three minutes of your help.

Our customers are the heart of what we do.

Our Board is trying to decide how far that can go. With this in mind, we’ve drafted some possible new guidance for our great airline. We want to hear from you, our customers – the reason we fly.

Please touch the screen to express your support for each of the following measures on a scale of 1 to 4 (where 4 expresses greatest support).

  1. Customers were under-represented in past decisions around fuel mix, engine technology, flying altitude, and emergency procedures. We propose to consult you regularly from now on. Based on passenger consultations, the airline CEO will make sure customer concerns are addressed.  

[Your fellow passengers tap their screens in response. You hesitate and look around. You see your seat-mate touch 4.]

  1. Criteria for making weather-related flight cancellations should reflect customer needs. The airline CEO will lead a consultation process to review these criteria. The decision criteria in poor weather may be relaxed if customers believe they were needlessly inconvenienced by past cancellations.

[Your seat-mate touches 3.]

  1. The airline CEO will transition our company to full “flight deck transparency.” Conversations within the flight deck, and between aircraft and ground, will be available for you to monitor on Channel 3 of our audio system.

[Your seat-mate hesitates, then touches 2.]

  1. In the next level of “flight deck transparency,” passengers will be able to submit real-time comments on those flight deck conversations. Comments will be moderated by the flight director and read to the pilot.

[Your seat-mate starts looking around the cabin. Others are doing the same. An audible murmur starts.]

  1. In the next level of “flight deck transparency,” warning signals and alarms from our avionic systems would be broadcast on the cabin speakers. We plan for passengers to be able to record their level of concern online at fifteen-second intervals. At each interval the pilot would hear a reading of the current average concern level. When multiple alarms are sounding, this reading frequency to the pilot would be shortened to five-second intervals.

The murmur of worry gets louder; hands move away from screens.

Absurd? Not entirely.

Sure, nearly all of us probably want to let the pilots fly the planes – and not distract them with our “concern level.” Whether it’s because we trust their professional qualifications, or we trust those who regulate them, or just because we aren’t sure we know better than they do, we let them do their jobs.

What about the “pilots” of the other critical systems in our modern world – those who plan and maintain city drinking water supplies, for example? Or the public health officers who manage disease outbreaks? Or fire marshals who regulate our office and apartment buildings to reduce fire risks? Do we let them do their jobs? In these cases, mostly the answer is yes, particularly as long as their record of protecting us is good.

Look further and the situation gets muddier. In CNA’s mid-2014 poll, nearly one in four respondents did NOT agree that the government agencies that regulate Canadian nuclear power plants are taking the issue of safety “seriously.” Attend public regulatory hearings and you’ll hear the same message in even less polite terms from those citizens who turn out to state their views. Canadians say they trust the corporations running the plants just as much as they trust the independent public regulators, if not more so. And trust in the public regulators seems to be trending downward.

Regulate Canadian power plants graph

It’s not just nuclear. A similar trend seems to affect a wide range of industry regulatory activities: from health product approvals to food inspection to environmental assessments to electricity generation. Canadians appear less and less willing to trust the people and processes inside regulatory bodies. The result is that more and more, public regulatory decisions get fought out in sidewalk protests, social media, TV news, legislatures, or election campaigns.

This is surprising when you consider that over the past 250 years, the rise of our professional standards of practice, product codes, and independent regulatory agencies have advanced ordinary people’s health and safety by orders of magnitude. (See “How can Nuclear Power be Safe?”)

By the evidence, this is one of the great successes of western society, owed to quiet technocrats who stayed out of politics and applied objective scientific and economic measures to find the public good.

Yet we now seem willing to discard it in favor of political processes where the winners are more likely to be the loudest screamers, the best-resourced lobbyists, or the richest property owners. In re-politicizing regulated industries, we don’t necessarily democratize decisions; rather, we may empower the noisy few. And much clear, demonstrable progress toward better decision-making may simply get undone.

It’s a big issue. It threatens to be a big step backward. And it’s something we should be talking more about. Pilots aren’t perfect; they’re human. So are their managers, and their CEOs, and their Boards, and their regulators. Oversight is always needed. But are we going to let them do their jobs, or not?

Guest Blog Nuclear Safety Waste Management

CNSC Response to ‘Debate Over Possible Nearby Nuclear Waste Site Buried’

The letter below is a response from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to an editorial that appeared last week in the Whig and the London Free Press. The CNA responded as well (you can read our response here). The CNSC is the federal government agency that regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment.  The editorial to which the CNSC’s Ramzi Jammal is responding was by a UWO professor – who writes about nuclear non-proliferation, but is not an expert in the regulation of nuclear energy or waste materials. Let’s get the straight goods from someone who is an expert in these issues.

 

CNSC response to the letter entitled ‘Debate over possible nearby nuclear waste site buried’ published in the Kingston Whig-Standard and London Free Press on July 21, 2012

Ramzi Jammal Executive Vice-President Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Your July 21 guest editorial by University of Western Ontario professor Erika Simpson, entitled ‘Debate over possible nearby nuclear waste site buried’, compels me to correct some inaccurate and erroneous statements that may confuse your readers.

To begin with, the author is confusing two completely distinct projects: Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposed deep geologic repository to manage low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste produced from the continued operation of the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations; and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) Adaptive Phased Management (APM) project for the long-term management Canada’s used nuclear fuel.

The article’s author was correct in stating that OPG’s project is for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste and does not include used nuclear fuel. But she then proceeds to speak of used nuclear fuel and to further confuse several other different issues.

The OPG project is for the long-term management of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations. This waste includes such things as tools, rags, filters, resins, refurbishment waste, and other radioactive contaminated materials. The government has appointed a panel to conduct the environmental assessment and the first stages of licensing for the project. Public hearings for the project are likely to be held next year in the Bruce area. More information about this project is available at nuclearsafety.gc.ca and www.opg.com.

The long-term management of used nuclear fuel is a separate project being managed by the NWMO which was established in 2002. In May 2010, the NWMO launched its Site Selection Process to identify a willing community to host a geological repository for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. As of July 7, 2012, 19 communities have formally expressed interest in learning more about the APM project to host a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel. More information about this project is available at www.nwmo.ca.

The NWMO’s project is still considered in its very early stages, and once the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission receives a licence application, it will carry out its due diligence in terms of safety and regulatory requirements. More information about CNSC’s early role in this project is available at nuclearsafety.gc.ca.

Your guest editorialist’s allusion that the CNSC is not independent is completely false. I would like to emphasize that the Commission is a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal, independent from any political, government or private sector influence. It is the Commission Members, and only the Commission Members, who render decisions based on all the evidence presented in the context of a hearing process.

The CNSC’s mandate is very simple. To ensure that nuclear activities are done in a manner that protects the environment as well as the health, safety and security of workers and the public and to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In the future, I encourage anyone writing for your publication to contact the CNSC in order to provide your newspaper’s editorialists with the facts, and as a result, editorials with more rigour and thoroughness, something this one is sorely lacking.

Ramzi Jammal
Executive Vice-President
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

CNA Responds

Canadian Nuclear Association Encourages Government to Give Full Consideration to CEAA Report Recommendations

March 14, 2012 – Ottawa, ON – Canada’s nuclear industry is encouraging the Government of Canada to give full consideration to the recommendations on the federal Environmental Assessment (EA) process made in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (“the Committee”) Report on the Statutory Review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA): Protecting the Environment, Managing our Resources.

“Our members are committed to environmental stewardship and are supportive of the EA process, which provides a valuable planning tool, aimed at protecting the land, air and water in the areas where we live and work,” said Denise Carpenter, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association. “We agree with the Committee’s reported findings that there are long-standing challenges with the implementation of the CEAA and the EA process.”

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) is supportive of the Environment Committee’s efforts to re-focus the EA process on “what matters to the environment.” The Report makes recommendations to remove process steps that add little or no value to the environment, and have the potential to draw attention away from what really matters.

The CNA agrees ­with the following Report recommendations for improving the EA process:

  • removing steps that do not actually affect the environmental outcome;
  • applying information from past EAs of fundamentally similar projects;
  • delegating powers to a single regulatory authority so that there is one EA by the best-placed regulator; and
  • eliminate the need to repeat the EA process due to administrative decisions and minor approvals related to existing licenses.

“Environmental Assessments are an integral part of how Canada’s nuclear industry conducts its business and we have gained considerable insights from carrying them out,” continued Carpenter. “The federal EA process should be more efficient and should lead to improved environmental outcomes. The recommendations have the potential to achieve these goals.”

The full report on the Statutory Review of the CEAA is available on the Committee’s website.

 -30-

For more information:
Kathleen Olson
Director of Communications
Canadian Nuclear Association
olsonk@cna.ca

Messages Nuclear Energy Nuclear News Nuclear Pride

NRC Approves New Nuclear Build at Vogtle Site in Georgia

Big news for our nuclear neighbors south of the border.  It was announced today by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the United States that Southern Nuclear Operating Company’s (SNC) application for two Combined Licenses (COL) at the Vogtle site in Georgia was approved!

Read all about it: NRC News Release (PDF)

Congratulations to all the stakeholders:  the companies that build and design nuclear technology, the regulators who work with them to ensure its safety, and above all the families and businesses in Georgia who want reliable, affordable electric power.

These stakeholders, and others like them around the world, are building on decades of learning and continuous improvement, which is a strong part of our industry’s culture.

This is just one more step toward renewed growth for our industry.  Nuclear technology has a great role to play in a balanced and sustainable energy future for North America.

SNC will build and operate two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Vogtle site.

Ask Westinghouse SVP and Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Kate Jackson, all about it at the 2012 Canadian Nuclear Association Conference and Trade Show – Feb 22-23, in Ottawa. Registration closes Feb 17. #cnagm2012

Nuclear News Nuclear Pride

Celebrating CNSC 65th Anniversary

When the Atomic Energy Control Act came into force in 1946,  the Atomic Energy Control Board was created to ensure the safety and security of nuclear technologies. In 2000, the new Nuclear and Safety Control Act was enacted, creating the CNSC. This is just a taste of the rich history behind Canada’s independent nuclear regulator that 65 years later is continuing to keep our nuclear operations as safe as knowingly possible.

This year, the CNSC celebrates its 65th anniversary! To celebrate they’re sharing messages from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Natural Resources, and the CNSC President.

They’re also sharing stories from current and past staff members like Mike White and Bonnie Duff, who were Senior Project Officers during the events of Operation Morning Light, the massive search and recovery operation of the Cosmos 954 Russian satellite crash in 1978.

Canada has a long and rich history with nuclear science and technology that includes many firsts Canadians can be proud of. Discover this history through the stories of the people that were there making this technology as safe, reliable, clean and beneficial as it is today.

Check out the interactive historical timeline.
You can step through it chronologically – start from the creation of the solar system billions of years ago to scientists’ first capture of antimatter in 2010, or pick a subject area such as medicine or safety.

 

Congratulations to the CNSC for 65 great, safe years. Canada has oft been recognized for the strength of its regulatory systems. Our nuclear security is no exception, and in fact can be considered a model of excellence. On December 9 of this year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) completed its follow-up assessment of Canada’s nuclear regulatory framework and concluded that the CNSC’s actions in response to the March 2011 events at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station was prompt, robust and comprehensive, and was identified as a good practice that should be used by other regulatory bodies.

Here’s to another 65 and beyond!

 

 

CNA2012

CNA2012 Update – Network with Industry Leaders + Exciting Workshops


If you have already registered for the 2012 Canadian Nuclear Association Conference and Trade Show, you will be in the company of industry leaders and innovators for three days of learning, networking and celebration of this great industry.

If you haven’t registered yet, don’t delay!

CLICK HERE to register for the 2012 Canadian Nuclear Association Conference and Trade Show NOW!

Download the complete 2012 CNA Conference and Trade Show AGENDA here.

Workshops at the 2012 Conference

Don’t miss your chance to sign up for one of two optional workshops. Seating is limited – Sign up now.

Wednesday February 22

13:00 – 17:00

CNA Regulatory Affairs Workshop

To provide an update on some of the new Federal and Provincial regulatory developments affecting Canada’s nuclear industry.  The workshop will include presentations by representatives of key Federal and Provincial agencies.
Max. 40 participants. $50 additional cost to participate.

Wednesday February 22

12:00 – 17:00

Talking about Radiation: “Are We Safe? Can We Trust You?”

The workshop will give participants an understanding of key challenges in communicating about radiation, radioactivity and associated environmental and human health risks; and enhance preparedness to address these challenges effectively through applied leading practice strategic risk communications methods, combined with relevant on-the-ground experience.
(Working lunch to be provided)
Max. 40 participants. $50 additional cost to participate.

The full Conference program includes keynote speakers, panels, Canadian and global nuclear industry updates and more. Download the Conference agenda here.

See you in February!