Monthly Archives: May 2011

Nuclear News Nuclear Pride

Germany’s Nuclear Phase Out

Germany announced yesterday plans to phase out nuclear by 2022. German Environment Minister
Norbert Röttgen said:

“It’s definite: the latest end of the last three nuclear power plants is 2022. There will be no clause for revision.”

While we can’t comment on the specifics of Germany’s most recent decision (Germany has changed its nuclear policy three times in 15 years), the Canadian industry is watching international developments with great interest.

One thing is clear – 23% of Germany’s electricity will have to be replaced with another source.

According to this Reuters article, cutting nuclear in Germany will add 40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year. One analyst says:

“We will see a pick-up in German coal burn. Longer term, they will be using more renewables and gas but this year and next, we should see a lot of support for coal burn.”

This hardly seems like a victory worth celebrating, as many German anti-nukes are, especially considering the how damaging the burning of fossil fuels, like coal, is. But as Bill Gates said recently,

“Coal kills fewer people at one time, which is highly preferred by politicians.”

Here in Canada, nuclear has been a pillar of our electricity system for more than 50 years – and let’s not forget all of the products and services that nuclear medicine and R&D has contributed to all Canadians, plus the highly-skilled jobs that come out of those sectors. Nuclear also contributes to safety and research in other major sectors, such as our auto and aerospace industries. Nuclear is also one of the most cost-effective of the large-scale energies and, aside from hydro, no other source of energy can produce so much clean, baseload power at such sustained levels as nuclear.

Yeah, we’re pretty sure that support for nuclear energy in Canada will continue for a long time.


2011 Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Platform

The Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) party released its 2011 platform this weekend.

One of things that emerges very clearly is that the PC’s see the high cost of electricity as a key election issue. The high cost of electricity is referred to throughout the platform and is a key element of PC Leader Tim Hudak’s speeches.

PC Leader Tim Hudak has signaled for some time that he is favourable to nuclear energy, and the document references nuclear along with natural gas and hydroelectric as “proven technologies that are effective, efficient and clean.” The platform also includes the line “Any investments in nuclear technology will, of course, be subject to the most rigorous safety standards in the world.” This was a line designed to reassure the public after Fukushima and Hudak considers our safety system to meet that criteria.

Energy/electricity: Key highlights:

  • remove HST from home hydro bills
  • remove the Debt Retirement Charge from home hydro bills
  • end mandatory time-of-use pricing
  • eliminate the Ontario Power Authority (OPA)
  • eliminate the Feed-in-Tarif (FIT) program
  • end the Samsung deal
  • establish a Consumer Advocate at the Ontario Energy Board (OEB)

Also of note is a pledge to complete the closure of coal plants, as well as a pledge to revamp/modernize the apprenticeship program and create 200,000 more positions.


28 Parliamentary Secretaries of the 41st Parliament

On May 25 , 2011, the Prime Minister announced the 28 Parliamentary Secretaries that will support the duties  of the Cabinet Ministers.

Half of the 28 Parliamentary Secretaries (PS) are from Ontario. This reaffirms the Prime Minister’s efforts in recognizing that Ontario was important in attaining the majority government status.

Along with the majority appointments of PS positions going to Ontario based Members of Parliament, the majority of Cabinet positions are also from Ontario.

Of notable mention is the re-appointment of David Anderson as the Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources. He will be providing a sense of continuity on key issues such as the updating of the Nuclear Liability Act.

Also of interest are the appointments of ;

Dean Del Mastro as PS to the Prime Minister
Mike Lake PS to the  Industry Minister
Shelly Glover PS to the Minister of  Finance
Chris Alexander PS to the Minister of  National Defense
Michelle Rempel PS to the Minister of Environment

A complete list of the Parliamentary Secretaries and their biographies.

Nuclear Pride

The Onion Pokes Fun: Maple Syrup Reactors Safe

This week the online joke-news site, The Onion, is poking fun at two of Canada’s sources of pride: maple syrup and nuclear safety. Sub-in “nuclear” for “maple syrup” and you get the jist:

  • Canada’s nuclear operations have a proven track record of being among the safest in the world
  • The nuclear industry contributes to our economic growth and supports 71,000 Canadian jobs
  • Safety is key (our back-ups have back-ups)
  • We’re always looking for lessons to apply to be continuously improving.**

I guess this last point is where nuclear and maple syrup differs – because maple syrup has been pretty much perfect for a while now. Please pass the pancakes!

Maple Syrup Reactors Safe, Canadian Prime Minister Reassures

May 23, 2011 | ISSUE 47•21

OTTAWA—Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper addressed growing public concerns about the safety of his country’s maple syrup reactors Thursday, reassuring citizens that the sucrose fission facilities posed little risk of failure and there was absolutely no reason to be concerned.

“In light of recent global events, I want to assure everyone that our maple syrup reactors are still the safest in the world,” Harper said. “A team of engineers inspected every maple syrup reactor in Canada and found that all the backup systems and safeguard measures were in place and functioning properly.”

Harper maintained that safeguarding the production of maple syrup was crucial, as it represents 70 percent of the Canadian economy, generating more than $900 billion each year. Harper also said the nation’s 75 maple syrup reactors, which produce 7 billion gallons annually, were a considerable distance away from population centers.

“Maple syrup is still the safest form of sweetener,” Harper said. “It’s far less dangerous than molasses.”

[Continue reading at The Onion]

** The nuclear energy industry is a community. All it takes is an incident at just one plant, and we all feel the impact. The more members we can get to share and communicate, the better it will be.

Waste Management

Welcoming Nuclear Waste with Open Arms (and Hearts & Minds)

Last week, Spiegle Online International published a four-part article about a Swedish town where 77% of residents are in favour of hosting a permanent nuclear waste repository. In Part 1 of the article we meet Stefan Edelsvärd, a former history and politics teacher. Edelsvärd says even despite the similarities drawn between the troubled reactors at Fukushima and those at the Formark nuclear power plant, which his vacation home on the beach faces,  he has a great deal of confidence the three reactors.

Edelsvärd isn’t alone. The town of Östhammar is home to 22,000 people where one in five jobs is tied to the three reactors at the Forsmark – the youngest of which has already been operating for 25 years. The town has a long and positive relationship with nuclear, so much so that in 2009 they were competing with a neighboring town to be chosen for the site of the permanent repository.

Part 2 of the article looks through a wider lens at the issue of waste storage in near-by Germany. A planned site in Gorleben went awry due to a lack of transparency and ultimately by officials attempting to buy citizens trust instead of earning it through consultation and dialogue. By contrast, in Östhammar the pros and cons were discussed openly. One mother at the public consultation acknowledged “the stuff has to go somewhere,” while another said “the repository creates jobs, and safety is the top priority.”

Part 3, titled “Nuclear Waste Controllable and Not Utterly Objectionable,” talks about the consultative process between  Östhammar and SKB, the company which has pursued a repository site since the 1980s. After drafting a short-list of suitable hosting sites, SKB focused on Östhammar as the most ideal due to its earthquake-proof, mostly dry and completely solid bedrock. The consultation process began and continues as the project moves forward, always discussing  issues with citizens to reach consensus.

Part 4 addresses suspicions that, frankly, the town of Östhammar must be on the take. This is something Mayor Jacob Spangenberg takes in stride. It’s his job to hold SKB and others accountable to the residents of Östhammar and maintain the established trust. Spangenberg says attitudes towards nuclear hasn’t changed since the situation in Fukushima began because residents have confidence that everything in Östhammar is under control. He feels the community trusts SKB because they have taken the time to explain the science behind the permanent repository plan.

A great benefit of the permanent repository is that the construction work will create 500-600 jobs for about 10 years and, after the site has been filled in, there will another 250 jobs for the next 40 years; in addition there will be numerous spin-off jobs in restaurants, hotels and a training facility for technicians.

What does Östhammar and Canada have in common?
The story of Östhammar provides a good example to any organization or industry that relies on public buy-in (which should be every organization and industry). In Canada, there are public consultations, environmental assessment and licence hearings for every nuclear project. Since the beginning of nuclear power generation in Canada, the industry’s public safety and environmental stewardship commitment has included the safe, secure and responsible long-term management of used fuel.

Currently Canada’s used nuclear fuel is stored initially in secure water-filled bays for 5-10 years, then placed in large concrete and steel dry storage containers, silos or vaults, located at the power plants where it is produced. Radioactive waste facilities are monitored by the operator, federal authorities and by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Read more about the management of used nuclear fuel and waste in Canada here (PDF).

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) was established in 2002 under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act (NFWA) to investigate collaboratively with Canadians approaches for managing used nuclear fuel over the long term.  In 2007 the federal government approved Adaptive Phased Management, a plan which involves the development of a deep geological repository in an informed and willing host community.

This section of NWMO’s website provides an overview of the principles guiding the multi-step process through which potential host sites will be evaluated through a series of progressively more detailed scientific and technical assessments.  Several communities have expressed interest in learning more about the project and have begun to consider their interest in hosting the facility. We’ll be following the process along with you, so let us know what you think.

Nuclear Energy Statistics

Where is my Electricity Coming From at this Hour?

Checking in with the CNS’ chart of electricity production in Ontario:

Where is my Electricity Coming From at this Hour? (if I live in Ontario)

In the hour between 2:45pm and 3:45pm, thanks to nuclear power generation in Ontario, over 8,000 tonnes of CO2 was avoided. In fact, electricity currently generated by nuclear power plants in Canada saves the potential emission of approximetly 90 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year that would result from the same amount of electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. Like, for example in Alberta where they don’t have nuclear power plants and instead rely on coal for 41% of their electricity.

Alberta Electricity Generation (As of May 24, 2011 2:30pm)