Author Archives: Erin Polka

The Sound of Neutrons

The hills are alive, with the sound of… neutrons?

This March, “The Sound of Neutrons,” an original musical written and directed by Phyllis Heeney will be performed by the Deep River Players at the Childs Auditorium of Mackenzie Community School in Deep River.

Based on real events, the musical centres around a female physicist who was unable to get a job at Chalk River labs in 1945 to work on the ZEEP reactor because she was a woman.

The musical is written and directed by Phyllis Heeney, a retired Canadian Nuclear Laboratories employee. Phyllis took great care to base the story of her musical on the experiences of real women from the Deep River and Chalk River area: Maria, a physics professor from Bratislava who was unable to get a job as a physicist; Nancy, a woman who did get a job as a physicist but was never seen as equal by her male peers; Maraget, the first woman ever hired at Chalk River, whose desk chair was a keg of nails.

The musical celebrates the entry of women into the nuclear workforce and the strides they made for not only other female workers, but for Canada’s science and engineering fields as a whole.

The show runs on March 12 & 13 – takes a pause for March Break – and finishes its run on March 26, 27, and 28. Opening night, March 12, is also the kick-off of the Town of Deep River’s 75th anniversary celebrations. A catered reception will follow the performance on opening night, which will be attended by local area politicians, advocacy organizations, historical societies, and AECL and CNL employees (past and present).

Details regarding the purchase of tickets can be found on the poster above.

CNA response to The London Free Press op-ed on January 17

RE: Op-ed Ontario should denuclearize its power generation (Jan. 17)

Ian Fairlie and Erika Simpson use the recent false provincial alert regarding the Pickering station as an opportunity to engage in fear-mongering about nuclear power.

The article consists of many misleading statements and is not based on credible scenarios.

The false alert was the result of a provincial alert system test and was unrelated to any event at the Pickering station.

The Pickering station is a CANDU design with a long history of safe performance. It is regularly upgraded to ensure alignment with international codes and standards.

In 2019, the station achieved its best-ever year of safety and reliability and was recently recognized for performance excellence by the World Association of Nuclear Operators.

Like all Canadian nuclear plants, the station benefits from strong oversight by an independent and highly-regarded regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

The safety culture and human performance of the Canadian nuclear industry is often emulated by other countries and industries.

John Gorman
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association
Ottawa, ON

CNA response to Toronto Star article about Pickering nuclear alert

Re: We have good reasons to be alarmed about nuclear reactors, Jan. 14

Just to clarify Rosie DiManno’s column, there was no “wee email booboo at Pickering” over the weekend.

The erroneous alert was sent out by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre during an internal exercise and did not originate with Ontario Power Generation or the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.

The Pickering station provides clean, emissions-free power to one out of seven homes and businesses across Ontario. It has safely and reliably provided Ontario with power for decades.

The Pickering station continues to receive high safety ratings from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canada’s nuclear regulator.

The CNSC also has full-time staff on site who perform regular inspections to ensure safe operations.

John Gorman
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association
Ottawa, ON

WANO and CNSC to provide regulatory update at CNA2020

CNSC President Rumina Velshi
WANO Chairman Tom Mitchell

Get the most up-to-date regulatory information with a panel presentation at CNA2020 on Thursday, February 27, 2020, from 09:15 to 10:00. Taking the stage will be World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) Chairman Tom Mitchell and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) President Rumina Velshi.

WANO is a not-for-profit international organization that helps its members maximize the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants worldwide. It was established in 1989 by the world’s nuclear power operators to exchange safety knowledge and operating experience. WANO’s members operate about 460 nuclear units in more than 30 countries and areas worldwide.

Mitchell has over 40 years of experience working in nuclear industry leadership roles. Before joining WANO, he was CEO at Ontario Power Generation. He has been an influential and active leader in WANO for many years, including being the chair of WANO’s post-Fukushima committee in 2011. He also served as the deputy director of the WANO Atlanta Centre and as governor on the WANO governing board.

The CNSC regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials

  • to protect health, safety, security and the environment;
  • to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy; and
  • to disseminate objective scientific, technical and regulatory information to the public.

It was established in 2000 and reports to the minister of natural resources.

Velshi was not new to the CNSC when she was named president and CEO in 2018. She was appointed as a permanent, part-time commission member in 2011. Throughout her career, she has worked at Ontario Hydro and Ontario Power Generation, and has served as a board member on the Ontario Energy Board. Velshi actively promotes careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, especially for young women.

Lessons learned from the Pickering nuclear alert

Sunday morning, an emergency alert was sent out across Ontario about an incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. The alert was mistakenly sent during a routine test by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, which coordinates the government’s response to major emergencies.

The alert brought nuclear to the forefront, along with many misconceptions about Ontario’s largest provider of clean and reliable electricity. This is what we’ve learned.

The industry is prepared to respond in the event of an emergency

“OPG has a sophisticated and robust notification process in place that we would immediately follow in the unlikely event of an incident at the station,” Chief Nuclear Officer Sean Granville said.

Reporting to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, Emergency Management Ontario would manage the off-site response to nuclear emergencies. It would determine the appropriate level of public action based on the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan.

This 200-page plan, which was last revised in 2017, provides clear instructions to every municipality that has a nuclear station within its jurisdiction. Local police, fire and ambulance crews implement the emergency plans.

Each of the three nuclear stations in Ontario (Pickering, Darlington and Bruce) also has its own plan and world-class emergency preparedness group.

The nuclear industry has a rigorous regulatory regime

The nuclear industry has one of the most rigorous regulatory regimes in the world. All Canadian nuclear operators work with the Word Association of Nuclear Operations to achieve the highest possible standards of nuclear safety. They also work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies. An IAEA report showed that Canada has established and maintains a robust and comprehensive nuclear security infrastructure.

As well, at any given time, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has dedicated inspectors onsite at each of Canada’s nuclear power plants. It performs thousands of inspections annually to ensure Canada’s nuclear generating stations are operating safely. In 2017, the CNSC awarded OPG’s Pickering and Darlington stations its highest safety rating.

Ontario’s nuclear generating stations provide clean and reliable electricity

In 2018, the Pickering, Bruce and Darlington nuclear stations generated 60 per cent of Ontario’s electricity. It was their power that allowed OPG to close its coal-fired power plants, significantly reducing the province’s greenhouse gas emissions.

On a lifecycle basis, electricity from nuclear power generates an average of 16 g of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt hour. That’s more than hydro (4 g) and wind (12 g), but less than solar (22 g for concentrated solar power [CSP] or 46 g for photovoltaic [PV]). That compares to natural gas at 469 g/kWh and coal at 1,001 g/kWh.

In Canada alone, nuclear energy helps avoid 80 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. That’s about the same as taking 15 million passenger vehicles off the road.

Located east of Toronto, the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station is one of the largest nuclear stations in the world. It operates six CANDU reactors. The facility has been safely and reliably providing Ontario with electricity since 1971.

Register now for the public affairs pre-conference seminar

Did the Pickering nuclear alert reveal anything about your crisis communications plan? Gain confidence in your plan by attending the Canadian Nuclear Association’s pre-conference public affairs seminar on Wednesday, February 26.

For the nuclear industry, it isn’t enough to have a crisis plan. Private companies, government agencies and other organizations need to regularly review, practice and update their plans.

During the seminar, Argyle Public Relationships President Daniel Tisch will lead a crisis communications training session. After sharing key principles of crisis communications, Tisch will conduct a real-time simulation to see how different departments would work together during a nuclear incident.

The three-hour seminar will also include an update from Hill + Knowlton Vice-President Kevin Bosch about what to expect from the recently elected federal government. Find out how the nuclear sector could be affected as it works to protect refurbishments and develop small modular reactors across the country. Bosch will focus on what communications messages and tactics will have the greatest impact on the Liberal minority government’s decisions.


Registration is required for all pre-conference seminars. Employees of CNA member companies who are fully registered for CNA2020 have exclusive access to these sessions until January 15. At that point, the remaining seats will be open to all other registration categories and unregistered conference participants. Please see the registration terms and conditions at for more information and to register.