Author Archives: Erin Polka

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

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 https://cna.ca/cna2020/registration/ for more information and to register.

Top-scoring student entries for CNA2020

Each year, the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) sponsors registration, travel and accommodations of up to 100 post-secondary school students to attend its annual conference and trade show.

To be selected this year, students had to write a 250-word response to a question about the future of nuclear technology. Students also had to post on Facebook or Twitter to promote that they applied to attend to increase awareness among their peers.

A committee evaluated the 151 submissions for sound ideas and innovative responses, passion for the industry and the future of nuclear technology, personality, and the basics of good presentation and writing skills.

Below are the four top-scoring entries.

How do you think clean energy sources (e.g., nuclear, wind, solar, waterpower) will work together in the low-carbon energy systems of the future?

By Katie Fleischer, Lambton College

Modern-day, low-carbon energy sources cannot fulfill the energy demands of our communities alone. As clean energy systems gain acceptance and usage, society will move away from fossil fuels. According to the 2020 Nuclear Factbook, the top three energy systems used worldwide are fossil fuels (66.3%), hydro (16.0%), and nuclear (10.6%). In comparison, Canada’s climate and geographic location affects which energy sources are prioritized locally. The primary power source is hydroelectricity (60%), nuclear (15%), and natural gas (9%). Both sets of data will continue to shift with the gradual transition to primarily nuclear energy and other supplemental low-carbon energy systems. The ability to use these sources together to provide efficient, clean and safe energy is important to decrease pollution rates, provide efficient and effective use of land, and most notably a dramatic reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. According to Michael Shellenberger, president and founder of Environmental Progress, in the Canadian Nuclear Association video, How Nuclear Energy Can Improve Our Climate, nuclear power plants have the smallest land footprint. Using only an area the size of two or three football fields, these plants can produce enough energy for 3 million people, using California as an example. In his TEDx Berlin, Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet, Shellenberger provides a great visual of a Rubik’s Cube to explain that the same amount of uranium (as the volume of a Rubik’s Cube) is enough energy for one person’s lifetime. These statements support the use of nuclear energy and reinforce the ability to generate significant amounts of reliable energy with small amounts of land and material. Nuclear energy holds a decisive role in the reduction of carbon emissions worldwide because of its ability to power our communities while meeting the demands of an increasing world population and ensuring the longevity of our planet.

By Jessica Gauthier, University of New Brunswick

The electrical generation, transportation and industrial sectors are among the leading emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG). I think integration of clean energy sources in each sector is essential for reducing global GHG emissions. Nuclear, geothermal, wind, solar and hydro technologies are all well-established, clean energy sources, each with its own benefits, advances and shortcomings. Wind and solar technologies are dependent on weather patterns, require a backup energy source and large land space compared with nuclear, geothermal and hydro technologies to produce equivalent energy. When designed with an energy storage system, wind and solar could be well used as supplements for other clean energy systems, rather than as standalone energy sources. While hydro is a cheap energy source, ecological displacement is not ideal. Nuclear and geothermal energy technologies are both reliable and consistent clean energy sources for base load electricity generation and supplying thermal energy to industrial sites. Geothermal technology is an excellent alternative to nuclear energy given its lower associated costs and less personnel required for operation and security. However, geothermal technology is limited to geographical areas where there is tectonic movement, is not feasible in areas where water is scarce (although using other fluids is being researched), and produces much less heat compared to small modular reactor (SMR) designs. SMRs are an excellent technology for processes that require heat of more than 300˚C. Given SMRs require appropriate heat sinks, an SMR (or cluster) could be constructed in a central location to feed multiple industrial sites. An excellent example of SMR integration is the production of carbon-neutral transportation fuels. Carbon Engineering, a Canadian energy company, has demonstrated the ability to produce carbon-neutral transportation fuels by elementally separating water and carbon dioxide (from the atmosphere) and reforming the elements into hydrocarbons, using high-temperature electrolysis and the Fischer–Tropsch process.

By Tyra Gordon, Ontario Tech University

Adapting to combat climate change will be one of the greatest challenges of our generation. Reducing greenhouse emissions from energy production is an essential step to mitigate increased temperatures and the frequency of natural disasters. Globally, there is growing public and political support for climate change action. This is evidenced by mass climate protests, the introduction of a carbon tax and Canada’s commitment to shutting down its coal plants and reduce its GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. To do this, Canada needs carbon-free electricity sources that are:

  1. deployable. There is an urgent need to replace existing energy produced by fossil fuels, particularly in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. There is an impetus to limit temperatures to +1.5°C and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change;
  2. scalable. The conversion of heating and transportation from oil and gas to electricity has the potential to greatly increase power consumption; and
  3. flexible. Many sources of electricity such as wind and solar have low capacity factors that require support from energy storage facilities or on-demand and base load energy sources.

Nuclear energy has the potential to address many of these issues. In fact, a 2014 life-cycle study by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified nuclear as one of the lowest carbon sources available, alongside wind and hydro. The performance of the existing CANDU fleet enabled the shutdown of the coal plants and effective decarbonization of Ontario’s electrical grid. Meanwhile nuclear energy remains one of the least expensive sources of electricity in Ontario, while providing thousands of jobs. Investments in SMRs creates a new pathway to decreased licensing and construction times, costs, and financial and safety risks of conventional nuclear plants. Overall, nuclear offers a key component of existing carbon-free energy grids and has potential for future growth.

By Iain Kaufman-O’Keefe, Queen’s University

The power grid of the future will combine many different technologies and stakeholders to balance reliability with financial and environmental sustainability. At its core, the current power grid relies on large amounts of baseload energy from large, centralized power plants to provide reliability to the grid, while quick ramping sources add stability to fluctuations in demand. Generation will have specific roles to fill in the clean energy grid to minimize limitations of different clean energy technologies. Generation III and IV nuclear reactors along with hydro would provide baseload, while solar, wind and advancements in storage technology would provide regional grids with on-peak power. To increase solar and wind capacity, storage will be increasingly important to allow fossil fuel power plants to be shutdown permanently, rather than keeping them on standby when renewables cannot meet demands. This storage capacity would be found in expanding batteries and adopting thermal and pump storage. Storage will also help by allowing excess electricity produced at off-peak hours to be used at on-peak hours. This all assumes that the grid will operate on a large scale as it does now. The grid of the future may rely on small independent grids using Generation IV nuclear reactors along with renewables from local sources, with farm communities using biogas and wind, and cities using rooftop solar to supplement local small modular reactors or centralized power stations. According to the Government of Canada, over 30% of energy is lost during transmission. Therefore, reducing transmission and increasing efficiency of components will help reduce overall demand. By thinking outside the box and using new technology, low-carbon energy has never been closer.