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Bill McKibben on the Virus and the Climate Movement

How the Virus Has Hit the Climate Movement: Bill McKibben

The Tyee talks to the prominent activist and author about fighting on two fronts. Geoff Dembicki 23 Mar 20  | TheTyee.ca

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee. His work also appears in Vice, Foreign Policy and the New York Times. A few weeks ago, this was looking like a big year for Canada’s climate movement.

After years of grassroots opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline in B.C., an eruption of rail blockades across the country in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en natural gas fight and Teck Resources shelving a major new oil sands mine for economic reasons, all the conditions seemed there to push for economy-transforming policies on the scale of the Green New Deal.

Then the coronavirus hit.

At a time when climate leaders in Canada, the U.S. and Europe imagined millions of people on the streets pressuring financial institutions to ditch fossil fuels and forcing political leaders to enact bold legislation, people are now fearful and physically alone, stuck in their homes to prevent a public health catastrophe as outside ecosystems veer towards collapse.

To help Tyee readers make sense of this new reality, we reached out to author and activist Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate group 350 and a global authority on what must be done to fight the climate emergency. It was McKibben who wrote the book The End of Nature about climate change in 1989 that put the threat firmly on the public radar.

On the impact of coronavirus on the climate movement:

In a conversation that has been edited for length and clarity, he urges Canadians to pressure politicians to keep the climate emergency front and centre as we navigate this crisis, while using these terrifying and inexplicable times as a chance to reflect on the fairer and more sustainable world we must build after the crisis is over.

On the similarities between coronavirus and climate change:

There’s a sense in which something like coronavirus is like climate change except encapsulated in a few months instead of a few decades…The biggest difference is that there’s no enormous industry that gets rich off of coronavirus, so there’s not like a built-in opposition to doing what needs to be done and that’s always been one of the problems with climate change.

On how coronavirus is helping kill off the fossil fuel industry:

One thing that’s happening I think is that last year will mark the peak of fossil fuel demand. I don’t think fossil fuels will be able to recover to the point they were at before. I can’t imagine anyone deciding that what they’re going to invest their money now in is another tar sands mine. I find it hard to imagine that even the Canadian government is going to want to spend $12 billion to build its pipeline out to Burnaby. I think we’re going to be reminded that there are other more important things to spend money on.

It seems to me that probably some of the landscape of oil and gas is getting rewritten even as we watch. That is a direct testament to the power of protest and organization over this last decade and to the incredible work of people, especially Indigenous organizers, pushing this case for a very long time. And it’s gotten through. Earlier this winter, the decision of investors that they weren’t going to throw more money into the Teck Frontier mine was a kind of bell ringing and those echoes will reverberate for a long time.

On the message Canadians should send to businesspeople and politicians:

I do think that the best thing for people to be doing in North America at the moment is to be putting huge pressure on the banks and financial institutions that fund fossil fuels, like JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, Liberty Mutual, RBC, all the Toronto banks, reminding them that it’s not ok to be trying to profit off the end of the world.

Some of these banks are going to need bailouts as the economy tanks and it should be pretty clear that we should not be bailing out them without making sure that they’re not going to contribute to the next even larger crisis facing the planet. https://thetyee.ca/News/2020/03/22/How-The-Virus-Has-Hit-Climate-Movement-McKibben/

 

March 24, 2020 Posted by | Canada, climate change | 1 Comment

Nuclear – a failing technology, example Canada’s risky CANDU reactors

Ontario Clean Air Alliance The Star By Angela Bischoff, March 3, 2020

Ask yourself: Would we build a massive nuclear power station in the middle of Canada’s largest urban area today? The answer, of course, is a common sense “no.”

It’s common sense because nuclear energy, despite its boosters’ assurances, is not without risk. And while the risk of something going wrong may be small, the consequences could be catastrophic. Just ask the people of Japan.

There is a persistent myth that there is something “special” about CANDU (Canada’s nuclear) technology. But that’s just wishful thinking. CANDU’s are just as prone to risk as any other type of system for splitting atoms.

In fact, the inability of nuclear engineers to address some of the risks built into the CANDU process led to the shelving of both the CANDU 6 “advanced” reactor design and the Maple small reactors that were to supply medical isotopes (a role that is now being increasingly filled by non-nuclear technologies). Those failures cost us billions in wasted taxpayer dollars.

Furthermore, with their miles and miles of corrosion-prone piping and complex designs, CANDUs are notoriously hard to maintain, and all our reactors have had to undergo significant rebuilding well before reaching the end of their promised lifetimes………

The total radioactivity in Pickering’s spent nuclear fuel is 200 times greater than the total radiation released to the atmosphere by the Fukushima accident in 2011.

Maybe the risk involved in storing 15,000 tonnes of radioactive waste next to the source of our drinking water and surrounded by millions of people would be worth it if we had no alternatives. But we have plenty of options to keep our lights on and our beer cold. What we don’t have is any viable solution for the long-term storage of highly radioactive waste that will have to be kept absolutely secure for hundreds of thousands of years.

There’s no shortage of happy talk about deep geologic waste disposal or even miraculous waste-consuming mini breeder reactors (a technology long since dismissed by countries around the world due to its horrendous risk profile). What you won’t find are any actual operational solutions — or even any ready-to-implement plans on the near horizon.

And then there’s the danger to your wallet. Nuclear power — with risks so huge that no commercial insurance industry will touch it for any amount of premium — is no bargain. Today, Ontario Power Generation is charging 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour for nuclear power; within 5 years that will jump to 16.5 cents as OPG deals with the huge cost of rebuilding Darlington’s reactors.

That is three times the cost of renewable power we could secure from Quebec, twice what Ontario was paying for wind power (and about equal to solar) four years ago, and eight times what we pay to help our industries and businesses improve their energy efficiency and reduce their need for power (and their bills).

So, the calculus is simple. On one hand we have a fading technology — nuclear now generates half the power it did worldwide 10 years ago — with rising costs and security concerns, and a long history of bringing in projects behind schedule and massively over budget.

On the other, a 100 per cent renewable system where costs continue to plummet, technology — including storage — is leaping ahead, and safety is about making sure workers wear harnesses, not radiation monitors. Which one would you choose for your neighbourhood?

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Canada, safety | Leave a comment

Unjustified hype over non existent Small Nuclear Reactors

These new nuclear reactors are so far perfectly safe, because they exist only on paper and are cooled only by ink. But declaring them a success before they are even built is quite a leap of faith.
This current media hype about modular reactors is very reminiscent of the drumbeat of grandiose expectations that began around 2000, announcing the advent of a Nuclear Renaissance that envisaged thousands of new reactors — huge ones! — being built all over the planet.

Let’s call SMRs what they are, Leaving out “nuclear” doesn’t minimize the danger, or the cost https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/02/23/lets-call-smrs-what-they-are/By Gordon Edwards, Michel Duguay and Pierre Jasmin,  February 23, 2020, On Friday the 13th, September 2019, the St John Telegraph-Journal’s front page was dominated by what many gullible readers hoped will be a good luck story for New Brunswick  – making the province a booming and prosperous Nuclear Energy powerhouse for the entire world.

After many months of behind-the-scenes meetings throughout New Brunswick with utility company executives, provincial politicians, federal government representatives, township mayors and First Nations, two nuclear entrepreneurial companies laid out a dazzling dream promising thousands of jobs – nay, tens of thousands! – in New Brunswick, achieved by mass-producing and selling components for hitherto untested nuclear reactors called SMNRs (Small Modular Nuclear Reactors) which, it is hoped, will be installed around the world by the hundreds or thousands!

On December 1, the Saskatchewan and Ontario premiers hitched their hopes to the same nuclear dream machine through a dramatic tripartite Sunday press conference in Ottawa featuring the premiers of the provinces. The three amigos announced their desire to promote and deploy some version of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in their respective provinces. All three claimed it as a strategy to fight climate change, and they want the federal government to pledge federal tax money to pay for the R&D. Perhaps it is a way of paying lip service to the climate crisis without actually achieving anything substantial; prior to the recent election, all three men were opposed to even putting a price on carbon emissions.

Motives other than climate protection may apply. Saskatchewan’s uranium is in desperate need of new markets, as some of the province’s most productive mines have been mothballed and over a thousand uranium workers have been laid off, due to the global decline in nuclear power. Meanwhile, Ontario has cancelled all investments in over 800 renewable energy projects – at a financial penalty of over 200 million dollars – while investing tens of billions of dollars to rebuild many of its geriatric nuclear reactors. This, instead of purchasing surplus water-based hydropower from Quebec at less than half the cost.

Three previous “small reactor” failures in Canada so far

These new nuclear reactors are so far perfectly safe, because they exist only on paper and are cooled only by ink. But declaring them a success before they are even built is quite a leap of faith, especially in light of the three previous Canadian failures in this field of “small reactors”. Two 10-megawatt MAPLE reactors were built at Chalk River and never operated because of insuperable safety concerns, and the 10-megawatt “Mega-Slowpoke” district heating reactor never earned a licence to operate, again because of safety concerns. The Mega-Slowpoke was offered free of charge to two universities – Sherbrooke and Saskatchewan – and several communities, all of whom refused the gift. And a good thing too, as the only Mega-Slowpoke ever built (at Pinawa, in Manitoba) is now being dismantled without ever producing a single useful megawatt of heat.

This current media hype about modular reactors is very reminiscent of the drumbeat of grandiose expectations that began around 2000, announcing the advent of a Nuclear Renaissance that envisaged thousands of new reactors — huge ones! — being built all over the planet. That initiative turned out to be a complete flop. Only a few large reactors were launched under this banner, and they were plagued with enormous cost-over-runs and extraordinarily long delays, resulting in the bankruptcy or near bankruptcy of some of the largest nuclear companies in the world – such as Areva and Westinghouse – and causing other companies to retire from the nuclear field altogether – such as Siemens.

Speculation about that promised Nuclear Renaissance also led to a massive (and totally unrealistic) spike in uranium prices, spurring uranium exploration activities on an unprecedented scale. It ended in a near-catastrophic collapse of uranium prices when the bubble burst. Cameco was forced to close down several mines. They are still closed. The price of uranium has still not recovered from the plunge.

Large nuclear reactors have essentially priced themselves out of the market. Only Russia, China and India have managed to defy those market forces with their monopoly state involvements.  Nevertheless, the nuclear contribution to world electricity production has plummeted from 17 percent in 1997 to about 10 percent in 2018. In North America and Western Europe, the prospects for new large reactor projects are virtually nil, and many of the older reactors are shutting down permanently without being replaced.

During long construction times nuclear makes the climate problem worse

Many people concerned about climate change want to know more about the moral and ethical choices regarding low-carbon technologies: “Don’t we have a responsibility to use nuclear?”  The short reply is: nuclear is too slow and too expensive. The ranking of options should be based on what is cheapest and fastest — beginning with energy efficiency, then on to off-the-shelf renewables like wind and solar energy.

As a case in point, Germany installed over 30,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity in only 8 years, after deciding to close down all of its nuclear reactors by 2022. That is an impressive achievement – more than twice the total installed nuclear capacity of Canada. It would be impossible to build 30,000 megawatts of nuclear in only 8 years.

By building wind generators, Germany obtained some carbon relief in the very first year of construction, then got more benefit in the second year, even more benefit in the third, and so on, building up to a cumulative capacity of 30,000 MWe after 8 years. With nuclear, even if you could manage to build 30,000 megawatts in 8 years, you would get absolutely no benefit during that entire 8-year construction period.

In fact you would be making the problem worse by mining uranium, fabricating fuel, pouring concrete and building the reactor core and components, all adding to greenhouse gas emissions – earning no benefit until (and IF) everything is finally ready to function.

In the meantime (10 to 20 years), you will have starved the efficiency and renewable alternatives of the funds and political will needed to implement technologies that can really make an immediate and substantial difference.

In Saskatchewan, professor Jim Harding, who was director for Prairie Justice Research at University of Regina where he headed up the Uranium Inquiries Project, has offered his own reflection. Here is the conclusion of his December 2, 2019 comment:

In short, small reactors are another distraction from Saskatchewan having the highest levels of GHGs on the planet – nearly 70 metric tonnes per capita. While the rest of Canada has been lowering emissions, those here, along with Alberta with its high-carbon tar sands, have continued to rise. Saskatchewan and Alberta’s emissions are now almost equal to all the rest of Canada. Shame on us!

In the USA, engineers and even CEO’s of some of the leading nuclear companies are admitting that the age of nuclear energy is virtually over in North America. This negative judgment is not coming from people who are opposed to nuclear power, quite the opposite — from people lamenting the decline. See, for example, one major report from the Engineering faculty at Carnegie-Mellon University.

The SMR order book is filled with blank pages; there are no customers

That Carnegie-Mellon report includes Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in its analysis, without being any more hopeful for a nuclear revival on that account. The reason? It is mainly because a new generation of smaller reactors, such as those promised for New Brunswick, will necessarily be more expensive per unit of energy produced, if manufactured individually. The sharply increased price can be partially offset by mass production of prefabricated components; hence the need for selling hundreds or even thousands of these smaller units in order to break even and make a profit. However, the order book is filled with blank pages — there are no customers. This being the case, finding investors is not easy. So entrepreneurs are courting governments to pony up with taxpayers’ money, in the hopes that this second attempt at a Nuclear Renaissance will not be the total debacle that the first one turned out to be.

Over 150 designs and none built, tested, licensed or deployed

Chances are very slim however. There are over 150 different designs of “Small Modular Reactors”. None of them have been built, tested, licensed or deployed. At Chalk River, Ontario, a consortium of private multinational corporations, comprised of SNC-Lavalin and two corporate partners, operating under the name “Canadian Nuclear Laboratories” (CNL), is prepared to host six or seven different designs of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors — none of them being identical to the two proposed for New Brunswick – and all of these designs will be in competition with each other. The Project Description of the first Chalk River prototype Small Modular Reactor has already received over 40 responses that are posted on the CNSC web site, and virtually all of them are negative comments.

The chances that any one design will corner enough of the market to become financially viable in the long run is unlikely. So the second Nuclear Renaissance may carry the seeds of its own destruction right from the outset. Unfortunately, governments are not well equipped to do a serious independent investigation of the validity of the intoxicating claims made by the promoters, who of course conveniently overlook the persistent problem of long-lived nuclear waste and of decommissioning the radioactive structures. These wastes pose a huge ecological and human health problem for countless generations to come.

Finally, in the list of projects being investigated, one finds a scaled-down “breeder reactor” fuelled with plutonium and cooled by liquid sodium metal, a material that reacts violently or explodes on contact with air or water. The breeder reactor is an old project abandoned by Jimmy Carter and discredited by the failure of the ill-fated French SuperPhénix because of its extremely dangerous nature. In the event of a nuclear accident, the Tennessee Clinch River Breeder Reactor was judged capable of poisoning twelve American states and the SuperPhénix half of France.

One suspects that our three premiers are only willing to revisit these bygone reactor designs in order to obtain funding from the federal government while avoiding responsibility for their inaction on more sensible strategies for combatting climate changes – cheaper, faster and safer alternatives, based on investments in energy efficiency and renewable sources.

Gordon Edwards PhD, is President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. Michel Duguay, PhD, is a professor at Laval University. Pierre Jasmin, UQAM, is with Quebec Movement for Peace and Artiste pour la Paix.

 

February 24, 2020 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Bruce County, Ontario, protest against nuclear waste dump plan

https://london.ctvnews.ca/nuclear-tanks-no-thanks-say-bruce-county-protesters-1.4820155 Thursday, February 20, 2020  LONDON, ONT. — About 40 Bruce County residents protested outside Bruce County council chambers in Walkerton this morning.They’re protesting plans to bury Canada’s used nuclear fuel under 1300 acres of farmland north of Teeswater. South Bruce is one of two communities in Canada left in the running to host the country’s high level nuclear waste.

A 1300 acre site just north of Teeswater has been identified as a potential underground site for the multi-billion dollar project, that would house approximately 5.2 million used fuel bundles, that remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization says they’ll pick one site between South Bruce and Ignace, in Northern Ontario, by 2023.

Michelle Stein lives near the proposed site in South Bruce. She organized today’s protest.  “Burying your problems to get them out of site is never the answer. I don’t want this underground mess to be the heritage that I leave for my children and grandchildren.”

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau is the one bringing forward today’s motion to support DGR’s to store nuclear waste. “There’s an international scientific consensus that the best way to store waste materials from nuclear power production is through passive isolation in a Deep Geological Repository.”

The protest comes as Bruce County council debates a motion to reinforce its support for a permanent solution to the country’s nuclear waste, specifically the Deep Geological Repository model that encases the waste in copper containers, encased in clay “buffer boxes”.

 

February 22, 2020 Posted by | Canada, opposition to nuclear, wastes | Leave a comment

Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) courts indigenous communities

Indigenous communities courted as nuclear industry looks for place to put used fuel,  February 7, 2020 by Christopher Read  Christopher Read APTN InvestigatesIn what’s referred to as “Canada’s Plan,” the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is looking for a place to bury 4.8 million bundles of used nuclear fuel.

More specifically, the NWMO, which is a consortium of Canadian nuclear industry players created by an act of parliament, is looking for a community willing to allow used nuclear fuel to be placed in what’s called a deep geological repository – or DGR.

Currently the NWMO is engaging with Ignace, Ontario a small community 250 km northwest of Thunder Bay, as well as the municipality of South Bruce, on Lake Huron northwest of Toronto.

Indigenous communities in both those areas are being courted and having the DGR concept pitched to them by the NWMO.

Indigenous engagement is a major focus at the NWMO.

It has put out an eight-part video series on reconciliation, and it also employs Bob Watts as their vice president of Indigenous Relations.

Watts is a long time major player in Indigenous politics who has held high-level positions with the Assembly of First Nations and the federal government………

Fundamentally, a DGR needs to protect radioactive waste from water, because water could potentially bring the deadly radioactive material back into contact with our environment. …….

not everyone is sold on the safety case made by the NWMO.

Gordon Edwards is president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and is likely the nuclear industry’s best known critic in Canada.

Edwards isn’t impressed with the NWMO’s multiple barrier system.

“You can put barrier after barrier after barrier, that doesn’t mean that you have a safe system,” he said. ”The same multiple barrier philosophy is used in nuclear reactors. They say the fuel is inside metal tubes, which are called zirconium, that’s another barrier, it’s called the sheath. And those are inside pressure tubes, which is another barrier. And then that’s inside a calandria, which is another barrier. And that’s inside the reactor building, which is another barrier. Consequently, there cannot be a nuclear accident.

“Well, we’ve seen what happened with that philosophy. Chernobyl exploded and the whole area around Chernobyl is still uninhabitable and will be for at least another hundred years. Fukushima, we’ve had three reactors melting down on the same weekend and those multiple barriers were all in place.”

Edwards said the notion that we can build something to last hundreds of thousands of years, the length of time used nuclear fuel will potentially remain dangerously radioactive – is folly.

“You have to realize that the pyramids of Egypt are only 5,000 years old,” said Edwards. “Go and look at them there. They’re really deteriorated a great deal. So the half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. The Great Lakes didn’t even exist 24,000 years ago. So we’re talking about periods of time that dwarf the span of human history.”

Edwards said he believes taking a wait-and-see approach is better than putting the used fuel in a DGR.

“We can afford to wait another century or two and see if we can come up with a genuine solution,” he said. “If we can’t come up with a genuine solution, we can continue to look after it. We can continue to transmit the information. We can continue to repackage it periodically into better and better packages, which is going to make sure. And if there is leakage that occurs, failure of containment – we can spring into action right away and fix it and not let it get out of hand. That’s a much better approach.

“This is called rolling stewardship.”………

The NWMO said it hopes to have identified a willing host community for a deep geological repository by 2023.

Nuclear Courtship, Part 2 airs next week, and will be accompanied with a web story which will examine the mood of some of the communities engaging with the nuclear industry.cread@aptn.ca https://aptnnews.ca/2020/02/07/indigenous-communities-courted-as-nuclear-industry-looks-for-place-to-put-used-fuel/

February 10, 2020 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, wastes | Leave a comment

Ontario Power Generation says ‘no’ to proposed nuclear waste disposal site following opposition from Saugeen FN

Ontario Power Generation says ‘no’ to proposed nuclear waste disposal site following opposition from Saugeen FN Manitoulin Expositor, By Michael Erskine, February 5, 2020  SAUGEEN FIRST NATION – The Saugeen Ojibway Nation (comprised of the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation and the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation) were asked to vote on a proposal to host a deep geologic repository (DGR) close to the shores of Lake Huron on the site of the Bruce nuclear power station. The response of the band membership was a resounding no, with 1,058 no votes out of 1,232 total votes (170 voted yes, with four spoiled ballots).

“This vote was an historic milestone and momentous victory for our people,” said Ogimaa Lester Anoquot in a release following the vote on Saturday. “We worked for many years for our right to exercise jurisdiction in our territory and the free, prior and informed consent of our people will be recognized.”

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) spokesperson Fred Kuntz accepted the result, noting that “OPG respects the decision of the SON community. We followed the SON process. So we will uphold our 2013 commitment not to proceed with the DGR at the Bruce site without their support, and now we will move forward to develop an alternate solution.”

February 6, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, Canada | Leave a comment

Indigenous tribe, Saugeen Ojibway Nation, has voted down plans for nuclear waste dump near Lake Huron

Hervé Courtois to C.A.N. Coalition Against Nukes, 1 Feb 2020, Members of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) have voted down plans to bury Ontario’s low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste within 1.2 kilometres of Lake Huron….On Friday, 1,232 members of the First Nation band voted. The vote results saw 1,058 ‘no’ votes, with 170 ‘yes’ and 4 spoiled ballots…It means Canada’s first permanent nuclear waste facility will need to be built somewhere else in Ontario…OPG will now have to start searching for a new host community to house over 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate- level nuclear waste…OPG says finding a new site may set the project back 20 to 30 years….https://www.facebook.com/groups/C.A.N.CoalitionAgainstNukes

February 1, 2020 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, wastes | Leave a comment

Opposition to Nuclear Waste Storage Plan Near Lake Huron

February 1, 2020 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, wastes | Leave a comment

Historic vote on nuclear waste underway in Bruce County, Ontario

February 1, 2020 Posted by | Canada, indigenous issues, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

Ontario landowners sign deal with agency looking to store used nuclear fuel

January 27, 2020 Posted by | Canada, wastes | Leave a comment

Over 32,000 potassium iodide pills ordered in 2 days after Pickering nuclear power plant alert error  

January 16, 2020 Posted by | Canada, incidents | Leave a comment

The fallout from a false nuclear alarm 

The fallout from a false nuclear alarm  The Conversation, Jack L. Rozdilsky
Associate Professor of Disaster and Emergency Management, York University, CanadaJanuary 14, 2020
   On Sunday at 7:23 a.m., residents of the Greater Toronto Area were abruptly awakened by an alert issued by Ontario’s Emergency Alert Ready System stating: “An incident was reported at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. There has been NO abnormal release of radioactivity from the station and emergency staff are responding to the situation.”At 8:06 a.m., the Ontario Power Generation released a statement that the alert was issued in error and that there was no danger to the public or the environment. At 9:11 a.m., another message from the Provincial Alert Ready System stated that the initial nuclear alert was “in error.”………..

Other false nuclear alerts This false alarm is not the first time that a nuclear-related alert has been issued during in error during an exercise. In January 2018, an alert was issued in Hawaii warning of an impending ballistic missile attack. Thirty-eight minutes later, the alert was rescinded as a false alarm.

In the Hawaii case, similar to what happened in Ontario on January 12, a public alert was accidentally issued during a routine internal test of the Emergency Alert System. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency released a statement that the false alert was due to human error.

Jeopardizing trust

Within hours of the false nuclear alarm, the office of Ontario’s Solicitor General released a statement of apology and said a full investigation has been launched into the error made during the routine training exercise. Those initial actions are only the first steps in attempting to repair the damage.

If we take the incident in Hawaii as a guide, the fallout was far-reaching. In the immediate term, all upcoming emergency drills and exercises were suspended. Changes were put in place, such as a two-person verification rule along with a new cancellation command system for public alerts. As the false alarm became a scandal, state-level emergency management officials resigned. Human error and poor software design were identified as root causes, and investigations suggested revamping the system, specifically in terms of oversight of the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System in the United States.

The bottom line is that a false alarm for an incident at a nuclear power station erodes public safety efforts. Fortunately, the risks realized from the Ontario emergency alert were not related to actual radioactive fallout. The fallout from the false alarm is that the public’s trust in emergency alert systems was jeopardized. https://theconversation.com/the-fallout-from-a-false-nuclear-alarm-129766

January 14, 2020 Posted by | Canada, politics, safety | 1 Comment

Canadians got a false alert about a nuclear power plant incident

January 13, 2020 Posted by | Canada, safety | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors’ costs and toxicity

Small modular nuclear reactors – a case of wishful thinking at best, NB Media Cop. by Gordon Edwards, Michel Duguay, Pierre Jasmin, 21 Dec 19

“……….4 Small Modular – Nuclear – Reactors’ costs & toxicity

That Carnegie-Mellon report includes Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in its analysis, without being any more hopeful than we are. This is mainly because a new generation of smaller reactors, such as those promised for New Brunswick, will necessarily be more expensive per unit of energy produced, if manufactured individually. The sharply increased price can be partially offset by mass production of prefabricated components; hence the need for selling hundreds or even thousands of these smaller units in order to break even and make a profit. However, the order book is filled with blank pages — there are no customers. This being the case, finding investors is not easy. So entrepreneurs are courting governments to pony up with taxpayers’ money, in the hopes that this second attempt at a Nuclear Renaissance will not be the total debacle that the first one turned out to be.

Chances are very slim however. There are over 150 different designs of “Small Modular Reactors.” None of them have been built, tested, licensed or deployed. At Chalk River, Ontario, a consortium of private multinational corporations, comprised of SNC-Lavalin and two corporate partners, operating under the name “Canadian Nuclear Laboratories” (CNL), is prepared to host six or seven different designs of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors — none of them being identical to the two proposed for New Brunswick – and all of these designs will be in competition with each other. The Project Description of the first Chalk River prototype Small Modular Reactor has already received over 40 responses that are posted on the CNSC web site, and virtually all of them are negative comments.

The chances that any one design will corner enough of the market to become financially viable in the long run is unlikely. So the second Nuclear Renaissance may carry the seeds of its own destruction right from the outset. Unfortunately, governments are not well equipped to do a serious independent investigation of the validity of the intoxicating claims made by the promoters, who of course conveniently overlook the persistent problem of long-lived nuclear waste and of decommissioning the radioactive structures. These wastes pose a huge ecological and human health problem for countless generations to come.

Finally, in the list of projects being investigated, one finds a scaled-down “breeder reactor” fuelled with plutonium and cooled by liquid sodium metal, a material that reacts violently or explodes on contact with air or water. The breeder reactor is an old project abandoned by Jimmy Carter and discredited by the failure of the ill-fated French SuperPhénix because of its extremely dangerous nature. In the event of a nuclear accident, the Tennessee Clinch River Breeder Reactor was judged capable of poisoning twelve American states and the SuperPhénix half of France.

One suspects that our three premiers are only willing to revisit these bygone reactor designs in order to obtain funding from the federal government while avoiding responsibility for their inaction on more sensible strategies for combatting climate changes – cheaper, faster and safer alternatives, based on investments in energy efficiency and renewable sources.

By Gordon Edwards PhD, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility; with assistance by Michel Duguay, PhD, professor at Laval University & Pierre Jasmin, UQAM, Quebec Movement for Peace and Artiste pour la Paix. https://nbmediacoop.org/2019/12/21/small-modular-nuclear-reactors-a-case-of-wishful-thinking-at-best/

Gordon Edwards, PhD ccnr@web.ca
Michel Duguay, PhD michel.duguay@gel.ulaval.ca
Pierre Jasmin, jasmin.pierre@uqam.ca

This article is also published in French, link here.

January 11, 2020 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – a wasteful distraction from real efforts to combat climate change

Small modular nuclear reactors – a case of wishful thinking at best, NB Media Cop. by Gordon Edwards, Michel Duguay, Pierre Jasmin, 21 Dec 19“…….3 Climate changes’ valid preoccupation (1)

Many people concerned about climate change want to know more about the moral and ethical choices regarding low-carbon technologies: “Don’t we have a responsibility to use nuclear?”  The short reply is: nuclear is too slow and too expensive. The ranking of options should be based on what is cheapest and fastest — beginning with energy efficiency, then on to off-the-shelf renewables like wind and solar energy.

In Germany, Dr. David Jacobs, founder of International Energy Transition Consulting, is proudly mentioning the green energy sector’s contribution in achieving the lowest unemployment rate since reunification of his country in the early 1990s. Post-Fukushima Angela Merkel’s decision to close down all of its nuclear reactors by 2022 has pushed the country to purchase photovoltaic solar panels and 30,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity in only 8 years: an impressive achievement – more than twice the total installed nuclear capacity of Canada. It would be impossible to build 30,000 megawatts of nuclear in only 8 years. By building wind generators, Germany obtained some carbon relief in the very first year of construction, then got more benefit in the second year, even more benefit in the third, and so on, building up to a cumulative capacity of 30,000 MWe after 8 years.

With nuclear, even if you could manage to build 30,000 megawatts in 8 years, you would get absolutely no benefit during that entire 8-year construction period. In fact you would be making the problem worse by mining uranium, fabricating fuel, pouring concrete and building the reactor core and components, all adding to greenhouse gas emissions – earning no benefit until (and IF) everything is finally ready to function. In the meantime (10 to 20 years), you will have starved the efficiency and renewable alternatives of the funds and political will needed to implement technologies that can really make an immediate and substantial difference.

In Saskatchewan, professor Jim Harding, who was director of Prairie Justice Research at University of Regina where he headed up the Uranium Inquiries Project, has offered his own reflection; here is the conclusion of his December 2, 2019 comment:

“In short, small reactors are another distraction from Saskatchewan having the highest levels of GHGs on the planet – nearly 70 metric tonnes per capita. While the rest of Canada has been lowering emissions, those here, along with Alberta with its high-carbon tar sands, have continued to rise. Saskatchewan and Alberta’s emissions are now almost equal to all the rest of Canada. Shame on us!”

In the USA, engineers and even CEOs of some of the leading nuclear companies are admitting that the age of nuclear energy is virtually over in North America. This negative judgment is not coming from people who are opposed to nuclear power, quite the opposite — from people lamenting the decline. See, for example, one major report from the Engineering faculty at Carnegie-Mellon University.

January 11, 2020 Posted by | Canada, climate change | Leave a comment