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Ontario’s Unfunded Nuclear Decommissioning Liability is in the $18-$27 Billion CAD Range

 Ontario’s Unfunded Nuclear Decommissioning Liability is in the $18-$27 Billion CAD Range

https://tinyurl.com/5a9du4mz    Editorial Team, August 6 2021 Late last year I worked up the likely amount of public money that would have to be thrown at the nuclear industry in order to successfully and safely decommission the 100 operational reactors and the now shut down ones. Unsurprisingly, the nuclear industry had been very optimistic in its estimates of decommissioning costs and timeframes, when the global empirical averages were trending to a billion USD and 100 years per reactor.

Recently I was asked by an Ontario journalist what I thought the likely situation in Ontario would be, and whether the decommissioning trusts were equally underfunded. I was unsurprised to find that Canada is in the same boat as the US, with highly optimistic schedule and cost projections which belie Canadian empirical experience with the CANDU reactor, and that the fund had nowhere near the money necessary for the job. Let’s run the numbers. [diagram on original]

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is the chunk of the provincial utility that was carved apart in the late 1990s by the Mike Harris Conservatives to handle generation alone. It operates 18 aging CANDU reactors across three sites: Bruce, Pickering, and Darlington.

Table of operational nuclear generation reactors in Ontario

OPG has a nuclear decommissioning fund of about $5 billion CAD or US$4 billion right now. If the experience of other countries on the actual cost of a billion USD per reactor and an actual timeline of decommissioning of a century holds true, and I see no reason why it doesn’t, that means that there is currently a $17.5 billion CAD gap in Ontario, in addition to the existing $19.3 billion CAD in debt still being serviced from their construction. When the government of the era split up the utility, it moved all of the debt off of the components and into general debt. One of the many appropriate and sensible things that the McGuinty Administration did in the 2000s, in addition to shutting down coal generation entirely, was to move the debt back into the utility and set about servicing it from utility bills.

Most of the reactors at Bruce Nuclear are aging out, with several over 40 years old and the remainder approaching 40. Darlington’s are around 30, so they have a bit of runway. Pickering’s reactors are going to be shut down in 2024 and 2025 and start decommissioning in 2028. While refurbishment could bridge Ontario’s for another 20 years in many cases, that’s expensive and typically won’t pass any economic viability assessment compared to alternatives.

The likelihood is that all reactors in Ontario will reach end of life by 2035, and be replaced by some combination of renewable energy and HVDC transmission from neighboring jurisdictions, with both Manitoba and Quebec having excellent, low-carbon hydroelectric to spare.

Does the empirical experience of shutting down CANDU reactors track to the roughly billion USD that’s seen for other reactors? According to the World Nuclear Association, no.

The fourth unit is Gentilly 2, a more modern Candu 6 type, which was shut down at the end of 2012 after 30 years operation. It is being defuelled and the heavy water was to be treated over 18 months to mid-2014. A decommissioning licence was issued for 2016 to 2026 and the main part of the reactor will be closed up and left for 40 years to allow radioactivity to decay before demolition. All 27,000 fuel bundles are expected to be in dry storage (Macstor) by 2020. The decommissioning cost is put at C$ 1.8 billion over 50 years.”

That translates to US$1.44 billion, so it would appear as if CANDUs are on the expensive side to decommission. If that holds true, Ontario’s gap is actually in the range of $27 billion CAD.

Nuclear decommissioning funding comes from reactors operating revenue. In the US, it’s 0.01 to 0.02 cents per kWh as a set aside. I wasn’t able to find the required set aside for Ontario’s fleet, but obviously they aren’t setting aside sufficient funds now, or have absurdly optimistic fund growth expectations. They only have a decade to set aside more money from operating reactors, and have only set aside $5 billion CAD after 50 years, so the most generous assumption is that they will set aside perhaps $7 billion CAD in the OPG fund by end of life of the reactors, and have a liability for decommissioning of $15.5 to $27 billion CAD. For the next step, let’s assume $20 billion CAD for the sake of round numbers.

Given the likelihood of all of Ontario’s reactors being off of the grid by 2035, with major decommissioning occurring every few years until then, the kWh generated by Ontario’s nuclear fleet from now through 2060 will be in the range of about 1000 TWh assuming there are no lengthy outages at any of the plants, which to be clear is an awful lot of low carbon electricity.

However, $20 billion is a big number too. It turns into about 19 cents per kWh if you only count electricity generated from today through end of life for the reactors. It’s obviously a lot lower if you calculated from beginning of the lifetime of the reactors. However you count it though, that’s only the unfunded Ontario liability, and it’s on top of subsidized security costs Canada and Ontario and municipalities bear, and it’s on top of the outstanding $19.3 billion in debt that has only been receiving servicing on the interest since the McGuinty government brought it back into the utility. It’s likely that the majority of that debt will be outstanding in 2035 still, as it has gone from $20 billion to $19.3 billion in the last 11 years, so expecting it to be gone by 2035 is not realistic.

So yes, Ontario’s nuclear program will be a fiscal burden on Ontarians to the tune of around $40 billion CAD which will be spent through roughly 2135, finally being paid off by the great-grandchildren of babies born in 2021.

Nuclear, the gift that keeps on giving.

This article was originally published by Cleantechnica.com.

Read the original article here.

October 2, 2021 Posted by | Canada, decommission reactor | Leave a comment

Nuclear power: Why molten salt reactors are problematic and Canada investing in them is a waste

China’smolten salt nuclear reactor

Nuclear power: Why molten salt reactors are problematic and Canada investing in them is a waste https://theconversation.com/nuclear-power-why-molten-salt-reactors-are-problematic-and-canada-investing-in-them-is-a-waste-167019, MV Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British ColumbiaSeptember 15, 2021 

Should an MSR be built, it will also saddle society with the challenge of dealing with the radioactive waste it will produce. This is especially difficult for MSRs because the waste is in chemical forms that are “not known to occur in nature” and it is unclear “which, if any, disposal environment could accommodate this high-level waste.” The Union of Concerned Scientists has also detailed the safety and security risks associated with MSR designs.

 One of the beneficiaries of the run-up to a potential federal election has been the nuclear energy industry, specifically companies that are touting new nuclear reactor designs called small modular reactors. The largest two financial handouts have been to two companies, both developing a specific class of these reactors, called molten salt reactors (MSRs).

First, in October 2020, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry announced a $20-million grant to Ontario-based Terrestrial Energy and its integral molten salt reactor (IMSR) design. In March 2021, New Brunswick-based Moltex received $50.5 million from the Strategic Innovation Fund and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

As a physicist who has analyzed different nuclear reactor designs, including small modular reactors, I believe that molten salt reactors are unlikely to be successfully deployed anytime soon. MSRs face difficult technical problems, and cannot be counted on to produce electricity consistently.

How they work

Molten salt reactors use melted chemicals like lithium fluoride or magnesium chloride to remove the heat produced within the reactor. In many MSRs, the fuel is also dissolved in a molten salt.

These designs are very different from traditional reactor designs — currently, the Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) design dominates Canada’s nuclear energy landscape. CANDU uses heavy water (water with deuterium, the heavier isotope of hydrogen) to transport heat, slow down or “moderate” neutrons produced during fission, and natural uranium fabricated into solid pellets as fuel. Slower neutrons are more effective in triggering fission reactions as compared to highly energetic, or fast, neutrons.

Terrestrial’s IMSR is fuelled by uranium which contains higher concentrations of uranium-235, a lighter isotope as compared to uranium found in nature (natural uranium), which is used in CANDU reactors. The enriched uranium is dissolved in a fluoride salt in the IMSR. The IMSR also uses graphite, instead of heavy water used in CANDU reactors, to moderate neutrons.

Moltex’s Stable Salt Reactor (SSR), on the other hand, uses a mixture of uranium and plutonium and other elements, dissolved in a chloride salt and placed inside a solid assembly, as fuel. It does not use any material to slow down neutrons.

Because of the different kinds of fuel used, these MSR designs need special facilities — not present in Canada currently — to fabricate their fuel. The enriched uranium for the IMSR must be produced using centrifuges, while the Moltex design proposes to use a special chemical process called pyroprocessing to produce the plutonium required to fuel it. Pyroprocessing is extremely costly and unreliable.

Both processes are intimately linked to the potential to make fissile materials used in nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, nine non-proliferation experts from the United States wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing serious concerns “about the technology Moltex proposes to use.”

Difficult questions

Experience with MSRs has not been very encouraging either. All current designs draw upon the only two MSRs ever built: the 1954 Aircraft Reactor Experiment that ran for just 100 hours and the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment that operated intermittently from 1965 to 1969. Over those four years, the latter reactor’s operations were interrupted 225 times; of these, only 58 were planned. The remaining were due to various unanticipated technical problems. In other words, the reactor had to be shut down at least once every four out of five weeks — that is not what one would expect of a reliable power plant.

Even the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission that had funded the U.S. MSR program for nearly two decades raised difficult questions about the technology in a devastating 1972 report. Many of the problems identified continue to be technical challenges confronting MSR designs.

Another basic problem with MSRs is that the materials used to manufacture the various reactor components will be exposed to hot salts that are chemically corrosive, while being bombarded by radioactive particles. So far, there is no material that can perform satisfactorily in such an environment. A 2018 review from the Idaho National Laboratory could only recommended that “a systematic development program be initiated” to develop new alloys that might work better. There is, of course, no guarantee that the program will be successful.

These problems and others have been identified by various research laboratories, ranging from France’s Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire (IRSN) to the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office in the United Kingdom. Their conclusion: molten salt reactors are still far from proven.

As the IRSN put it in 2015: “numerous technological challenges remain to be overcome before the construction of an MSR can be considered,” going as far as saying that it does not envision construction of such reactors “during the first half of this century.”

Should an MSR be built, it will also saddle society with the challenge of dealing with the radioactive waste it will produce. This is especially difficult for MSRs because the waste is in chemical forms that are “not known to occur in nature” and it is unclear “which, if any, disposal environment could accommodate this high-level waste.” The Union of Concerned Scientists has also detailed the safety and security risks associated with MSR designs.

Problematic solutions

The Liberal government’s argument for investing in molten salt reactors is that nuclear power is necessary to mitigate climate change. There are good reasons to doubt this claim. But even if one were to ignore those reasons, the problems with MSRs laid out here show that they cannot be deployed for decades.

The climate crisis is far more urgent. Investing in technologies that are proven to be problematic is no way to deal with this emergency.

he Liberal government’s 

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Responses to Candidate Questionnaire: Radioactive Waste in the Ottawa Valley — Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

September 13, 2021 We asked federal candidates from all parties in 13 ridings in West Quebec, Eastern Ontario and Ottawa the following questions: Will you oppose the current plans for a radioactive waste disposal facility at Chalk River and reactor entombment at Rolphton, Ont.? Will you ensure that decisions on radioactive waste disposal in the […]

Responses to Candidate Questionnaire: Radioactive Waste in the Ottawa Valley — Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Canada, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

Pentagon calls on corporations for nuclear-powered propulsion for its satellites

General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin are the prime contractors on that effort

Pentagon taps industry for nuclear-powered propulsion for its satellitesBy Nathan Strout  WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense is looking to industry for nuclear-powered propulsion technology to drive its spacecraft, freeing them from the low-energy limitations of current electric and solar-based propulsion systems.

…….  DIU’s government customers are looking for lightweight, long-lasting commercial nuclear power solutions that can provide greater propulsion and electric power for small and medium-sized spacecraft. Interested companies that can show a plan for prototype development within three to five years could be awarded other transaction authority contracts to support laboratory-based prototyping of such systems, followed by a path to flight-based testing.

This isn’t the military’s first time dipping its toe into developing nuclear-powered spacecraft. Most recently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency issued contracts to three companies in April to design a nuclear thermal propulsion system for space. The program, known as the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, seeks to build nuclear thermal propulsion that can enable rapid maneuver in space, particularly for cislunar operations.

General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin are the prime contractors on that effort……….  https://www.c4isrnet.com/battlefield-tech/space/2021/09/10/pentagon-taps-industry-for-nuclear-powered-propulsion-for-its-satellites/

September 11, 2021 Posted by | Canada, space travel | Leave a comment

More issues at Bruce power station raise concerns about aging nuclear infrastructure


More issues at Bruce power station raise concerns about aging nuclear infrastructure,  MATTHEW MCCLEARN, The Globe and Mail, 5 Sept 21,

Unexpectedly high levels of hydrogen in pressure tubes at a nuclear power plant in Ontario have renewed questions about how long Canada’s aging CANDU reactors can continue to operate safely.

At a meeting before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on Friday, officials confirmed more pressure tubes at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station on the eastern shore of Lake Huron were found to contain hydrogen concentrations in excess of regulatory limits, and above what the industry expected. Bruce Power disclosed in July that it had discovered two tubes that exceeded regulatory limits.

The cause has not been determined, nor is it clear how many other pressure tubes in Canadian reactors might also be affected. Bruce Power did not answer questions from The Globe late Friday on how many additional tubes were found to violate the station’s licensing requirements.

Pressure tubes are six-metre rods that contain fuel bundles of uranium, and are considered the major life-limiting component in CANDUs, the reactors in all of Canada’s nuclear power plants. Tubes containing high hydrogen concentrations are more vulnerable to fracturing if they have pre-existing cracks. If one ruptures, coolant could be lost, which could trigger a range of scenarios from a relatively minor incident contained by the plant’s safety systems to a catastrophe in which fuel overheats.

The issue is particularly a concern when the reactor is below normal operating temperatures, such as during shutdown or startup…………

The Bruce station has eight reactors, each containing 480 pressure tubes; the offending tubes were found in Units 3 and 6, neither of which is operating. One tube in Unit 6 exhibited readings of 211 parts per million, approaching double the regulatory limit, and far above Bruce Power’s prediction of 100 ppm. Bruce Power officials said all of the elevated readings were discovered in the same region, close to one end of the tube………



Frank Greening, a retired Ontario Power Generation chemist who worked in the company’s pressure tube group for the last decade of his career, warned that it’s possible the rate of hydrogen pickup may have accelerated in older tubes in the past few years.

“And if that’s true, then the rate at which it’s going in is scary,” he said.

He added: “There is something happening that’s quite serious. And they’re saying ‘We don’t know how or why it’s happening.’ It’s pathetic. I can’t accept that.”

A CNSC commissioner, Marcel Lacroix, said during the meeting that industry officials had not satisfactorily explained what might be causing the problem……….. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-more-issues-at-bruce-power-station-raise-concerns-about-aging-nuclear/

September 6, 2021 Posted by | Canada, safety | Leave a comment

The final costly burden of Ontaria’s nuclear decommissioning will fall to the great-grandchildren of babies born in 2021

So yes, Ontario’s nuclear program will be a fiscal burden on Ontarians to the tune of around $40 billion CAD which will be spent through roughly 2135, finally being paid off by the great-grandchildren of babies born in 2021.

Ontario’s Unfunded Nuclear Decommissioning Liability Is In The $18-$27 Billion CAD Range   eTransport News, 12  Aug 21,  Late last year I worked up the likely amount of public money that would have to be thrown at the nuclear industry in order to successfully and safely decommission the 100 operational reactors and the now shut down ones. Unsurprisingly, the nuclear industry had been very optimistic in its estimates of decommissioning costs and timeframes, when the global empirical averages were trending to a billion USD and 100 years per reactor.

Recently I was asked by an Ontario journalist what I thought the likely situation in Ontario would be, and whether the decommissioning trusts were equally underfunded. I was unsurprised to find that Canada is in the same boat as the US, with highly optimistic schedule and cost projections which belie Canadian empirical experience with the CANDU reactor, and that the fund had nowhere near the money necessary for the job. Let’s run the numbers.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is the chunk of the provincial utility that was carved apart in the late 1990s by the Mike Harris Conservatives to handle generation alone. It operates 18 aging CANDU reactors across three sites: Bruce, Pickering, and Darlington.

OPG has a nuclear decommissioning fund of about $5 billion CAD or US$4 billion right now. If the experience of other countries on the actual cost of a billion USD per reactor and an actual timeline of decommissioning of a century holds true, and I see no reason why it doesn’t, that means that there is currently a $17.5 billion CAD gap in Ontario, in addition to the existing $19.3 billion CAD in debt still being serviced from their construction. When the government of the era split up the utility, it moved all of the debt off of the components and into general debt. One of the many appropriate and sensible things that the McGuinty Administration did in the 2000s, in addition to shutting down coal generation entirely, was to move the debt back into the utility and set about servicing it from utility bills.

Most of the reactors at Bruce Nuclear are aging out, with several over 40 years old and the remainder approaching 40. Darlington’s are around 30, so they have a bit of runway. Pickering’s reactors are going to be shut down in 2024 and 2025 and start decommissioning in 2028. While refurbishment could bridge Ontario’s for another 20 years in many cases, that’s expensive and typically won’t pass any economic viability assessment compared to alternatives.

The likelihood is that all reactors in Ontario will reach end of life by 2035, and be replaced by some combination of renewable energy and HVDC transmission from neighboring jurisdictions, with both Manitoba and Quebec having excellent, low-carbon hydroelectric to spare……………….

Nuclear decommissioning funding comes from reactors operating revenue. In the US, it’s 0.01 to 0.02 cents per kWh as a set aside. I wasn’t able to find the required set aside for Ontario’s fleet, but obviously they aren’t setting aside sufficient funds now, or have absurdly optimistic fund growth expectations. They only have a decade to set aside more money from operating reactors, and have only set aside $5 billion CAD after 50 years, so the most generous assumption is that they will set aside perhaps $7 billion CAD in the OPG fund by end of life of the reactors, and have a liability for decommissioning of $15.5 to $27 billion CAD. For the next step, let’s assume $20 billion CAD for the sake of round numbers.

Given the likelihood of all of Ontario’s reactors being off of the grid by 2035, with major decommissioning occurring every few years until then, the kWh generated by Ontario’s nuclear fleet from now through 2060 will be in the range of about 1000 TWh assuming there are no lengthy outages at any of the plants, which to be clear is an awful lot of low carbon electricity.

However, $20 billion is a big number too. It turns into about 19 cents per kWh if you only count electricity generated from today through end of life for the reactors. It’s obviously a lot lower if you calculated from beginning of the lifetime of the reactors. However you count it though, that’s only the unfunded Ontario liability, and it’s on top of subsidized security costs Canada and Ontario and municipalities bear, and it’s on top of the outstanding $19.3 billion in debt that has only been receiving servicing on the interest since the McGuinty government brought it back into the utility. It’s likely that the majority of that debt will be outstanding in 2035 still, as it has gone from $20 billion to $19.3 billion in the last 11 years, so expecting it to be gone by 2035 is not realistic.

So yes, Ontario’s nuclear program will be a fiscal burden on Ontarians to the tune of around $40 billion CAD which will be spent through roughly 2135, finally being paid off by the great-grandchildren of babies born in 2021.

Nuclear, the gift that keeps on giving.  https://etransportnews.com/2021/08/06/ontarios-unfunded-nuclear-decommissioning-liability-is-in-the-18-27-billion-cad-range/

August 21, 2021 Posted by | Canada, decommission reactor | Leave a comment

Canada’s nuclear reactors may not be fit for service

Canada’s nuclear reactors may not be fit for service,  Rabble ca,  Joyce Nelson, 11 Aug 21,  On July 13, Bruce Power announced that two reactors at its Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, Ontario had violated its operating license.

It had “higher than anticipated readings” of hydrogen-equivalent concentration (Heq) in pressure tubes in two units. Pressure tubes must not exceed the allowable limit of 120 parts per million of Heq. Each pressure tube in a reactor contains 12 bundles of uranium, which are the basis for the nuclear reaction, but the pressure tubes also contain the coolant that keeps the fuel from overheating and triggering a meltdown. Pressure tubes with high levels of Heq can develop cracks and fractures, thereby compromising a reactor’s safety.

As The Globe and Mail reported:

“In response to Bruce Power’s contraventions, on July 13, the CNSC [Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission] ordered the company, along with fellow CANDU [Canada Deuterium Uranium] operators Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and New Brunswick Power, to review the fitness for service of their pressure tubes and report back no later than the end of July.”

Aging reactors

Many of Canada’s aging CANDU reactors are older than their design-life for pressure tubes, which originally was designated as 210,000 effective full power hours (EFPH), or about 30 years.

When Hydro Quebec’s Gentilly-2 CANDU reactor reached that limit, it closed the plant.

As The Globe and Mail reported:

“Thierry Vandal, chief executive at the time, testified before Quebec’s national assembly that he considered 210,000 EFPH ‘the extreme limit’ beyond which his management team dared not go. ‘I would no more operate Gentilly-2 beyond 210,000 hours than I would climb onto an airplane that does not have its permits and that does not meet the standards,’ he said, according to a translated transcript.”

Under industry pressure, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission subsequently raised the limit to 247,000 EFPH in 2014, and then to 295,000 EFPH in 2018.
In 2018, the CNSC extended OPG’s license for its Pickering Nuclear Generating Station for 10 years. Rather than require that OPG replace aging pressure tubes, the regulator mandated more frequent inspections.
When asked how often pressure tubes are checked, retired nuclear scientist and radioactive chemistry expert Dr. Frank Greening answered by email:

“Pressure tubes are checked for their hydrogen/deuterium concentrations about every two years, but it’s a little more complex than that. Each CANDU unit contains about 400 tubes and each tube is about six meters in length. This means it’s next to impossible to check every tube at every location, so only about 10 tubes are checked at a time. In addition, corrosion and [hydrogen/deuterium] pickup are expected to be most significant at the hot, outlet end of each tube, so samples are usually restricted to this location.”

As a result of such limited inspections, the industry relies on mathematical models to predict how long the untested tubes can safely remain in service. But this modeling is not necessarily accurate, as evidenced by the July 13 “higher than anticipated readings” at Kincardine.

Indeed, in March 2021, The Globe reported:

“Documents obtained under the federal Access to Information Act by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin, and provided to The Globe, show that since 2017, CNSC staffers had grown increasingly concerned about unreliable data arising from OPG’s inspections of pressure tubes…The whole method by which operators assessed fitness for service of pressure tubes had been called into question.”

Another Fukushima?…………………. 

https://rabble.ca/news/2021/08/canadas-nuclear-reactors-may-not-be-fit-service

August 21, 2021 Posted by | Canada, safety | Leave a comment

Canada’s Moltex small nuclear reactor project -its plutonium process brings danger of nuclear weapons proliferation.

Diane Francis: Trudeau’s multi-million dollar nuclear deal called out by non-proliferation experts   https://financialpost.com/diane-francis/diane-francis-trudeaus-multi-million-dollar-nuclear-deal-called-out-by-non-proliferation-experts ,

Scientists fear that the technology used to extract plutonium from spent fuel could be used to make nuclear bombs, Diane Francis Aug 12, 2021  In May, the Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) called out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government over a deal he has approved and funded that critics say will undermine the goal of nuclear non-proliferation, according to an article published in the Hill Times and recently republished in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Moltex Energy was selected by NB Power and the Government of New Brunswick to develop its new reactor technology and locate it at the Point Lepreau nuclear plant site by the early 2030s. Moltex is one of several companies that are promoting small, “next generation” nuclear reactors to replace fossil fuels in the production of electricity.

Moltex, a privately owned company that is based in the United Kingdom and has offices in Saint John, N.B., says it will “recycle nuclear waste” from New Brunswick’s closed Point Lepreau nuclear plant for use in its small-scale nuclear reactor. Federal funding and approval was announced on March 18 by Dominic LeBlanc, a  New Brunswick MP who serves as minister of intergovernmental affairs.

The scientists dispute the claim that this is “recycling” and are concerned because the technology Moltex wants to use to extract plutonium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons, from spent fuel could be used by other countries to make nuclear bombs. Decades ago, the U.S. and many of its allies, including Canada, took action to prevent this type of reprocessing from taking place.

“The idea is to use the plutonium as fuel for a new nuclear reactor, still in the design stage. If the project is successful, the entire package could be replicated and sold to other countries if the Government of Canada approves the sale,” reads the article.

On May 25, nine high-level American non-proliferation experts sent an open letter to Trudeau expressing concern that by “backing spent-fuel reprocessing and plutonium extraction, the Government of Canada will undermine the global nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime that Canada has done so much to strengthen.”

The signatories to the letter include senior White House appointees and other government advisers who worked under six U.S. presidents and who hold professorships at the Harvard Kennedy School, Princeton University and other eminent institutions.

The issue of nuclear proliferation dates back to 1974, when Canada got a black eye after India tested its first nuclear weapon using plutonium that was largely extracted using the CIRUS reactor, which was supplied by Canada for peaceful uses. Shortly after, other countries attempted to repurpose plutonium from reactors and were stopped — except for Pakistan, which, like India, succeeded in creating atomic weapons.

The Hill Times pointed out that, “To this day, South Korea is not allowed to extract plutonium from used nuclear fuel on its own territory — a  long-lasting political legacy of the 1974 Indian explosion and its aftermath — due to proliferation concerns.”

The letter to Trudeau concluded: “Before Canada makes any further commitments in support of reprocessing, we urge you to convene high-level reviews of both the non-proliferation and environmental implications of Moltex’s reprocessing proposal including international experts. We believe such reviews will find reprocessing to be counterproductive on both fronts.”

The scientists’ letter has not yet been answered by the government. However, Canadians deserve to be fully briefed on all this and its implications. They deserve to know who owns Moltex, what the risks are to non-proliferation and why taxpayers are sinking millions of dollars into a project that’s morally questionable and potentially hazardous.Read and sign up for Diane Francis’ newsletter on America at dianefrancis.substack.com.

August 16, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Revell River Action Draws Attention to Nuclear Waste Burial Site, 

Revell River Action Draws Attention to Nuclear Waste Burial Site,  https://wawa-news.com/index.php/2021/08/15/revell-river-action-draws-attention-to-nuclear-waste-burial-site/    Residents concerned about a site near the Revell River being put on the receiving end of all of Canada’s high level radioactive waste have set up a pop-up event at the Ministry of Transportation’s Revell River picnic area, drawing attention to the project and the threat it will pose to the region and the watersheds in Northwestern Ontario.The MTO picnic area, approximately 40 km west of Ignace, is approximately 2 km from the nearest of six drill sites that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization has disclosed.

“These drill sites are at the height of land between the English River – Wabigoon River system and the Turtle River Lake of the Woods system” explained Charles Faust, a volunteer with the group who has studied the area watersheds and waterflow.“One of the many concerns we have with this project is its potential to impact the downstream areas.

The NWMO can point to their computer models and their wishful thinking, but the reality is that this project carries a lot of risk, both during its operation and for the thousands of years afterwards that the radioactive wastes remain highly hazardous.Local residents  think that most people in Northwestern Ontario don’t know the details or the risks of the NWMO project, and are unaware of how it could impact them, both before and after the waste is buried in the Revell River area.

“The drill sites are just a couple of kilometres off the highway – just a few kilometres from where we’re standing now at the Revell River picnic area – and most people are unaware of it. The NWMO spends a lot of money promoting their project in a very glossy magazine manner, but have done nothing in terms of signage for the drill sites or alerting people to where they are actually investigating their candidate sites”, commented Brien Polek, a resident of Dryden.I

n addition to signage on the highway drawing attention to the drill sites and the nuclear waste project, the group setting up the pop-up event today today at the Revell River picnic area will provide information to the public from noon until 4 pm. Similar to the information events in Ignace on August 14 and at the Dyment Hall on August 16, the group is encouraging the public to stop by the outdoors events, which they say will be all about information sharing, conversation, and discussion of the NWMO’s project and important concerns.

Volunteers from across the region will be on hand to discuss environmental and soci

nformation sharing, conversation, and discussion of the NWMO’s project and important concerns.

Volunteers from across the region will be on hand to discuss environmental and social concerns with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s plan to construct a deep geological repository for all of Canada’s high level radioactive Waste. Those wanting more information in advance about the alliance’s independent critiques of nuclear waste burial and transportation, or any interested in arranging a small meeting (following COVID-19 health directives) are encouraged visit the We the Nuclear Free North website at wethenuclearfreenorth.caSOURCE – We the Nuclear Free North

August 16, 2021 Posted by | Canada, wastes | Leave a comment

Canada’s political leaders oblivious to the dangers in making plutonium accessible?

Our political leaders seem oblivious to the dangers to the entire planet that could result from widespread access to plutonium. If Canada can access plutonium, so can any other country. If many countries have access to plutonium, the possession of nuclear weapons must be regarded as a real possibility. In a nuclear-armed world, any conflict anywhere can turn into a nuclear war. The stakes could not be greater

Plutonium: from Nagasaki to New Brunswick,    https://nbmediacoop.org/2021/08/09/plutonium-from-nagasaki-to-new-brunswick/ by Gordon Edwards, August 9, 2021   Today, August 9, is the 76th anniversary of the US military’s atomic bombing of the City of Nagasaki in Japan. The nuclear explosive used was plutonium.

The destructive power of plutonium was first revealed on July 16, 1945, when a multicoloured mushroom cloud bloomed over the American desert – the first atomic explosion, top-secret, and much more powerful than expected. Robert Oppenheimer, the man in charge, was awestruck and thought of the words from the Bhagavad-Gita: “I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.”

Three weeks and three days later, on August 9, 1945, the City of Nagasaki was destroyed with a single plutonium bomb.

Plutonium is named for Pluto, god of the dead. It is the primary nuclear explosive in the world’s nuclear arsenals. Even the largest nuclear warheads, based on nuclear fusion, require a plutonium “trigger” mechanism. Access to plutonium is key to the construction of such thermonuclear weapons. Removing the plutonium from nuclear warheads renders them impotent.

Plutonium is not found in nature but is created inside every nuclear power reactor,

including the one at Point Lepreau on the Bay of Fundy. Plutonium is a human-made derivative of uranium. A metallic element heavier than uranium, it is created inside the nuclear fuel along with hundreds of lighter, fiercely radioactive by-products – the fragments of uranium atoms that have been split.

The countries that have nuclear weapons – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, France, Russia and China) as well as India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea – have all learned how to separate plutonium from used nuclear fuel for use in weapons. This is done by dissolving the solid fuel assemblies in a hot, highly radioactive chemical bath from which the plutonium is extracted using basic scientific procedures. Any technology for extracting plutonium from used fuel is called reprocessing.

Nuclear advocates have long dreamed of using plutonium as a reactor fuel, thereby increasing the options for new reactor designs and magnifying the longevity of the nuclear age. The problem is, once plutonium has been extracted, it can be used either for weapons or for fuel at the discretion of the country possessing it. Policing methods can be circumvented. As Edward Teller has observed: “There is no such thing as a foolproof system because the fool is always greater than the proof.”

That’s how India exploded its first atomic bomb in 1974, by using plutonium created in a Canadian research reactor given as a gift to India and a reprocessing plant provided by the US. Both the reactor and the reprocessing plant had been designated as “peaceful” facilities intended for non-military use. India declared that the bomb it had detonated was a “Peaceful Nuclear Explosive.”

After the Indian blast, it was quickly determined that several other clients of Canadian technology – South Korea, Argentina, Taiwan, and Pakistan – were also in a position to develop a plutonium-based bomb program. Swift and decisive international action forestalled those threats. In particular, South Korea and Taiwan were discouraged by their US ally from pursuing reprocessing.

Shaken by these shocking developments, in 1977 US President Jimmy Carter – the only head of state ever trained as a nuclear engineer – banned the civilian extraction of plutonium in America and tried to have reprocessing banned worldwide, because of the danger that this nuclear bomb material could fall into the hands of criminals, terrorists, or militaristic regimes bent on building their own nuclear explosive devices. As one White House adviser remarked, “We might wake up and find Washington DC gone, and not even know who did it.”

Japan is the only country without nuclear weapons that extracts plutonium from used nuclear fuel, much to the dismay of its neighbours. South Korea is not allowed to do so, despite repeated efforts by South Korea to obtain permission from the US to use a type of reprocessing technology called “pyroprocessing.” Pyroprocessing is currently undergoing experimental tests at a US nuclear laboratory in Idaho.

Now, New Brunswick has been enticed to take the plutonium plunge. The company Moltex Energy, recently established in Saint John from the UK, wants to use plutonium as a nuclear fuel in a type of reactor that is not yet fully conceptualized. The plutonium would be extracted from the thousands of solid irradiated nuclear fuel bundles currently stored at NB Power’s Point Lepreau reactor using a version of the pyroprocessing technology that South Korea has so far been denied.

On a site right beside the Bay of Fundy, the highly radioactive metallic fuel bundles would be dissolved in molten salt at a temperature of several hundred degrees. A strong electrical current would be used to strip the plutonium metal and a few other elements (less than one percent of the mass) out of the dissolved fuel.

After the government of Canada gave $50.5 million to support the Moltex project in March this year, nine retired US government advisors – all of them experts in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons – wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in May, urging him to authorize an independent review of the international implications of the proposed New Brunswick plutonium scheme.

These nine experts, who have worked under six different US presidents, both Republican and Democrat, are deeply concerned that Canada’s support for reprocessing and the civilian use of plutonium could seriously undermine delicate and precarious global non-proliferation efforts that have been underway for many decades.

No reply from the Canadian government has so far been received, although Trudeau’s office acknowledged receipt of the letter and said that the matter has been entrusted to Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan.

Without any word from these two ministers, Moltex posted a response to the US experts’ letter on their corporate web site, disputing some of the claims made in the letter to Trudeau. In particular, Moltex claims that their proposed technology is not usable for nuclear weapons purposes because the plutonium is not pure, but mixed with other contaminants that cannot easily be removed.

The Moltex response has prompted another letter to Trudeau from the US non-proliferation experts, correcting this and several other misleading comments from Moltex and reiterating their call for a fully independent expert review of the non-proliferation aspects of the Moltex proposal.

Our political leaders seem oblivious to the dangers to the entire planet that could result from widespread access to plutonium. If Canada can access plutonium, so can any other country. If many countries have access to plutonium, the possession of nuclear weapons must be regarded as a real possibility. In a nuclear-armed world, any conflict anywhere can turn into a nuclear war. The stakes could not be greater.

Citizens of New Brunswick and all Canadians who realize the importance of this issue can write to our Prime Minister in support of a non-proliferation review of the Moltex proposal, and raise this matter with candidates and at the door during the next federal election campaign. We can all raise awareness of the legacy of Nagasaki and do our best to ensure that New Brunswick is not implicated by going ahead with the Moltex plutonium extraction scheme.

Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, is based in Montreal.

August 10, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, Canada, politics | 1 Comment

Costs of Ontario’s nuclear program will be the burden of the great-grandchildren of babies born in 2021.

“Someday this will all be yours!”


Ontario’s Unfunded Nuclear Decommissioning Liability Is In The $18–$27 Billion CAD Range   Clean Technica, By Michael Barnard 8 Aug 21, Ontario’s nuclear program will be a fiscal burden on Ontarian’s to the tune of around $40 billion CAD which will be spent through roughly 2135, finally being paid off by the great-grandchildren of babies born in 2021.

Late last year I worked up the likely amount of public money that would have to be thrown at the nuclear industry in order to successfully and safely decommission the 100 operational reactors and the now shut down ones. Unsurprisingly, the nuclear industry had been very optimistic in its estimates of decommissioning costs and timeframes, when the global empirical averages were trending to a billion USD and 100 years per reactor.

Recently I was asked by an Ontario journalist what I thought the likely situation in Ontario would be, and whether the decommissioning trusts were equally underfunded. I was unsurprised to find that Canada is in the same boat as the US, with highly optimistic schedule and cost projections which belie Canadian empirical experience with the CANDU reactor, and that the fund had nowhere near the money necessary for the job. Let’s run the numbers.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is the chunk of the provincial utility that was carved apart in the late 1990s by the Mike Harris Conservatives to handle generation alone. It operates 18 aging CANDU reactors across three sites: Bruce, Pickering, and Darlington.

OPG has a nuclear decommissioning fund of about $5 billion CAD or US$4 billion right now. If the experience of other countries on the actual cost of a billion USD per reactor and an actual timeline of decommissioning of a century holds true, and I see no reason why it doesn’t, that means that there is currently a $17.5 billion CAD gap in Ontario, in addition to the existing $19.3 billion CAD in debt still being serviced from their construction. When the government of the era split up the utility, it moved all of the debt off of the components and into general debt. One of the many appropriate and sensible things that the McGuinty Administration did in the 2000s, in addition to shutting down coal generation entirely, was to move the debt back into the utility and set about servicing it from utility bills.

Most of the reactors at Bruce Nuclear are aging out, with several over 40 years old and the remainder approaching 40. Darlington’s are around 30, so they have a bit of runway. Pickering’s reactors are going to be shut down in 2024 and 2025 and start decommissioning in 2028. While refurbishment could bridge Ontario’s for another 20 years in many cases, that’s expensive and typically won’t pass any economic viability assessment compared to alternatives.

The likelihood is that all reactors in Ontario will reach end of life by 2035, and be replaced by some combination of renewable energy and HVDC transmission from neighboring jurisdictions, with both Manitoba and Quebec having excellent, low-carbon hydroelectric to spare…………

So yes, Ontario’s nuclear program will be a fiscal burden on Ontarians to the tune of around $40 billion CAD which will be spent through roughly 2135, finally being paid off by the great-grandchildren of babies born in 2021.

Nuclear, the gift that keeps on giving. https://cleantechnica.com/2021/08/06/ontarios-unfunded-nuclear-decommissioning-liability-is-in-the-18-27-billion-cad-range/

August 9, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, Canada, wastes | 1 Comment

Moltex Energy’s nuclear pyroprocessing project with plutonium would produce weapons grade material and encourage weapons proliferation

Will Canada remain a credible nonproliferation partner?  https://thebulletin.org/2021/07/will-canada-remain-a-credible-nonproliferation-partner/

By Susan O’DonnellGordon Edwards | July 26, 2021 


Susan O’Donnell
Susan O’Donnell is a researcher specializing in technology adoption and environmental issues at the University of New Brunswick.

Gordon Edwards
Gordon Edwards is a mathematician, physicist, nuclear consultant, and president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility,

The recent effort to persuade Canada to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has stimulated a lively debate in the public sphere. At the same time, out of the spotlight, the start-up company Moltex Energy received a federal grant to develop a nuclear project in New Brunswick that experts say will undermine Canada’s credibility as a nonproliferation partner.

Moltex wants to extract plutonium from the thousands of used nuclear fuel bundles currently stored as “high-level radioactive waste” at the Point Lepreau reactor site on the Bay of Fundy. The idea is to use the plutonium as fuel for a new nuclear reactor, still in the design stage. If the project is successful, the entire package could be replicated and sold to other countries if the Government of Canada approves the sale.

The recent effort to persuade Canada to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has stimulated a lively debate in the public sphere. At the same time, out of the spotlight, the start-up company Moltex Energy received a federal grant to develop a nuclear project in New Brunswick that experts say will undermine Canada’s credibility as a nonproliferation partner.

Moltex wants to extract plutonium from the thousands of used nuclear fuel bundles currently stored as “high-level radioactive waste” at the Point Lepreau reactor site on the Bay of Fundy. The idea is to use the plutonium as fuel for a new nuclear reactor, still in the design stage. If the project is successful, the entire package could be replicated and sold to other countries if the Government of Canada approves the sale.

On May 25, nine US nonproliferation experts sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing concern that by “backing spent-fuel reprocessing and plutonium extraction, the Government of Canada will undermine the global nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime that Canada has done so much to strengthen.”

The nine signatories to the letter include senior White House appointees and other US government advisers who worked under six US presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama; and who hold professorships at the Harvard Kennedy School, University of Maryland, Georgetown University, University of Texas at Austin, George Washington University, and Princeton University.

Plutonium is a human-made element created as a byproduct in every nuclear reactor. It’s a “Jekyll and Hyde” kind of material: on the one hand, it is the stuff that nuclear weapons are made from. On the other hand, it can be used as a nuclear fuel. The crucial question is, can you have one without the other?

India exploded its first nuclear weapon in 1974 using plutonium extracted from a “peaceful” Canadian nuclear reactor given as a gift many years earlier. In the months afterwards, it was discovered that South Korea, Pakistan, Taiwan, and Argentina—all of them customers of Canadian nuclear technology—were well on the way to replicating India’s achievement. Swift action by the US and its allies prevented these countries from acquiring the necessary plutonium extraction facilities (called “reprocessing plants”). To this day, South Korea is not allowed to extract plutonium from used nuclear fuel on its own territory—a long-lasting political legacy of the 1974 Indian explosion and its aftermath—due to proliferation concerns.

Several years after the Indian explosion, the US Carter administration ended federal support for civil reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in the US out of concern that it would contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons by making plutonium more available. At that time, Canada’s policy on reprocessing also changed to accord with the US policy—although no similar high-level announcement was made by the Canadian government.

Moltex is proposing to use a type of plutonium extraction technology called “pyroprocessing,” in which the solid used reactor fuel is converted to a liquid form, dissolved in a very hot bath of molten salt. What happens next is described by Moltex chairman and chief scientist Ian Scott in a recent article in Energy Intelligence. “We then—in a very, very simple process—extract the plutonium selectively from that molten metal. It’s literally a pot. You put the metal in, put salt in the top, mix them up, and the plutonium moves into the salt, and the salt’s our fuel. That’s it. … You tip the crucible and out pours the fuel for our reactor.”

The federal government recently supported the Moltex project with a $50.5-million grant, announced on March 18 by Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc in Saint John.

At the event, LeBlanc and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs described the Moltex project as “recycling” nuclear waste, although in fact barely one-half of one per cent of the used nuclear fuel is potentially available for use as new reactor fuel. That leaves a lot of radioactive waste left over.

From an international perspective, the government grant to Moltex can be seen as Canada sending a signal—giving a green light to plutonium extraction and the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel.

The US experts’ primary concern is that other countries could point to Canada’s support of the Moltex program to help justify its own plutonium acquisition programs. That could undo years of efforts to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of countries that might want to join the ranks of unofficial nuclear weapons states such as Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. The Moltex project is especially irksome since its proposed pyroprocessing technology is very similar to the one that South Korea has been trying to deploy for almost 10 years.

In their letter, the American experts point out that Japan is currently the only nonnuclear-armed state that reprocesses spent nuclear fuel, a fact that is provoking both domestic and international controversy.

In a follow-up exchange, signatory Frank von Hippel of Princeton University explained that the international controversy is threefold: (1) The United States sees both a nuclear weapons proliferation danger from Japan’s plutonium stockpile and also a nuclear terrorism threat from the possible theft of separated plutonium; (2) China and South Korea see Japan’s plutonium stocks as a basis for a rapid nuclear weaponization; and (3) South Korea’s nuclear-energy R&D community is demanding that the US grant them the same right to separate plutonium as Japan enjoys.

Despite the alarm raised by the nine authors in their letter to Trudeau, they have received no reply from the government. The only response has come from the Moltex CEO Rory O’Sullivan. His reply to a Globe and Mail reporter is similar to his earlier rebuttal in The Hill Times published in his letter to the editor on April 5: the plutonium extracted in the Moltex facility would be “completely unsuitable for use in weapons.”

But the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has stated that “Nuclear weapons can be fabricated using plutonium containing virtually any combination of plutonium isotopes.” All plutonium is of equal “sensitivity” for purposes of IAEA safeguards in nonnuclear weapon states.

Similarly, a 2009 report by nonproliferation experts from six US national laboratories concluded that pyroprocessing is about as susceptible to misuse for nuclear weapons as the original reprocessing technology used by the military, called PUREX.

In 2011, a US State Department official responsible for US nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries went further by stating that pyroprocessing is just as dangerous from a proliferation point of view as any other kind of plutonium extraction technology, saying: “frankly and positively that pyro-processing is reprocessing. Period. Full stop.”

And, despite years of effort, the IAEA has not yet developed an approach to effectively safeguard pyroprocessing to prevent diversion of plutonium for illicit uses.

Given that history has shown the dangers of promoting the greater availability of plutonium, why is the federal government supporting pyroprocessing?

It is clear the nuclear lobby wants it. In the industry’s report, “Feasibility of Small Modular Reactor Development and Deployment in Canada,” released in March, the reprocessing (which they call “recycling”) of spent nuclear fuel is presented as a key element of the industry’s future plans.

Important national and international issues are at stake, and conscientious Canadians should sit up and take notice. Parliamentarians of all parties owe it to their constituents to demand more accountability. To date however, there has been no democratic open debate or public consultation over the path Canada is charting with nuclear energy.

Countless Canadians have urged Canada to sign the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that came into force at the end of January this year. Ironically, the government has rebuffed these efforts, claiming that it does not want to “undermine” Canada’s long-standing effort to achieve a Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty. Such a treaty would, if it ever saw the light of day (which seems increasingly unlikely), stop the production of weapons usable materials such as highly enriched uranium and (you guessed it) plutonium.

So, the Emperor not only has no clothes, but his right hand doesn’t know what his left hand is doing.

July 27, 2021 Posted by | - plutonium, Canada, Reference, reprocessing, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The need for integrity in epidemiological research: investigation of uranium miners’health to be carried out by pro nuclear bodies

They want to show that it doesn’t cause cancer. I think they want to find that result.”

for years, the CNSC has served both as a regulator and promoter of the nuclear industry

“It is concerning that health standards are set by physicists and industries, based on financial and technological convenience, rather than by those educated in and committed to public health and safety.”


Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to Investigate Lung Cancer Rates Among Uranium Workers,
Mother Jones

What’s happened to 80,000 people who have worked in Canada’s mines and processing facilities?CHARLES MANDEL, 25 July 21, The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is leading a national study examining incidences of lung cancer in uranium workers from across the country.

The Canadian Uranium Workers Study (CANUWS) will examine health data from 80,000 past and present employees at Canada’s uranium mines, mills and processing and fabrication facilities. The study, which is now underway and set to end in 2023, is the largest examination of lung cancer in Canadian uranium workers to date.

Rachel Lane, one of the lead researchers on the new study, told Canada’s National Observer she believes it will reassure workers they face less risk than before from lung cancer arising from exposure to radon, ……..

The $800-million mining and milling uranium industry employs over 2,000 people—of whom more than half are residents of northern Saskatchewan—at mine sites. The researchers plan to examine causes of death in uranium workers from 1950 on and chart their cancer data from 1970 onwards, using research from previous studies.

The new study will build on the results of two historical studies: the Eldorado study and the Ontario Uranium Mine Workers Study, both of which found elevated risks of lung cancer in uranium workers. During numerous follow-ups ending in 2015, both studies found lung cancer among miners was still more prevalent than in the general population………….

deaths from lung cancer associated with radiation were historically higher for uranium workers than the general male population……….

In 2015, a follow-up to the 2007 Ontario Uranium Miner Cohort study was done. It examined approximately 28,546 male and 413 female uranium miners who had worked at least one week in the Elliot Lake and Bancroft regions or at the Agnew Lake Mine between 1954 and 1996.

The conclusion: “Significant elevations in lung cancer mortality and incidence, as well as silicosis and injury mortality were observed in comparison with the general Canadian population.”……….

Anne Leis, the department head of Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, will administer the project and analyze the data. Her colleague, Punam Pahwa, a professor of biostatistics, will lead the statistical analysis of the health data……….

Uranium mining companies Cameco, Orano, and BWXT are co-funding the study, contributing $60,000. The CNSC is providing $125,000, while the Saskatchewan government is kicking in $60,000, and the University of Saskatchewan is contributing $90,000 of in-kind funding.………… 

Concerns Over Possible Bias

While former employees and industry watchers applaud efforts to study the health of uranium workers, some are skeptical about the ability of CNSC to produce an unbiased report.

Jamie Kneen, communications and outreach coordinator at Mining Watch Canada, says it’s important to understand the longer-term impacts of radon on the miners. But he cautions that the peer review and oversight of the study must be carefully examined because it is being led by CNSC.Kneen contends that for years, the CNSC has served both as a regulator and promoter of the nuclear industry. “Their tendency has been to extend license periods and to give operators, whether it’s in the uranium industry or the nuclear power industry, more space, more time in terms of licensing and more leeway rather than the kind of tight supervision and oversight that the public probably would expect.”

Therefore, it’s a question of scrutinizing who’s doing the work and reviewing the study to ensure that it really is independent, according to Kneen. He notes that’s a difficult task given that the methodology around radiation is intricate and that not many people can decipher the technical details.

“So there’s a lot of potential for not necessarily deliberate manipulation, but for error to creep in and biases to creep in.”

Rod Gardiner, a former general foreman at the now-defunct Cluff Lake Mine in Saskatchewan, expresses his own concerns about the industry. Gardiner was at the mine for 33 years, working his way up to general foreman and acting mine manager.

He alleges management at Cluff Lake, which was owned by the multinational mining corporation Orano Group, consistently boasted that working in the mine was as safe as working in a supermarket and putting prices on soup cans. “That’s what they used to say, the company.”

He hopes a new study might answer questions about workers’ health. But others aren’t sure whether results will be trustworthy, primarily because the CNSC is partially funding and leading the study.

The CNSC’s work has been subject to just those kinds of complaints in the past.

Writing in the journal Canadian Family Physician in 2013, Dale Dewar and two other authors expressed concern over the CNSC’s ability to act independently of government and industry. The authors noted the former Conservative federal government fired the commission’s CEO when she applied safety guidelines to shut down the Chalk River reactor in Ontario.

The authors observed: “It is concerning that health standards are set by physicists and industries, based on financial and technological convenience, rather than by those educated in and committed to public health and safety.”

Dewar, a longtime general physician in northern Saskatchewan, recently told Canada’s National Observer: “They want to show that it doesn’t cause cancer. I think they want to find that result.”

Dewar expressed surprise that the CNSC has opted for a focused study when northerners have been asking for decades for a baseline health study to determine such things as whether or not there have been increases in autoimmune diseases or cancers that couldn’t be explained by diet, for example.

“I think not only is it virtually a sin that they’ve never done this, but I think it’s a really huge missed opportunity because if they had a study done like this, they would have researchers around the world trying to get information out of it.”…………

Compensation for Uranium Workers

Another, less discussed issue is compensation for uranium miners. In the United States, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) administered by the Department of Justice has awarded over US$2.4 billion in benefits to more than 37,000 claimants since its introduction in 1990. https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2021/07/canadian-nuclear-safety-commission-to-investigate-lung-cancer-rates-among-uranium-workers/

July 26, 2021 Posted by | Canada, employment, health, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Canada’s small nuclear reactor project is looking like just a pipe-dream.

Globe Climate: Canada wants nuclear to power the future. But how? SIERRA BEIN Matthew McClearn is an investigative reporter and data journalist with The Globe. For this week’sdeeper dive, he talks about Canada’s nuclear ambitions. Globe and Mail, 19 July 21

Senior government officials, notably federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, say small modular reactors (SMRs) will help Canada achieve net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century. There’s just one problem: it’s not clear yet whether any will be built.

To be sure, many promises made by SMR vendors seem compelling. By taking advantage of factory-style mass production, they’re supposed to be far cheaper than previous generations of reactors, which tended to be massive and prone to cost overruns. They’d also be easier to deploy…….. 

A mad scramble to deliver on these promises is now underway. Ontario Power Generation—by far Canada’s most experienced nuclear station operator—plans to select a vendor to build a SMR at its Darlington Station by 2028. Further out, Saskatchewan is considering whether to order its own SMRs to replace coal-fired plants.

Accomplishing all that would silence numerous critics and naysayers. But as I explain in my most recent story, history is littered with reactors that failed to live up to their promises.   . Many SMR vendors are very early-stage companies which face years of grueling, expensive R&D work to advance their designs to the point they could actually be built. And they’re competing against renewable technologies including wind and solar, which utilities can purchase and deploy today. It may be premature to count on SMRs to help meet Canada’s emissions targets.   https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-globe-climate-canada-wants-nuclear-to-power-the-future-but-how/https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-globe-climate-canada-wants-nuclear-to-power-the-future-but-how/

July 20, 2021 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

City Council in Calgary, Canada, not happy about ”rushed” agreement to own stranded nuclear wastes in Maine.

The 11-acre temporary storage site is patrolled around the clock by armed security guards.

The situation concerns Coun. Evan Woolley, who said that Enmax never mentioned the spent nuclear fuel site when the utility briefed city council on its bid for Versant.

Calgarians have a stake in Maine nuclear fuel storage facility   https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=rm&ogbl#inbox/KtbxLthlxCLcsbdhrlMgpmhjJQTWxmvSdV?compose=new

Facility part of the deal when Enmax bought U.S. utility for $1.8 billion, including debt

Scott Dippel · CBC News ·  Jul 19, 2021 Enmax’s acquisition of a utility in Maine last year came with a nuclear surprise that city council members say they weren’t told about.

When the city-owned Enmax closed on its deal to buy Versant Power (formerly Emera Maine) in March of 2020, it also acquired Versant’s interest in a former nuclear power plant.

The Maine Yankee plant operated from 1972 to 1996 and was decommissioned in 2005.

Versant owned 12 per cent of the electricity generated by the power plant. Its ratepayers also paid up front for 12 per cent of the decommissioning costs.

The plant was torn down and tonnes of spent nuclear fuel rods from the facility were temporarily encased in 64 concrete silos at a protected site in Wiscassett, Maine.

Part of the deal

The president of Versant Power, John Flynn, tells CBC News that Enmax couldn’t avoid taking on the Maine Yankee obligation when it purchased Versant.

“As part of the acquisition, Enmax really didn’t have the opportunity to pick and choose the assets or relationships or obligations it wanted,” said Flynn. “It was making a bid for the entire company.”

He said there isn’t a market for a temporary nuclear waste storage facility, so any buyer of Versant would have had to take on that obligation.

There are approximately $10 million US in annual costs related to the safe operation of the spent nuclear fuel storage site, including monitoring, maintenance and security.

About 38 people work at the site.

But Flynn said this doesn’t actually cost Versant or Enmax any money.


It’s covered by a trust fund which includes legal settlements from the US Department of Energy (DOE), which has a legal responsibility to ultimately remove the tonnes of spent fuel and find a permanent storage site.

Temporary site may be used for years

Flynn said there’s currently no estimate from the DOE on when it may move the materials to a final storage site.

He said the trust fund has enough money in it that the operation of the temporary facility will be covered for years to come.

In some years, Flynn said annual payments from the fund have been made to Versant customers who prepaid the decommissioning costs during the years the nuclear power plant was in operation.

The 11-acre temporary storage site is patrolled around the clock by armed security guards.

“The entire site is surrounded by a security perimeter that has 24/7 security that is of the level you would expect to see on an army base, so it is a hyper-secure site.”

While Enmax says it doesn’t own the spent nuclear fuel, it does list in its annual financial report the historical 12 per cent interest in Maine Yankee.

Council kept in dark

The situation concerns Coun. Evan Woolley, who said that Enmax never mentioned the spent nuclear fuel site when the utility briefed city council on its bid for Versant.

He is one of several council members contacted by CBC News who said they were unaware of that part of the $1.3 billion acquisition, which also included $500 million in debt.

Owning 12 per cent of a company that owns a bunch of nuclear waste has not only reputational risk but also real risk in terms of the world that we live in,” said Woolley.

The Ward 8 councillor, who is also the chair of council’s audit committee, said he would have liked to have known this information before council approved Enmax’s purchase.

“For us to not have been made aware of that is unacceptable,” said Woolley.

“Enmax and now Versant Power, which was Emera Maine, is owned by Calgarians. So council and the shareholder are accountable for that decision.”

Outside eyes needed

He describes Enmax’s pitch to city council to approve its takeover of the company in Maine as “rushed.”

His preference is that in future, a third party could assess such business opportunities for council and make a recommendation. 

That perspective could come from the city’s chief financial officer, the city solicitor or an external consultant.

A report is expected before the audit committee in September, which he said could result in changes that could help ensure Enmax and all of the city’s wholly-owned subsidiaries are on the same page as city council in the future.

He describes Enmax as “the massive gorilla in the room in terms of its size and scale.”  “The risk appetite of Enmax versus the risk appetite of a shareholder are different. And that’s where we need to provide better alignment,” said Woolley.

If council approves of any changes for its subsidiaries, he said it would mean that another transaction like the Versant purchase could not occur in the way that it did. 

The 11-acre temporary storage site is patrolled around the clock by armed security guards.

The situation concerns Coun. Evan Woolley, who said that Enmax never mentioned the spent nuclear fuel site when the utility briefed city council on its bid for Versant.

Calgarians have a stake in Maine nuclear fuel storage facility  AT TOP https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=rm&ogbl#inbox/KtbxLthlxCLcsbdhrlMgpmhjJQTWxmvSdV?compose=new

Facility part of the deal when Enmax bought U.S. utility for $1.8 billion, including debt

Scott Dippel · CBC News ·  Jul 19, 2021 Enmax’s acquisition of a utility in Maine last year came with a nuclear surprise that city council members say they weren’t told about.

When the city-owned Enmax closed on its deal to buy Versant Power (formerly Emera Maine) in March of 2020, it also acquired Versant’s interest in a former nuclear power plant.

The Maine Yankee plant operated from 1972 to 1996 and was decommissioned in 2005.

Versant owned 12 per cent of the electricity generated by the power plant. Its ratepayers also paid up front for 12 per cent of the decommissioning costs.

The plant was torn down and tonnes of spent nuclear fuel rods from the facility were temporarily encased in 64 concrete silos at a protected site in Wiscassett, Maine.

Part of the deal

The president of Versant Power, John Flynn, tells CBC News that Enmax couldn’t avoid taking on the Maine Yankee obligation when it purchased Versant.

“As part of the acquisition, Enmax really didn’t have the opportunity to pick and choose the assets or relationships or obligations it wanted,” said Flynn. “It was making a bid for the entire company.”

He said there isn’t a market for a temporary nuclear waste storage facility, so any buyer of Versant would have had to take on that obligation.

There are approximately $10 million US in annual costs related to the safe operation of the spent nuclear fuel storage site, including monitoring, maintenance and security.

About 38 people work at the site.

But Flynn said this doesn’t actually cost Versant or Enmax any money.


It’s covered by a trust fund which includes legal settlements from the US Department of Energy (DOE), which has a legal responsibility to ultimately remove the tonnes of spent fuel and find a permanent storage site.

Temporary site may be used for years

Flynn said there’s currently no estimate from the DOE on when it may move the materials to a final storage site.

He said the trust fund has enough money in it that the operation of the temporary facility will be covered for years to come.

In some years, Flynn said annual payments from the fund have been made to Versant customers who prepaid the decommissioning costs during the years the nuclear power plant was in operation.

The 11-acre temporary storage site is patrolled around the clock by armed security guards.

“The entire site is surrounded by a security perimeter that has 24/7 security that is of the level you would expect to see on an army base, so it is a hyper-secure site.”

While Enmax says it doesn’t own the spent nuclear fuel, it does list in its annual financial report the historical 12 per cent interest in Maine Yankee.

Council kept in dark

The situation concerns Coun. Evan Woolley, who said that Enmax never mentioned the spent nuclear fuel site when the utility briefed city council on its bid for Versant.

He is one of several council members contacted by CBC News who said they were unaware of that part of the $1.3 billion acquisition, which also included $500 million in debt.

Owning 12 per cent of a company that owns a bunch of nuclear waste has not only reputational risk but also real risk in terms of the world that we live in,” said Woolley.

The Ward 8 councillor, who is also the chair of council’s audit committee, said he would have liked to have known this information before council approved Enmax’s purchase.

“For us to not have been made aware of that is unacceptable,” said Woolley.

“Enmax and now Versant Power, which was Emera Maine, is owned by Calgarians. So council and the shareholder are accountable for that decision.”

Outside eyes needed

He describes Enmax’s pitch to city council to approve its takeover of the company in Maine as “rushed.”

His preference is that in future, a third party could assess such business opportunities for council and make a recommendation. 

That perspective could come from the city’s chief financial officer, the city solicitor or an external consultant.

A report is expected before the audit committee in September, which he said could result in changes that could help ensure Enmax and all of the city’s wholly-owned subsidiaries are on the same page as city council in the future.

He describes Enmax as “the massive gorilla in the room in terms of its size and scale.”  “The risk appetite of Enmax versus the risk appetite of a shareholder are different. And that’s where we need to provide better alignment,” said Woolley.

If council approves of any changes for its subsidiaries, he said it would mean that another transaction like the Versant purchase could not occur in the way that it did. 

July 20, 2021 Posted by | Canada, politics, wastes | Leave a comment