Friday, 21 December 2012

Cuts and short-term thinking pose threat to Canadian scientific research

Cuts and short-term thinking pose threat to Canadian scientific research: "Many Canadians use canola oil in daily cooking as an alternative to olive and vegetable oils, not realizing that canola is a triumph of Canadian research. Canola may now be Canada’s most valuable crop, contributing $15 billion each year to the economy. The success of canola can be traced back to the 1950s and ’60s, when researchers from the National Research Council (NRC) played a leading role in developing a more nutritious variety of a plant then used mainly for industrial lubrication, known as rapeseed.
Over nearly 100 years, the NRC has developed into one of Canada’s most important government research institutions. It has, for example, made major contributions to the development of several medical diagnostic techniques, the world’s first practical electric wheelchair, the first artificial cardiac pacemaker, the first effective vaccine against infant meningitis, the crash position indicator, the Canadarm, anti-counterfeit money technology and computer animation technology.
As Canadians, we enjoy many advances in our health, well-being and prosperity that have resulted, in part, from many years of research. Canadians should rightly take pride in our research endeavours, knowing that we and our children will benefit from advances we make today.
While the value of research is not in question, the role of government in research and innovation is. Debates on this topic have been sparked by cutbacks to research funding programs and multiple rounds of layoffs of government researchers this year, including most recently about 30 researchers at the NRC in late October.
One reason government needs its own research capacity is to be able to respond as needs arise. For example, when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) broke out in Toronto in 2003, researchers from NRC and other government organizations helped to understand this virus and develop measures to fight against it.
Now, the government is turning to the NRC to play a major role in solving a perpetual national challenge, that is, the low levels of research in the private sector. NRC is being transformed to focus on responding to the research needs of the private sector, which is typically focused on the short term.
Performing short-term research in partnership with business has value and often generates incremental economic benefits. Yet if this had been the sole mandate of NRC in the 1950s, we might not have canola today. Canola resulted from a long-term research program that built on a foundation of scientific expertise within NRC and other government organizations.
Research capacity often takes many years to develop and caution is needed to ensure that important capabilities are not lost to Canada in the restructuring of NRC.
NRC’s capabilities are built on a foundation of people performing both short- and long-term research. Long-term research at NRC generates knowledge that may lead to game-changing technological advances in the future. For example, NRC scientists are making breakthroughs in observing and controlling chemical reactions, building knowledge and technologies that may lead to super high-resolution microscopes that aid surgeons to perform delicate operations that can’t be done today, or to quantum computers that enhance security of information, or to applications we can’t even imagine today.
Research at NRC also informs sound public policy, such as developing building codes or testing innovative materials to determine suitability under the code. NRC scientists are responsible for developing and maintaining measurement standards used to accredit industrial products. NRC scientists observe oceans to monitor pollution and the effects of a changing climate.
NRC also operates shared research facilities that are used by many universities across Canada, as well as by other government labs and industry. Hundreds of researchers each year use the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre and the National Ultrahigh-Field NMR Facility for Solids to study many kinds of materials, which has led, for example, to greater safety and reliability of airplanes, cars and nuclear power reactors.
The 600-member Canadian astronomical community relies on the NRC to facilitate access to internationally shared telescopes, which includes working with Canadian businesses to develop cutting edge technologies needed for these “big science” facilities — technologies that are then frequently commercialized for other applications. Astronomy is one of Canada’s top performing areas of research, according to a recent assessment of Canadian science, which would not be the case without the roles that NRC plays.
The above examples illustrate NRC’s capabilities that are at risk (long-term research, research that informs sound public policy, and shared research facilities) if NRC is mandated to only do research for which businesses are willing to pay.
Whether or not NRC can effectively maintain all these important functions while meeting its new mandate is open to debate. The independent panel that reviewed federal research spending in 2011 argued that NRC needs to focus. It asked that great care be taken in the restructuring of NRC so that Canada would not lose any of the value in its other activities. It recommended spinning these activities out of NRC instead of eliminating them.
NRC’s vital capabilities must be preserved. Otherwise, Canada risks shutting the door on the next Canola, that is, the next great Canadian research success."

Nuclear best option for Europe, report says

Nuclear best option for Europe, report says: "Nuclear energy is the European Union's answer to meeting aggressive targets on carbon dioxide emissions while reducing dependency on fossil fuels, according to consultants Frost & Sullivan.
In a new report - entitled European Nuclear Power Sector: Trends and Opportunities - Frost & Sullivan says, "Despite the environmental risks, nuclear energy shows potential to reduce emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, and therefore, will be a major contributor to the European energy mix in 2020."
The report notes that, despite the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, the number of nuclear power reactors under construction worldwide "is still higher now than across the last two decades."
Frost and Sullivan pointed out that France, Finland, the UK and Sweden have all reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear power, while Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic are also planning to push ahead with new units, following increased safety assessments."

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Chamber seeking nuclear science centre

Chamber seeking nuclear science centre: "The Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce is proposing the establishment of a centre to promote the area’s tourism while celebrating its rich science and technology heritage.
The chamber hopes the Canadian Nuclear Science and Technology Centre will not only draw visitors, but sell the benefits of doing business in this region.
While the business plan for the 3,500-square foot centre, to be located along the Highway 17 corridor but in close proximity to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited at Chalk River, are in their infancy so far all stakeholders involved support the concept. That partnership with the chamber includes AECL and the municipalities of Deep River, Laurentian Hills and Head, Clara and Maria.
“There has certainly been some significant interest and they have asked us to continue our investigation into their particular opportunity,” past-president Gary Melnyk recently told the organization’s annual general meeting.
The chamber will manage and staff the centre as a year-round tourist information centre. It will promote attractions and activities as well as economic development initiatives aimed at aiding businesses in the area. It will also provide a local Chamber of Commerce point of contact for anyone inquiring about economic development statistics and data."

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Berkeley Lab developing quick way to ID people exposed to ionizing radiation

Berkeley Lab developing quick way to ID people exposed to ionizing radiation: "The scientists identified eight DNA-repair genes in human blood whose expression responses change more than twofold soon after blood is exposed to radiation. They also learned how these genes respond when blood is exposed to inflammation stress, which can occur because of an injury or infection. Inflammation can mimic the effects of radiation and lead to false diagnoses.
The result is a panel of biochemical markers that can discriminate between blood samples exposed to radiation, inflammation, or both. The scientists believe these markers could be incorporated into a blood test that quickly triages people involved in radiation-related incidents."

UK nuclear regulator approves EDF, Areva reactor design

UK nuclear regulator approves EDF, Areva reactor design: "The U.K. nuclear regulator gave approval to a reactor design by Areva SA (AREVA) and Electricite de France SA, bringing EDF closer to its goal of expanding in England.
The Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency permitted Areva’s U.K. European pressurized water reactor design for construction in Britain, according to a statement today on the ONR website.
The government wants to make building new nuclear stations more palatable for investors while reassuring consumers the industry is safe as it pushes low-carbon energy sources to meet growing demand. EDF, GDF Suez (GSZ) SA and Iberdrola SA (IBE) are among companies studying whether to build nuclear plants in Britain, which is seeking to replace an aging power station without adding to carbon emissions.
“It is a significant step, and ensures that this reactor meets the high standards that we insist upon,” said Colin Patchett, acting chief inspector of nuclear installations at ONR. “There remain site-specific issues that must be addressed before we’ll approve its construction on any site.”
The purpose of the so-called Generic Design Assessment process is to improve the safety and environmental aspects of reactors while their designs are still on paper to avoid costly changes during construction. The Areva, EDF design, called the U.K. EPR, is the first to go through the assessment process. It cost the companies 35 million pounds ($57 million) and took five years. All new reactor types proposed for the U.K. must complete the GDA. "

A great short video on nuclear recycling

A great short video on nuclear recycling from the Argonne National Laboratory: "The 800 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity produced by the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States each year – all while emitting no greenhouse gases — is by far America’s biggest source of green energy. And this abundant energy source can become even greener by recycling used nuclear fuel.
Currently, only about five percent of the uranium in a nuclear fuel rod gets fissioned for energy; after that, the rods are taken out of the reactor and put into storage. There is a way, however, to use almost all of the uranium in a fuel rod. Recycling the uranium in used nuclear fuel could power the United States for a thousand years, just by using the uranium we’ve already mined, and all of this energy carbon-free."

Thursday, 13 December 2012

China nuclear roll-out re-starts; outside suppliers and investors welcome

China nuclear roll-out re-starts; outside suppliers and investors welcome: "China has restarted its stalled nuclear reactor development programme, approving roll-outs of new and semi-completed projects. New safety protocols for new build and waste treatment are also driving new equipment and service contracts.
China halted all projects, and suspended approvals of new projects, in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan last year and initiated a safety audit on all current and future projects to ensure nothing similar could happen in China.
This October the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (which last year replaced the State Environmental Protection Administration, better known as SEPA) has formally approved environmental certification to all nuclear projects in the country.
Their report claimed that all reactors in China had now been monitored under strict safety protocols and that no accident above level two, defined as a failure of safety measures, but without actual consequences, has ever occurred in China. Additionally the Ministry has granted certification to 778 people passing nuclear safety exams. The planned roll out is now officially back on."

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

U.S. Nuclear Generation at 12-Week High

U.S. Nuclear Generation at 12-Week High: "U.S. nuclear-power generation climbed to a 12-week high as an Illinois unit started after refueling and reactors in Alabama and South Carolina increased output.
U.S. generation gained 1.3 percent to 90,143 megawatts, or 88 percent of capacity, the most since Sept. 14, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission data compiled by Bloomberg. Production, which has risen for 11 straight days, was 5.5 percent lower than a year earlier with 11 of the 104 U.S. reactors offline."

US nuclear industry plans rescue wagon for disasters

US Nuclear industry plans rescue wagon for disasters: "If disaster strikes a nuclear power plant in the U.S., the utility industry wants the ability to fly in heavy-duty equipment that could avert a meltdown.
That capability is part of a larger industry plan being developed to meet new rules that emerged since a 2011 tsunami struck the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan, flooding its emergency equipment and causing nuclear meltdowns that sent radiation leaking into the environment. The tsunami exceeded the worst-case scenario the plant was designed to withstand, and it showed how an extreme, widespread disaster can complicate emergency plans.
The effort, called FLEX, is the nuclear industry's method for meeting new U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules that will force 65 plants in the U.S. to get extra emergency equipment on site and store it protectively. As a backup, the industry is developing regional hubs in Memphis, Tenn., and Phoenix that could truck or even fly in more equipment to stricken reactors. Industry leaders say the effort will add another layer of defense in case a Fukushima-style disaster destroys a nuclear plant's multiple backup systems."

UN to adopt advice on radiation

UN to adopt advice on radiation: "The United Nations is to adopt advice on radiation that clarifies what can be said about its health effects on individuals and large populations. A preliminary report has also found no observable health effects from last year's nuclear accident in Fukushima.
The studies come from the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) after five years of work. An independent body of international experts, UNSCEAR has met regularly since 1955 and helped establish radiation as the best understood carcinogen in the world through its studies of atomic bomb survivors and the effects of the Chernobyl accident.
Having been officially approved by the UN General Assembly, the reports - as well as a resolution welcoming them - will be endorsed in coming weeks. They will then serve to inform all countries of the world when setting their own national radiation safety policies.
Presenting to the UN General Assembly, UNSCEAR's chair Wolfgang Weiss said that preliminary findings were that no radiation health effects had been observed in Japan among the public, workers or children in the area of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. This is in line with studies already published by the World Health Organisation and Tokyo University that showed people near the damaged power plant received such low doses of radiation that no discernible health effect could be expected."

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

More Glory Days for Chalk River?

Interesting perspective from David Jackson: More Glory Days for Chalk River? perhaps that has been and continues to be the worst mistake eliminating “curiosity oriented research”: "When I left in 1996 the decline of CRL was reaching its climax in a process of decay that had started in the mid 1960’s. The steady erosion over the foregoing years culminated in the cancellation or transfer of the best scientific programs under the government program review process of that era. A dismal succession of weak and ineffectual leaders tried to preserve the labs through dubious commercialization schemes and strived to eliminate “curiosity oriented research” because they thought it was what the government wanted them to do. The problem was that most of the management simply didn’t understand how the Ottawa bureaucracy worked and those who did understand didn’t stick around enough to make a difference."

Nuclear Power in Canada at World Nuclear Association updated Nov. 2012

Nuclear Power in Canada at World Nuclear Association updated Nov. 2012: I have posted this link here a few times, this is updated version last month: "Canada has developed its own line of nuclear power reactors, starting from research in 1944 when an engineering design team was brought together in Montreal, Quebec, to develop a heavy water moderated nuclear reactor. The National Research Experimental Reactor (NRX) began operation in 1947 at Chalk River, Ontario, where today the Chalk River Laboratories are the locus of much of Canada's nuclear research and development. The government established Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) as a crown corporation in 1952 with a mandate to research and develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor was built at Chalk River in 1957. Today, NRU produces 40% of the world supply of molybdenum-99, the source of technetium-99 widely used for medical diagnosis, and cobalt-60 for cancer treatment.
AECL, in cooperation with Canadian industry, began developing the first Candu (Canada deuterium uranium) reactor in the late 1950s. Candu reactors use heavy water (deuterium oxide) as a moderator and coolant, and are fueled using natural uranium (as opposed to enriched uranium). The advantages of the Candu reactor are savings in fuel cost, because the uranium does not have to go through the enrichment process, and reduced reactor downtime from refueling and maintenance. These savings are partially offset by the cost of producing heavy water. A small (22 MWe) Candu prototype went into operation in 1962 at Rolphton, Ontario, 30 km upstream from the Chalk River facilities. A larger prototype – 200 MWe – began generating power at Douglas Point, Ontario, in 1967. It was the design basis of the first Indian PHWR power reactors, Rawatbhata 1 & 2.
The first commercial Candu reactors began operations in Pickering, Ontario, in 1971. Sixteen of Canada's 18 commercial reactors are located in Ontario (the others are in Quebec and New Brunswick). In 2008, 53% of Ontario's electricity production came from nuclear power. The Darlington plant which came on line 1990-93 experienced a major cost overrun in construction largely due to political interference.
The technology and design of Candu reactors have evolved through several generations, with the newest reactors the Enhanced Candu 6 (EC6, based on Qinshan in China), and the next-generation Advanced Candu Reactor (ACR-1000).
Today, there are 32 Candu power reactors in seven countries, as well as 13 'Candu derivative' reactors in India, with more being built. Export sales of 12 Candu units have been made to South Korea (4), Romania (2), India (2), Pakistan (1), Argentina (1) and China (2), along with the engineering expertise to build and operate them. Three of the Canadian units are undergoing major refurbishment.
In mid 2011 AECL sold its reactor division to SNC-Lavalin's Candu Energy subsidiary for C$ 15 million, with the Canadian government retaining intellectual property rights for the CANDU reactors, in the hope of future royalties from new build and life extension projects "while reducing taxpayers' exposure to nuclear commercial risks". Candu Energy will pursue new business opportunities in connection with existing CANDU reactors worldwide and new build opportunities with EC6 models and the third-generation ACR-1000 design. The government will contribute $75 million towards completing the EC6 development program. Candu Energy will complete the refurbishment projects at Bruce, Point Lepreau, Wolsong and Gentilly through subcontract service agreements with the Canadian government. About 1200 employees will transfer to Candu Energy.
As well as their use for electricity, Candu power reactors produce almost all the world's supply of the cobalt-60 radioisotope for medical and sterilization use."

Nordion Provides Update on MAPLE Arbitration Costs

Nordion Provides Update on MAPLE Arbitration Costs: "Nordion has received and is currently assessing the legal merits and financial implications of AECL’s costs submissions. AECL submitted total arbitration-related costs of approximately $46 million. The Company expects to file a response to AECL’s submission with the tribunal in early 2013. The tribunal is expected to schedule proceedings to hear both parties’ arguments during the Company’s second fiscal quarter of 2013. Nordion expects a decision to be rendered regarding the allocation of arbitration-related costs thereafter. As the MAPLE arbitration decision of the tribunal favored AECL, Nordion may be responsible for a portion of AECL's costs which could be material."
The news also made it to reuters:

Monday, 10 December 2012

UK to dramatically increase nuclear power generation through use of mini-reactors

UK to dramatically increase nuclear power generation through use of mini-reactors: "The plants – the height of a three-storey building – would create enough power to light a small town and would be six times cheaper to build than the huge new power stations being planned.
Next month, the Department of Energy and Climate Change will publish a long-term strategy for nuclear power. The Government is keen for Britain to become a world leader in constructing such plants.
But as we lack the research required, finance ministers are encouraging scientists at the National Nuclear Laboratory, headquartered in Sellafield, Cumbria, to collaborate on international projects into small modular reactors (SMRs).
Along with mPower from Virginia, Britain’s Rolls-Royce is a global leader in the field as it has experience in building small nuclear reactors for submarines.
Demand for SMRs is likely to be strong, as they can be built in areas where large nuclear plants, which require huge water resources for cooling, cannot be constructed.
And mini-nuclear reactors are far more flexible than current power stations, as their output can be increased or they can be turned off altogether. The department has also identified valuable exports to underdeveloped countries with inadequate grid systems.
Most important is that SMRs cost £200million to £300million to build compared with £2billion for the typical large nuclear plants now being planned for the UK.
They can be built in factories and then transported to a site, rather than be part of a huge earth-moving project."

Friday, 7 December 2012

How A Nuclear Plant Works?

How A Nuclear Plant Works? a great video by the US Heritage Foundation: a must watch!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Nuclear energy

A great read at Nature magazine on nuclear energy and its future: “If you're going to get off fossil fuel, you have to have a serious nuclear programme.”

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Happy Birthday Werner Karl Heisenberg!

Tomorrow marks 111the Birthday of Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976). He was a German theoretical physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932 "for the creation of quantum mechanics". Perhaps his most famous work is the uncertainty principle published in 1927. He also made important contributions in other fields such as magnetism. What he may not be known for is his effort in planning the first West German nuclear reactor at Karlsruhe, together with a research reactor in Munich, in 1957. Here are some good links about him and his work:
"Heisenberg’s influence and that of his colleagues is evidenced by their twofold impact on the important field of West German nuclear policy: support of nuclear energy and opposition to nuclear weapons. In 1955 the Western allies granted the Federal Republic full sovereignty all restrictions upon West German research. Heisenberg and his colleagues immediately launched a public campaign for a crash program in nuclear energy development. Under Heisenberg’s direction, Germany’s first nuclear reactor, a research model, was set up at Garching (near Munich) in 1957. At the same time, a major nuclear research section was established at Heisenberg’s Max Planck Institute under the direction of Karl Wirtz; it eventually relocated in Karlsruhe." from

Oral history interview transcript with Werner Heisenberg - Nov. 1962) June 1970)

Nobel Lecture by Werner Heisenberg -

A great video on Uncertainty Principle -

Rutherford's Nuclear World

A great web exhibit on the life and work of Ernest Rutherford who discovered the nucleus of the atom in 1911:

Global Warming Targets and Capital Costs of Germany's 'Energiewende'

A good read: Global Warming Targets and Capital Costs of Germany's 'Energiewende': "The above data indicates Germany restructuring a major part of its economy towards renewables, a.k.a. ENERGIEWENDE, would make no global warming and/or climate change difference, but would adversely affect Germany's future economic well-being, because it would end up with an energy systems that would have about 2 to 3 times the levelized (owning+O&M) cost of competitor nations that did not follow Germany.
Germany is implementing renewables through subsidies more so than other nations, because it has the excess capital to do so, and because it claims to want to set an example to the world. A bit of chest beating; gorillas do it in the jungle. Other nations, especially the developing nations and least developed nations, do not have the resources, and/or the willingness, to follow Germany."

Monday, 3 December 2012

Fossil-Fuel Subsidies of Rich Nations Five Times Climate Aid

Wow! Fossil-Fuel Subsidies of Rich Nations Five Times Climate Aid ... I wonder why you don't hear the same amount of complaint about such subsidies as you always hear for nuclear???
Here's a link to the 2011 numbers for energy subsidies in the United States which includes nuclear...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

December 2: 70th anniversary of 1st self-sustained nuclear reaction

Dec 2, 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the first self-sustained nuclear reaction! Happy 70th!
Also see: for more nuclear history in this week! From ANS: "70 years since the world's first nuclear reactor achieved a sustained chain reaction - 55 years since the world's first full-scale commercial nuclear power plant went to full power in Shippingport, PA - and yesterday marked the inactivation ceremony of the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise"
 This is also a great short video:
Great conversation on the impact to human history of the construction and operation of Critical Pile 1 with several renowned nuclear professionals: this is direct link to the audio: