Wednesday, 27 March 2013

UK seizes the day with new nuclear strategy

Well down UK! UK seizes the day with new nuclear strategy "A new industrial strategy published by the UK government sets out detailed plans to enable the country to make the most of opportunities for economic growth in the nuclear energy sector at home and abroad.
Announced in a joint statement by the UK's business secretary Vince Cable and energy secretary Ed Davey, the 90-page industrial strategy document entitled The UK's Nuclear Future is the latest stage in governmental plans to publish strategies for eleven key sectors. It sets out the government's "clear expectation that nuclear will play a significant role in the UK energy mix in the future" and outlines the government's plans to align the UK as a leading civil nuclear energy nation. It covers the nuclear energy industry in its entirety, encompassing new build, waste management and decommissioning, fuel cycle services, and operations and maintenance."

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Nuclear Basics, Answering some of the key questions about nuclear energy

A great resource: from World Nuclear Association: Nuclear Basics, Answering some of the key questions about nuclear energy

Friday, 22 March 2013

Federal budget 2013 is announced

Federal budget 2013 is announced: I guess the winding down support of the government for AECL by the end of 2015 is consistent with their previous decisions/actions: "Supporting Atomic Energy of Canada Limited 
Economic Action Plan 2013 proposes to provide $141 million over two years to  ensure a secure supply of medical isotopes and maintain safe and reliable operations at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s Chalk River Laboratories. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is a federal Crown corporation that specializes in a range of nuclear products and services. To continue to ensure a secure supply of medical isotopes and maintain safe and reliable operations at the Chalk River Laboratories, Economic Action Plan 2013 proposes to provide $141 million over two years for AECL’s laboratory operations."
The link to the full pdf document of the budget is found here:
"Official Opposition Critic for Science & Technology Kennedy Stewart (Burnaby--Douglas) speaking on March 20, 2013 on his opposition day motion calling on the House of Commons to protect scientific freedom, evidence-based policy and basic research funding, and to restore funding to the Experimental Lakes Area": 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Graphite Reactor: Isotopes and a new element

The Graphite Reactor: Isotopes and a new element: does the lack of proper recognition sound familiar also about what NRU/NRX enabled Canada to do??? "“If at some time a heavenly angel should ask what the Laboratory in the hills of East Tennessee did to enlarge man’s life and make it better, I daresay the production of radioisotopes for scientific research and medical treatment will surely rate as a candidate for first place.” — Alvin Weinberg, director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1955-1973.
The late Art Rupp would agree. He was especially proud of the Lab’s isotope development program, which he helped create and then led.
However, in an interview in 2003 with Steve Stow for the ORNL Oral History Project, he said the isotope program started at the Lab’s Graphite Reactor, which was built in 1943, had not received the recognition it deserves, either locally or nationally.
In its heyday, the program separated, purified, promoted, packaged and scheduled the delivery of radioisotopes. The isotopes shipped from Oak Ridge to hospitals were used to diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases, prolonging lives. Other isotopes were useful for industry, agriculture and research.
Also, separation work in the program provided chemical proof for the existence of Element 61 in the periodic table. Henry Moseley, the brilliant English physicist who was killed at the age of 27 in World War I, confirmed in 1914 the 1902 prediction that an element with this atomic number exists.
Radioactive forms of various elements, called radioisotopes, were produced in and isolated from the spent uranium fuel of the Graphite Reactor. This Oak Ridge facility was the world’s first continuously operated nuclear reactor. It enabled researchers to demonstrate that gram quantities of plutonium-239 could be produced in a reactor and separated from the spent uranium fuel.
Researchers created other radioisotopes, such as radioactive phosphorus, by immersing a nonradioactive target material, such as melted sulfur in aluminum cans, in the sea of neutrons inside the reactor.
Under John Gillette’s stewardship, the program made up to 12,000 shipments of isotopes a year — or 104,000 shipments between 1946 and 1957.
The first radioisotope produced and shipped from a reactor — the Graphite Reactor — was carbon-14. It was sent in 1946 to a hospital in St. Louis for cancer research.
Rupp, a chemical engineer trained at Purdue University where he was once president of the poetry club, noted New York City’s Rockefeller Center has a statue of Prometheus, but Oak Ridge does not. Why is this important?
The element discovered in Oak Ridge was named after Prometheus, the titan in Greek mythology who stole fire from Mount Olympus and brought it down to mankind.
In 1945, Jacob Marinsky, Lawrence Glendenin and Charles Coryell isolated the new element in a hot cell after separating rare earths from radioactive fission products. They were members of George Boyd’s group, which pioneered the use of ion-exchange chromatography for separating radioisotopes.
Employing a spectroscopic method, they identified Element 61, the only radioactive rare-earth metal. Coryell’s wife, Grace Marie, proposed the name promethium for the new element — a suggestion accepted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
“Promethium is an element that does not exist naturally on Earth,” Rupp told Stow. Like technetium, it occurs only as a byproduct of fission. Promethium has been identified in the spectrum of a star in the Andromeda galaxy. Promethium made on Earth is used for atomic batteries in missiles and spacecraft.
“Its discovery in Oak Ridge is something that has just been forgotten,” Rupp said."

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

MP Kennedy Stewart tables motion to defend science in Canada

Glad someone is doing something about this but will it make any difference at the end? MP Kennedy Stewart tables motion to defend science in Canada: "That, in the opinion of the House, a) public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making; b) federal government scientists must be enabled to discuss openly their findings with their colleagues and the public; c) the federal government should maintain support for its basic scientific capacity across Canada, including immediately extending funding, until a new operator is found, to the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility to pursue its unique research program."

AECL provides update on NRU Planned Outage Activities for the upcoming one month shutdown

AECL provides update on NRU Planned Outage Activities for the upcoming one month shutdown: "AECL reports that the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor will enter a planned outage beginning on April 14, 2013 and ending May 14, 2013. The purpose of the outage is to conduct scheduled inspection and maintenance. This marks the third annual outage for the NRU. Inspection results to date continue to confirm that the NRU vessel remains fit for service.
In addition to the annual vessel inspection, work is planned during the outage to enhance the reliability and safety of NRU. A dedicated work management outage team has been established to coordinate the activities of suppliers, NRU specialists and supporting departments ensuring the safe and successful execution of the outage.
Facility users and the isotope community have been informed well in advance of this outage and have taken steps to adjust their activities.
The ongoing operations of the NRU allow AECL to continue to produce medical isotopes and provide vital research support to scientists and universities from across Canada and around the world."
Seems that Petten is down at same time:

Cryogenics through the ages

A great listen from BBC radio: Cryogenics through the ages From Physics World about this radio program: "Physicists have long been interested in how nature behaves under very cold conditions, and about 200 years ago the race began to realize the lowest temperature ever. Along the way, many new and amazing states of matter have been discovered, including superconductors, superfluids and Bose–Einstein condensates. More recently, access to extremely low temperatures has contributed to the current renaissance in the study of fundamental quantum mechanics and the development of quantum computers.
In his latest radio programme, the BBC’s resident polymath Melvyn Bragg looks at this race to the bottom, which really heated up in the late 19th century when physicists and chemists were feverishly liquidizing a wide range of gases include those cryogenic favourites nitrogen – and a little later in 1908 – helium.
Bragg is joined by regular guest and historian of science Simon Schaffer of Cambridge University together with the physicists Nicola Wilkin of the University of Birmingham and Stephen Blundell of the University of Oxford.
You can listen to the quartet discuss how the discovery of quantum mechanics affected how physicists think of absolute zero – and how the quest for absolute zero will ultimately be thwarted by something akin to Zeno’s paradox. On a more practical note, the panel discusses how extremely cold atoms could be used as geological and other sensors.
And for all you budding science administrators out there, Simon Schaffer reveals who he thinks is the greatest laboratory manager physics has ever known…any guesses who that might be?"

Fukushima -- Fear Is Still the Killer

Fukushima -- Fear Is Still the Killer: "Sadness and Anger. That’s what came to mind on the two-year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster last week. But it was for two different reasons, for two different groups. I realize everyone who attended the anti-nuke rallies felt righteous and good about their anger at nuclear power and their sadness at the disaster (Bay Area IndyMedia).
But their anger is misplaced and their zealous cries against nuclear power eclipsed the real heartbreak – the tsunami itself and the mismanagement of the response.
I am in the other group. Those of us who are sad at the destruction wrought by the tsunami and angry at the horrible over-reaction to Fukushima that has hurt more people than the radiation ever will. The tsunami killed over 20,000 people and destroyed almost a million lives. The threat of radiation is a phantom that distracts the world and keeps the people of Japan terrorized with no foreseeable end.
Yet again, technical and scientific experts announced that the radiation effects from Fukushima will have little to no health impacts on the people of Japan, even on those most affected by the disaster at Daiichi.
Yet again, it was announced that the fear and continued misinformation about radiation is causing more harm than could possibly be caused by radiation.
Yet again, much of the public and most of the ideologues choose to ignore the experts and stoke the fear and suffering for whatever reasons they have, good or bad.
There is no question that an area around Fukushima is contaminated and needs to be cleaned-up before anyone can re-enter. But that area is confined to the >50 mSv/year zone (>6 microSv/hr). The rest of the area is safe enough to re-occupy and contains most of the population in the affected areas (Japan Ministry). The majority of the refugees could return safely to their homes and have a better life than where they are now.
The WHO released an interim evaluation in their ongoing assessment of Fukushima. For the general population in Fukushima prefecture, across Japan and beyond “the predicted risks are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated,” said WHO. Clear cases of health damage from radiation only occur following exposures of 1000 mSv – far more than the 10-50 mSv WHO said was received by the worst-hit people in Namie and Iitate.
The WHO also said the effects of the accident “are not expected to cause an increase in the incidence of miscarriages, stillbirths and other physical and mental conditions that can affect babies born after the accident.”"

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Transfer of the operations and governance of the CNBC to AECL

Canadian Neutron Beam Centre is transferred from NRC to AECL: Transfer of the operations and governance of the CNBC to AECL: ..."Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) will fully fund, govern and operate the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre (CNBC) for a two-year period effective April 1, 2013 according to an agreement recently signed with the National Research Council (NRC). The NRC staff of the CNBC will continue to be NRC employees while working in alignment with AECL’s direction.
There will be no immediate change in day-to-day operations of the CNBC and no impact on access to the facilities by users and clients.
CINS will work AECL with respect to establishing a sustainable future for materials research with neutron scattering in Canada. The coming two years will be an opportunity to demonstrate the value of including a domestic neutron-scattering capability in support of an industry-driven Canadian nuclear innovation agenda, a consideration in the ongoing restructuring of AECL:
"The government is still assessing the value of investing federal tax dollars in longer-term nuclear innovation. Over the coming months, the Government will work to understand the potential business case for a forward-looking, industry-driven nuclear innovation agenda." See
As usual, applications for beam time at the CNBC are welcome at any time.
Members of the neutron scatttering community should direct questions or concerns regarding the situation to the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre. "

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Space Invaders -- Asteroids, Mars And Radiation

A great read: Space Invaders -- Asteroids, Mars And Radiation:

12th Canadian Neutron Scattering Summer School: morning lectures program

The summer school morning lectures program is now announced: ...please make sure to register to ensure a spot...

US teenager Taylor Wilson designs compact nuclear reactor

Really cool! US teenager Taylor Wilson designs compact nuclear reactor: "Eighteen-year-old Taylor Wilson has designed a compact nuclear reactor that could convert waste from old atomic weapons into power for homes and factories and maybe even one day space colonies."

Hydraulic fracking releases ancient radioactive brine

Hydraulic fracking releases ancient radioactive brine: "Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a widespread technique used by the oil and gas industry to obtain natural gas from shale rock, a type of sedimentary rock that contains hydrocarbons that cannot be recovered using conventional techniques. The process involves drilling thousands of feet into the Earth’s subsurface and injecting a special mixture of water, sand and chemicals to crack the rock and release the gas.
Since approximately one quarter of the fluid returns to the surface through the process, the chemical composition of the returning fluid is of interest to researchers. Studies have shown previously that the wastewater liquid that flows back after fracking contains elements that were not part of the initial solution."

Monday, 4 March 2013

More on recent funds for non-reactor medical isotope production

And here are the news of more funds for non-reactor medical isotope production from Triumf (, UoWinnipeg (, and UAlberta (

Isotopes in high demand for medical research

Good read: Isotopes in high demand for medical research: ..."So the question is, how to get the molybdenum-99 in the first place? Well, one way is to use the fact that it is a fission product of uranium-235. That means that inside every uranium-fuelled nuclear reactor, Mo-99 is being produced all the time – but it is mixed in with dozens of other fiercely radioactive fission products (such as cesium-137, iodine-131, strontium-90), activation products (such as cobalt-60, iron-55, niobium-93m) and transuranic actinides (such as plutonium,
americium and curium). To get the Mo-99 you would have to dissolve the fiercely radioactive irradiated fuel in boiling nitric acid and separate out the tiny amount of Mo-99 by chemical means, leaving a huge volume of highly radioactive liquid waste.
So to make the job easier, research reactors are used – no electricity production – and instead of “reprocessing” the irradiated fuel, special “targets” are introduced into the core of the reactor made of highly-enriched uranium (93.3 percent Uranium-235) and withdrawn at a predetermined
time so that the “target” can be dissolved in nitric acid etc. This has several advantages: (1) you can limit the time the target is in the reactor, cutting down on the superfluous inventory of other fission products etc; (2) you can vastly reduce the mass of material that needs to be dissolved
because the U-235 is so concentrated; (3) you can control the schedule more easily and achieve a kind of “assembly-line” procedure without shutting the reactor down.
Even if you use this nasty method for producing Mo-99 inside a nuclear reactor, and then reprocessing, you can use LEU (Low Enriched Uranium) instead of High Enriched Uranium (HEU) – it just means it takes longer and is more expensive mainly because there is a much larger mass of material to “reprocess” in order to get out the Mo-99. Argentina has been doing it this
way for quite some time.
The alternative to using a nuclear reactor is to use a “particle accelerator” to produce Mo-99. There are various ways to do this, using a cyclotron (a circular accelerator) or a linear accelerator (arranged in a straight line). In an accelerator, isotopes of various kinds can be produced by bombarding a “target” of some kind with a “beam” of very energetic (high-speed) charged particles. This is how a university or hospital can produce most if not all of the isotopes it needs
without the need for a nuclear reactor. For many years, starting in 1949, McGill University got all of its isotopes this way,"
Also good read: a bit of history on the conservative government of Brian Mulroney and the privatization of the medical isotopes produced at NRU, a bad deal that even hunts today! "In 1988, the Gov’t of Canada privatized the only really profitable part of AECL’s operations, which was the radio-isotope production. AECL sold Nordion International Inc. (formerly the AECL division
known as the Radiochemical Company) to the Canada Development Investment Corporation (CDIC) for eventual privatization. In 1991, CDIC sold Nordion to MDS Health Group Ltd. for $165 million, and
it was reported that AECL received $150.5 million from CDIC, and that this “together with interest earned thereon between the dates of receipt and disbursement, has been distributed to the shareholder (i.e. gov’t of Canada) by way of dividends”. So AECL is responsible for designing and building and operating the reactors to produce the isotopes that MDS-Nordion sells for a profit. This also means that the radwaste and the decommissioning of the reactors is a public responsibility through AECL whereas the profits are a private matter for MDS-Nordion."

Feds move to privatize management of AECL

The news of new direction of CRL lab at a local paper: Feds move to privatize management of AECL: ...the paper quotes the president of AECL: "Walker admits that a rosy future is still not a guarantee, but feels that the foundation of AECL and its legacy of contribution to the nation’s science and technology scene will be there no matter which sector is in charge of management.
“There’s always a risk in that the business may not continue to be sustainable,” he says, “but frankly, it’s ours to lose.”"

Friday, 1 March 2013

NRCan: Restructuring of Atomic of Energy of Canada Limited — Nuclear Laboratories

And finally the news directly from the horses' mouth: Restructuring of Atomic of Energy of Canada Limited — Nuclear Laboratories: Seems their plan only includes waste management, nuclear liability issues and industry-driven fee-for-service based activities, there doesn't seem to be anything related to basic science! "In the coming months, the Government of Canada will engage in a competitive, collaborative procurement process, including a Request for Proposals, for the management and operation of AECL’s Nuclear Laboratories. The Government is seeking to implement a Government-owned, Contractor-operated (GoCo) model, as is done in other jurisdictions, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
Under the new management model, the Laboratories will focus on three key objectives:
-Managing its radioactive waste and decommissioning responsibilities accumulated during the more than 60 years of nuclear research and development at Chalk River and at Whiteshell Laboratories.
-Ensuring that Canada's world-class nuclear science and technology capabilities and knowledge continue to support the federal government in its nuclear roles and responsibilities — from health protection and public safety to security and environmental protection.
-Providing access to industry to address its need for in-depth nuclear science and technology expertise.This will include ongoing access to the Laboratories, at fair market rates that ensure cost recovery, for owners and operators of CANDU reactors as well as the CANDU and broader nuclear supply chain in Canada."

Ottawa's new isotope production plan raises fears of more shortages

Ottawa's new isotope production plan raises fears of more shortages: What the government has decided is actually against their own Expert Panel who advised to build a new multii-purpose research reactor to replace the aging NRU reactor: "The federal government is plowing ahead with its plan to revamp Canada’s production system of medically critical isotopes, raising concerns the country could face another scramble for medical imaging services if the new system does not perform as expected.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced Thursday that Ottawa will provide $25-million to three different groups to support development of medical isotope technology that, by 2016, can replace production from the aged nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ont. Two emergency shutdowns of the Chalk River reactor five years ago provoked a medical and political furor when physicians were forced to delay diagnostic tests for cancer and heart disease." ...In making the announcement, Mr. Oliver said the federal investment will allow Canada to remain a leader in the production of medical isotopes, without relying on a reactor fuelled by high-enriched uranium, which is weapons-grade nuclear material. The minister also announced Ottawa is launching a competitive bidding process for private-sector operators of the AECL Chalk River laboratories, where the isotope-producing research reactor is located.
While the federal government intends to get out of the isotope business, it will continue to own the laboratories, which will focus research on decommissioning nuclear sites, supporting the government’s scientific needs, and supporting the industry’s research requirements on a fee-for-service basis."

Statement by SNC-Lavalin on Federal direction of Nuclear Laboratories

Statement by SNC-Lavalin on Federal direction of Nuclear Laboratories: " SNC-Lavalin Inc. believes AECL and the Laboratories at Chalk River are of significant importance to Canada's nuclear industry, and is pleased with the Government's decision to restructure the management of the Nuclear Laboratories. This is an important next step in making Canada a Tier-1 nuclear nation, and in further developing a vibrant national nuclear Science and Technology program.
We are eager to learn more through the competitive procurement process and will consider all of our options at that time. We look forward to continuing our long-term business relationship with AECL. "

Statement by Bruce Power on Federal direction of Nuclear Laboratories

Statement by Bruce Power on Federal direction of Nuclear Laboratories: "The model being proposed by the Federal Government represents a unique, public-private model based on a government-owned, contractor-operated approach. As Canada's only private sector nuclear operator, Bruce Power will continue to participate in the process as a customer that relies on services from the AECL Nuclear Laboratories.
Canada's nuclear industry is a reliable source of affordable electricity that keeps prices low for our families and businesses, while protecting the air we breathe. Over the past 11 years, through the Bruce Power public-private partnership model, the company has secured $7 billion in private investments into public assets, revitalizing the Bruce site to its full operational potential. This has supported the phase out of coal electricity in Ontario, which is one of the largest climate change initiatives in North America."

Japan to Begin Restarting Idled Nuclear Plants, Leader Says

Japan to Begin Restarting Idled Nuclear Plants, Leader Says: " Japan will begin restarting its idled nuclear plants once new safety guidelines are in place later this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday, moving to ensure a stable energy supply despite public safety concerns after the Fukushima disaster.
In a speech to Parliament, Mr. Abe pledged to restart nuclear plants that pass the tougher guidelines, which are expected to be adopted by a newly created independent watchdog agency, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, as early as July. However, he did not specify when any of the reactors might resume operation. News reports have suggested that it might take months or even years to make the expensive upgrades needed to meet the new safety standards.
All of Japan’s 50 operable nuclear reactors were shut down following the March 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which spewed radiation across northern Japan after a huge earthquake and tsunami knocked out vital cooling systems. Two were later restarted as an emergency measure to avert power shortages in the heavily populated region that includes the cities of Osaka and Kyoto.
Responding to public safety concerns, leaders from the previous Democratic Party government had vowed to slowly phase out nuclear power by the 2030s in favor of cleaner alternatives like solar and wind power. However, Mr. Abe, who took power after his Liberal Democratic Party won national elections in December, has vowed to shelve the planned phaseout, saying that Japan needs stable and cheap electricity from nuclear power to compete economically. "