Monday, 29 April 2013

Public Lecture at the 2013 Summer School

The public lecture at this year's summer school is announced. It will be a great talk given by the Head of The Bragg Institute of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. It is nice to hear the recent success story of Australia's builidng a research reactor and running a successful neutron scattering user program there, lessons there for Canada??? "Robert A. Robinson will present "The Australian Experience with a New Multi-Purpose Research Reactor for Scientific Research, Isotope Production and Silicon Irradiation," on Wednesday June 5, at 7:00 PM at Child's Auditorium at the Mackenzie Community School in Deep River. Dr. Robinson is the Head of The Bragg Institute of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.
Presentation Abstract: The OPAL Research Reactor is one of the newest high-performance neutron sources in the world. The Australian Government made the funding decision in 1997 and the contract was signed with the Argentinian company INVAP S.E. to construct a 20-MW research reactor, with large cold source, guide hall and modern supermirror guides. The low-enriched uranium fuel was loaded into the OPAL reactor in August 2006, and full power (20MW) achieved in November 2006. The formal scientific user program commenced in 2007, on the initial suite of seven neutron beam instruments. The user base is approximately 50% from Australian universities, 20% from the host organization (ANSTO) and 30% from overseas. 6 further instruments are in commissioning or are nearing completion, and substantial additional investment is also being made in sample-environment, extra instrumental options, polarised-neutron technology, and both chemical- and bio-deuteration facilities. I will outline the strengths and weaknesses of the neutron-scattering method, and show its application to such pertinent issues as lithium-ion batteries, oil and gas recovery, magnetic recording, food science, superconductivity and so on. An update will be given on the status of OPAL, the performance of its thermal and cold neutron sources and instruments, together with a selection of recent scientific results and future plans. "

Ontario's energy transition

Ontario's energy transition: "Air quality in Canada's Ontario province has improved dramatically in recent years, simultaneously with the ramping up of nuclear power and the phase-out of coal.
Ontario is home to a large portion of Canadian industry, the cities of Ottawa and Toronto and some 40% of the country's populatio...n of 33.4 million. Data from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment shows a dramatic reduction in the air pollution that in 2005 was affecting these people for at least ten days during the year. The worst-affected places in 2005 had been 14 of 37 Ontario locations which with more than 40 smog-warning days. Every location had at least ten smog days.
In 2011, by contrast, the worst-affected place had only eight smog-warning days, while 18 of the 37 locations had no smog warnings at all. Overall, days on which the people were warned about unhealthy levels of smog at one location or another have dropped from 53 in 2005 to just nine in 2011.
While Ontario has encouraged and facilitated investment in renewables and gas as well as efficiency in power generation and industry, two power sources have played leading roles in the province's transition: coal, because it has been gradually reduced and is set for phase-out; and nuclear, because it has increased to replace that supply.
Ontario has progressed steadily since a policy was announced in 2003 and is set to close its last operating coal-fired power plant next year. The 1140 MWe Lakeview coal plant was closed in 2005, leaving in operation Lambton with 1976 MWe, Nanticoke with 3964 MWe and small units amounting to 517 MWe. Those small units are being converted to burn gas and biofuels while Nanticoke and Lambton are being progressively closed, leaving the final two coal units in operation at Nanticoke.
All the above are owned by Ontario Power Generation, a provincially managed utility which was instructed to improve nuclear capacity to replace that supply. Since 2003 it brought back to service two Candu units at Pickering and will also refurbish four reactors at Darlington for 25-30 years more life. The company also continues to move forward with a plan for two new large reactors at Darlington, for which environmental approval and a site perparation permit were granted last year."

Friday, 26 April 2013

Small modular nuclear reactors

Good read in New York Times on small modular nuclear reactors: 

Also see the link below for additional in-depth analysis and discussion: "Update and Perspective on SMR Development"

South Korea's fuel cycle

Well let's hope they manage to get us consent next time! South Korea's fuel cycle: "Decisions on the future of South Korea's fuel cycle have been put off for another two years. The country wants to recycle and reprocess used reactor fuel but requires American consent.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye is due to visit US counterpart Barack Obama early next month and it had been planned that they would sign off a new agreement on nuclear cooperation to take effect after 2014. However, negotiations stalled in recent weeks and officials decided to extend the current agreement for a further two years.
This secures the current legal arrangements supporting research programs and the exchange of nuclear goods and services, but means that South Korea is frustrated in planning its long-term strategy for managing used reactor fuel.
Stocks of used fuel are accumulating at South Korean nuclear power plants and the country would like to centralise storage and reprocess the fuel - separating the majority of recyclable fuel like uranium and plutonium from wastes that would be conditioned and packaged ready for disposal. America has long opposed this, avoiding the practice even though its own situation sees reactor fuel stored at power plants all around the country. US policy has been that theoretically weapons-usable plutonium should not be separated (as it is for example during commercial reprocessing in Britain and France). Japan has built a reprocessing plant with US consent that uses a variation on the process during which plutonium isotopes are never separated from other recyclable fuel. "

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Alternative nuclear energy race heats up as Canadian company enters

Alternative nuclear energy race heats up as Canadian company enters: "The pursuit of alternative nuclear power technologies that are safer, more efficient and less weapons prone than today’s reactors is starting to look like a fledgling industry, as yet another company has joined the race.
Canadian startup Terrestrial Energy Inc. is developing a liquid fuel reactor that it hopes to commercialize by 2021. The reactor circulates molten salts that serve both as the fuel and as the coolant (in nuclear reactors coolants absorb heat from reactions and transfer that heat to drive a turbine).
Ottawa-based Terrestrial, founded late last year, is the latest company to announce plans for a molten salt reactor (MSR). Other groups known to be developing them include Transatomic Power and Flibe Energy in the U.S., Thorium Tech Solution in Japan, and the Chinese government, which is also collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy and Westinghouse on a molten salt cooled reactor that uses solid fuel.
The MSRs all derive from work at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s, where director Alvin Weinberg built an MSR that President Richard Nixon eventually scotched in favor of solid fuel reactors that left plutonium - desirable for bombs during the Cold War (and also for a type of planned plutonium-powered reactor that did not work out).
MSRs run at higher temperatures than do today’s solid fuel, water-cooled reactors, which makes the power cycle more efficient. Developers say they are safer because they operate at normal atmospheric pressure rather than the high pressure of conventional reactors, and because they cannot melt down. In the event of a problem the liquid fuel drains safely into a tank. MSRs also leave less long-lived waste than do conventional reactors.
Terrestrial’s IMSR ( “I” for integral) is designed to run on uranium or thorium - either fuel would mix into the molten salt. Terrestrial co-founder David LeBlanc says the company will focus initially on uranium and on small models that offer the myriad benefits of “modular” reactors.
Potential customers include Canadian oil sands companies that would use a small IMSR as a clean heat source."

Nuclear Basics

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

Uranium company fights Quebec moratorium

Uranium company fights Quebec moratorium: "A company that has invested CAD120 million ($117 million) in a Quebec uranium project has launched legal action in response to a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining imposed by the provincial government.
Strateco Resources has served Quebec's minister of sustainable development, environment, wildlife and parks Yves-Francois Blanchet with a notice for damages and interest set at an initial CAD16 million (US$15.6 million), which it says represents the loss in its market capitalisation since the announcement earlier this month that no permits for uranium exploration or mining would be issued in Quebec until an independent study into its environmental impact had been completed.
Further, the company's legal counsel has informed Blanchet that the company holds him "liable for damages caused by his misconduct up until this time" and has "given instructions" for the start of legal proceedings to obtain "compensatory and punitive damages."
The province of Quebec has at least 40,000 tonnes of indicated or inferred uranium deposits including Strateco's Matoush, with indicated resources of 5600 tU at 0.81% uranium and inferred resources of 6320 tU at 0.375%. In October 2012, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) granted Strateco a licence for advanced exploration activities at the project in northern Quebec, including the excavation of an exploration ramp and construction of surface facilities. However, various groups continued to push for a moratorium on uranium exploration and mining in Quebec."

Role of politics and nuclear energy

A good read: Role of politics and nuclear energy: "Only two months after his inauguration on that freezing day in Washington, $2.25m was released to fund cutting edge nuclear research at US universities, and eight months before election day $450m was pledged for the support of small modular reactors (SMR) to be directed at engineering, design certification and licensing for up to two SMR designs over five years, subject to Congress’ approval.
Sandwiched in between was the $8.3bn in federal loan guarantees in 2010 to contribute to the funding of Southern Company’s new reactors at the Vogle site in Georgia, with the first one projected to be in operation in 2016, ironically at the end of Obama’s time in office.
Southern Company executives are insistent that the loan guarantees alongside benefits up to $2bn in the form of savings from recovering financing costs during construction, production tax credits, lower-than-forecast interest rates and commodity prices, are the reason why their customers can see the potential in units 3 and 4 at the site. "

Friday, 19 April 2013

Medical isotope production using a subcritical assembly

Someone brought this to my attention, an alternative way of producing medical isotopes: Medical isotope production using a subcritical assembly: "The system employs a low-enriched uranium (LEU) solution driven by a beam-target deuterium-tritium neutron source that does not have a vacuum window. Pressure in the gas target and a vacuum in the accelerator are maintained with differential pumping. The neutron driver occupies the center of a vessel containing the LEU solution and moderator in a geometry optimized for high efficiency production. Hydrogen and oxygen from radiolysis of water will be recombined and volatile radioactive gas will be removed continuously during operation."

Private sector to run nuclear labs

No further updates are available at this time as where the GoCo process is at: Private sector to run nuclear labs: "The Government of Canada is planning to bring in the private sector to manage Atomic Energy of Canada Limited's Nuclear Laboratories, including Chalk River in Ontario and Whiteshell Laboratories in Manitoba.
The government said on 28 February that it will launch a competitive procurement process for the management of AECL's Nuclear Laboratories "in the coming months." It plans to use the services of financial and nuclear advisors as part of the process.
Natural Resources Canada said that it is seeking to implement a government-owned, contractor-operated model, as is used in the US and UK. "In doing so, the Government is demonstrating its commitment to fairness and the responsible use of taxpayers' dollars," a statement said. In 2011 AECL's reactor and services business was sold to SNC Lavalin; the laboratories were excluded.
The nuclear laboratories are responsible for R&D in safety, waste management and clean energy technologies, the production of medical isotopes, and other areas."

The Nuclear Future: Can we make it safe?

A must go Public Lecture by Dr. Shoesmith if you are in St. John: The Nuclear Future: Can we make it safe? "“Contrary to public perception, research on the safe storage and disposal of nuclear wastes has been underway in Canada for over 35 years,” said Dr. Shoesmith. “It is part of a major collaborative international effort to design, and assess the safety of, disposal scenarios for individual nations.”
His talk will address the geologic properties required of potential disposal locations and how various nations approach site selection both technically and socially."

Point Lepreau operating at less than 1% capacity

Point Lepreau operating at less than 1% capacity: "More problems at the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station have had the plant operating at less than one per cent power since Wednesday night, NB Power acknowledged late Friday.
"We were at less than zero (per cent) late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning," utility spokesperson Kathleen Duguay stated in an email to CBC News.
"We have been evaluating the benefit of going to zero since early last week."
NB Power says it continues to have problems with the chemistry of the water in Lepreau's non-nuclear boilers, an issue that caused the reactor to be turned off once already in December.
Duguay says that, in combination with ongoing problems refuelling the reactor, led to a decision to power Lepreau down almost completely to allow both issues to be tackled at once.
She said it won't be known until next week when the reactor will be able to be powered back up.
Refuelling will resume when the reactor is back online.
Lepreau has operated at less than full capacity since coming back online last November, following a four-and-a-half year refurbishment."

Brazil: upgrades and new-build required as hydrologic risks mount

Brazil: upgrades and new-build required as hydrologic risks mount: "Brazilian nuclear energy received a boost after the announcement of a BR3.8 billion deal between the government backed utility Electobras and the state owned bank Caixa Economica Federal, to fund the construction of a third thermonuclear power plant at the Angra site on the South East coast.
The cash injection is due to be used on purchasing machinery, equipment and services for the plant in an agre...ement that will see the federal government underwrite the deal, where Caixa Economica Federal will receive 6.5% interest per year with an amortisation period of 20 years.
Currently the only two reactors online in Brazil are the Angra 1 and 2 plants, that began commercially operating in 1985 and 2000 respectively, that combined create 2007MWe of electricity per year. The two plants are going to need modernizing, so the lifespan of the plants can be extended. A financial commitment by the government has already been authorised in light of results from stress tests.
So what is in store for the Brazilian nuclear energy, in a country that is often regarded as economically a country for the future? "

Desalination and alternative markets to get SMRs off starting block

Desalination and alternative markets to get SMRs off starting block "The case for SMRs may have taken a step forward following the USA’s recent major drought, which lasted the whole of 2012. Other smaller scale non-traditional markets could also spur SMR commercialisation. We look at the possibilities.
In the USA, desalination has been considered as an option to help avoid this kind of crisis in the future. SMRs, which are smaller and easier to establish than conventional nuclear reactors, could become the most suitable type of facility for these types of alternative industrial or civil projects in a number of countries."

Renewable Energy's Hidden Costs?

good read: Renewable Energy's Hidden Costs? "A recent Bloomberg press release got wide coverage with its claim that wind power is now cheaper than coal. But a new report from the OECD shows that when you cover the full cost to the grid, variable renewables like wind don’t add up as favourably.
It is often claimed that introducing variable renewable energy resources such as solar and wind into the electricity network comes with some extra cost penalties, due to “system effects”. These system effects include intermittent electricity access, network congestion, instability, environmental impacts, and security of supply.
Now a new report from the OECD titled System Effects of Low-Carbon Electricity Systems gives some hard dollar values for these additional imposts. The OECD work focuses on nuclear power, coal, gas, and renewables such as wind and solar. Their conclusion is that grid-level system costs can have significant impacts on the total cost of delivered electricity for some power-generation technologies.
All generation technologies cause system effects to some degree. They are all connected to the same transmission and distribution grid structure and deliver electricity into the same market. They also exert impacts on each other, on the total load available to satisfy demand, and the stability of the grid’s frequency control. These dependencies are heightened by the fact that only small amounts of cost-efficient electricity storage are available."

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Nuclear Industrial Strategy: The UK's Nuclear Future

Remarkable long-term vision and planned actions to make it happen, something Canada is lacking: UK's policy paper on nuclear is out: "The Nuclear Industrial Strategy identifies priorities that government and industry will work on together in a long-term partnership. It aims to provide more opportunities for economic growth and creating jobs through an increased share of all aspects of the nuclear market. It covers:
•opportunities in the nuclear new build programme
•waste management and decommissioning
•operations and maintenance
•associated professional services, both in the UK and in overseas markets
The Strategy includes:
•a new Nuclear Industry Council, that bring together all the key players across the nuclear supply chain
•better coordination of research and development (R&D) and innovation through new bodies: the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board and a Nuclear Innovation and Research Office
•a cost reduction initiative to investigate the scope for reducing costs across all aspects of the nuclear industry
•a long-term plan to ensure we will have the skills required for the future"

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

B&W, DOE Sign Cooperative Agreement for Small Modular Reactor Funding

US moves forward with SMRs: B&W, DOE Sign Cooperative Agreement for Small Modular Reactor Funding: The Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W) (NYSE: BWC) announced today that its subsidiary, Babcock & Wilcox mPower, Inc. (B&W mPower), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have signed a Cooperative Agreement for funding made available through DOE’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Licensing Technical Support Program for the development and licensing of B&W’s mPower™ technology.
The $79 million allocated for the first year of the program will be immediately available to the B&W mPower program. While the DOE has projected that approximately $150 million will be made available during the five-year period of the DOE award, subject to incremental appropriations from Congress and B&W mPower’s compliance with the terms of the Cooperative Agreement, the Cooperative Agreement allows for $226 million or more in federal funding. B&W mPower intends to use any additional funding made available on a cost-shared basis for licensing and engineering activities that qualify under this award.
“The Department is pleased to complete this important step in our SMR Licensing Technical Support Program,” said Dr. Peter Lyons, U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. “Our work with B&W mPower will help advance the commercialization of safe and efficient SMRs in the United States. U.S.-built SMRs have the potential to cost-effectively support our nation’s energy and climate goals while boosting U.S. manufacturing capabilities and job growth.”"

Friday, 12 April 2013

State of denial

State of denial: "From climate change to vaccines, evolution to flu, denialists are on the march. Why are so many people refusing to accept what the evidence is telling them? "

Nuclear Energy Saves Lives

A great short video from DNews posted by energycollective: Nuclear Energy Saves Lives: "I stumbled across the above video from DNews. Here is how DNews describes itself:
DNews is dedicated to satisfying your curiosity and to bringing you mind-bending stories and perspectives you won’t find anywhere else.
Though there are some points that could be improved, I think the presenter did a pretty fair job of summarizing James Hansen’s recent study on the beneficial health impact of using nuclear energy. For many people who have not deeply thought about the issue, the idea that nuclear energy saves lives certainly qualifies as a “mind-bending story” from a unique perspective."

Nuclear power: The only available solution to global warming

A good read: Nuclear power: The only available solution to global warming: "New fission technologies not only eliminate the concerns about safety and waste that plague today's reactors; they can also consume existing nuclear waste.
Global warming, energy independence, water scarcity and third-world economic growth are all amenable to a common, safe, clean, cost-competitive and field-tested nuclear solution. Why isn’t this solution universally embraced and implemented?
I suggest two reasons. First, we humans respond much more strongly to dramatic events, like earthquakes, violent weather and terrorist acts, than we do to steady-state threats, such as auto accidents, medical errors and coal particles. At a cost of $4 trillion, we started two wars in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that killed 2996. The death tolls in the US from auto accidents (30000), medical errors (44000–200000), and coal dust (13000) are not only higher, but also perennial. The gradual character of carbon dioxide emissions and global warming is elevating our “boiling frog” tendencies to an entirely new scale of danger. Although the problem may not excite us, our pot is warming so quickly that we must leap to survive.
A measure of the magnitude and urgency of this challenge can be found in Bill Gates’ summary of his wonderful TED lecture on this topic: Despite the time, effort and money he has devoted to new vaccines and seeds, if he could be granted a single wish for the coming decades, it would be for a practical, CO2-free energy source. That explicit prioritization reflects his awareness of an especially unfortunate feature of warming, that its burden falls most heavily on the politically voiceless poor, and less heavily on those with the means to address the challenge. The disparity adds to our inertia.
The second reason lies in deeply entrenched myths (which for my purposes I shall define as untruths breeding complacency), rooted in unrealistically high expectations for renewable energy and unrealistically negative expectations for nuclear power. Criticism of nuclear power focuses on history and ignores dramatic advances in fission technology. This incomplete picture gives rise to myths that conflict directly with the assertions of Gates and of John Parmentola, the US army's director of research and laboratory management: that nuclear fission is the only “practical” solution in view.
The remainder of this essay comments on Gates’ criteria for “practicality,” and examines the factors of availability, reliability, cost, scale, safety, proliferation and waste. The good news is that new fission technologies make fission clean, safe, competitively inexpensive, and resistant to terrorism. Moreover, they solve the nuclear-waste challenge. One technology claims to reduce the high-level waste output of a typical power plant from 20 tons per year to a few kilograms. American startups are pursuing commercialization, but much of the action is in other countries, notably China and India. "

Monday, 8 April 2013

The contribution of Marie Skłodowska-Curie to the development of modern oncology

A great read: The contribution of Marie Skłodowska-Curie to the development of modern oncology "At the end of 19th century a few fundamental discoveries changed diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities in medicine and, particularly, in oncology: in 1895 Wilhelm Roentgen from Germany discovered X-rays, in 1886 Henry Becquerel described the phenomenon of radioactivity of uranium, and in 1898 Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium and polonium. In 1903 the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded jointly to Henry Becquerel, and Marie and Pierre Curie for the discovery of radioactivity. Maria Skłodowska-Curie received the 1911 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for her discovery of radium and polonium"
"A relatively new technique based on the discoveries of Marie Skłodowska-Curie is nuclear medicine which uses substances labeled with radioisotopes introduced into the organs of the patient for imaging of the tumors. Progress in nuclear medicine was possible after the Second World War when, after the discoveries of Frederic and Irene Joliot-Curie from 1930s, it became possible to produce artificial radioisotopes in amounts suitable for use in medicine"

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Short-term, applied research won't win Canada any Nobel prizes by David Naylor, President of the University of Toronto

A good read: Short-term, applied research won't win Canada any Nobel prizes by David Naylor, President of the University of Toronto: "There’s a popular myth about universities as ivory towers full of fat-cat academics and loopy students asking unanswerable questions. Their willful irrelevance is a waste of taxpayers’ money, so the critics say; get them out of the public trough and doing things Canadian business can really use. I call it a Zombie idea. It’s dangerous, because it has infected some decision-makers. And it’s hard to kill, because there is some truth, and therefore some life in it.
On this latter point, recall that federal and provincial governments sharply increased their spending on research starting in the 1990s. We owe a debt to the university leaders who advocated for those increases. But, in making the case, they expected an economic bonanza – just a hop and a skip from the lab bench to new multinational superstar companies. Everyone forgot that the private sector – not universities – ultimately drives commercialization. Failure to meet those expectations has helped feed the research Zombie, increasing the clamour for applied research with a short-term orientation.
In fact this Zombie has already had an effect on research funding. The data in the first accompanying graph, Fettered and Unfettered Research, show the funding patterns for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada over the last 30 years.
You can see the pronounced trend. Converting the proportions into real dollars, about $230-million of federal funding has moved from unfettered to fettered research at the University of Toronto over the past five years alone, roughly consistent with a pattern stretching back almost a generation. In other words, we are already engaged with partners. We are already engaged in match-funded, industry-facing research with an applied orientation. This is a national trend, driven by funding decisions over many years.
But did anyone notice that our innovation and competitiveness indicators improved over this period? I didn’t. In fact, the real problem was never the type of research that universities were doing – we had the wrong diagnosis, and the wrong prescription. It was business-related R&D spending that lagged, which is why the Jenkins Panel (on which I was privileged to serve) was convened by the Minister of State for Science and Technology, to examine how to stimulate business spending on innovation.
This funding ecosystem, combined with many disincentives to excellence, makes it harder for us to reach the top tier of the podium. Perhaps this is why Canada has had no home-grown Nobel laureates for 20 years. The research Zombie masters would have you believe that it doesn’t matter. Nobel, Schnobel – let’s level down in the best Canadian tradition and go for the bronze. But there are very good reasons why great basic, disruptive, fundamental research matters.
The first is that the success of home-grown Nobel laureates – not imports – raises aspirations for everyone. Their scholarship inspires and attracts others to follow. Put another way, a country where world-shaking discoveries are made routinely is a country that will always be able to compete by attracting the best and brightest to its shores.
The second is that great scholars doing fundamental research are often inspiring teachers. Ray Jawardhana, for example, is a star-gazer, hunting for Earth-like planets. What’s the value of that? You can’t turn that into a product or service tomorrow. But Professor Jawardhana’s work raises fundamental questions about humanity’s place in the cosmos. He and countless other colleagues spend their lives asking questions that stretch young minds and change expectations. We want – and we need – a generation of young Canadians for whom the sky itself is not the limit.
And here is a third reason why serious fundamental research matters. In my field, medical research, countless discoveries with no immediate application turned out to be the foundations for life-changing and live-saving innovations in clinical care. You can’t predict this in advance. We need to remember that the distinction between fundamental and applied research is misleading. As Nobel laureate Sir George Porter famously pointed out, there is applied research and yet-to-be-applied research.
Geoffrey Hinton’s research into machine learning algorithms and deep neural networks is a brilliant case in point. It has led to unexpected advances in computer vision, speech-recognition, data mining, and – astonishingly – real-time language translation that is now used by Google and Microsoft.
There is another facet here. One needs excellence in research and scholarship across disciplines because no one can predict how disciplines will collide. So much of the best innovation is convergent.
Here is just one fascinating example. Lorna MacDonald teaches performance, opera, and vocal pedagogy in U of T’s Faculty of Music – a very strong program, internationally renowned. At the same time, Professor MacDonald collaborates with the clinicians at the Hospital for Sick Children on cochlear implants, laryngology, speech-language pathology, and pediatric voice and hearing care.
In closing, I offer both a warning and a note of optimism. First, the warning. The second graphic, Measuring Up in Global Rankings, presents composites of rankings across multiple league tables involving Canada’s research-intensive universities.
The data suggest that not enough of our best research universities are figuring strongly on the world stage. And some of them are at serious risk of losing ground. In one jurisdiction after another – China, Brazil, Singapore, France, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. – major targeted investments have been made to ensure that the strongest research universities are able to compete globally.
Earlier this month, the Times Higher Education group released their rankings of university reputations. These results are based on a survey of thousands of professors worldwide. McGill and the University of British Columbia went from 31st from 25th place. Toronto held steady at 16th. (The third graphic, Canadian Universities in World Rankings, shows these comparative rankings)
Let me share the warning from Phil Baty, the editor of the Times Higher Education rankings and a veteran observer of universities worldwide. Mr. Baty said that the decline was a direct result of Canada’s “highly egalitarian approach.” He put it precisely: “Countries around the world are picking winners and investing heavily in them, so they are coming up the ranks while Canada is slipping.”
Sobering as it is, Mr. Baty’s concise formulation does not address what for me is the most important asset of all – and the asset that will be devalued the most if the Zombies win. I am referring, of course, to young talent. The resources that matter most aren’t in the ground or offshore. The resources that will win the day for Canada are the inquiring, agile, and creative minds of the next generation.
I continue to believe that, given the right education and opportunities, with a full suite of institutions with different missions, including research universities that can compete on the global stage, the next generation of Canadians will make great discoveries, develop transformative technologies, imagine more successful societies, ask hard questions, and lead with verve and vision. I also have faith that, in the years ahead, if we make the right choices, the Zombies will disappear – and our young people will secure a bright future for this great country.
David Naylor is the president of the University of Toronto. This article is abridged from a speech to the Empire Club earlier this month."

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Tar Sands Disaster

A must read: The Tar Sands Disaster: " Both the cabinet and the Conservative parliamentary caucus are heavily populated by politicians who deny mainstream climate science. The Conservatives have slashed financing for climate science, closed facilities that do research on climate change, told federal government climate scientists not to speak publicly about their work without approval and tried, unsuccessfully, to portray the tar sands industry as environmentally benign.
The federal minister of natural resources, Joe Oliver, has attacked “environmental and other radical groups” working to stop tar sands exports. He has focused particular ire on groups getting money from outside Canada, implying that they’re acting as a fifth column for left-wing foreign interests. At a time of widespread federal budget cuts, the Conservatives have given Canada’s tax agency extra resources to audit registered charities. It’s widely assumed that environmental groups opposing the tar sands are a main target.
This coercive climate prevents Canadians from having an open conversation about the tar sands. Instead, our nation behaves like a gambler deep in the hole, repeatedly doubling down on our commitment to the industry. "

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Can household solar photovoltaics provide a primary source of low-emission power?

Can household solar photovoltaics provide a primary source of low-emission power? "PV’s greatest strength lies in being embedded within the low voltage distribution network as a supplementary power source, where it can potentially provide valuable network support, but will require electricity market reform along with a substantial decline in lifetime battery costs. The conclusion is that the short-run tactical response of the expansion of PV without storage works against a long-run strategic approach to deep emission cuts, which will ultimately require the successful adoption of one or more of the candidate low-emission baseload technologies."

How do Russia and the US measure up on SMRs?

How do Russia and the US measure up on SMRs? "Recent developments have focused attention on small modular reactor activity in the US. But Russia is pressing ahead with developments of its own.
As previously reported in Nuclear Energy Insider, the mPower America Team, made up of the Babcock & Wilcox Company, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel, is powering ahead with SMR commercialisation plans after winning US Department of Energy funding.
Meanwhile other American SMR developers, including Westinghouse, NuScale Power, Gen4 Energy and SMR LLC, are pressing forward with ambitious programmes of their own.
At stake, not only an important domestic market, but also the potential for exports to emerging nuclear customers in regions such as the Middle East and North Africa. But US manufacturers are not alone in the race to make SMRs a commercial reality."

Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars

Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars: "Human travel to Mars has long been the unachievable dangling carrot for space programs. Now, astronauts could be a step closer to our nearest planetary neighbor through a unique manipulation of nuclear fusion, the same energy that powers the sun and stars."

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

AECL CEO Doctor Bob Walker talks about possibility of a new research reactor at Chalk River

AECL CEO Doctor Bob Walker talks about possibility of a new research reactor at Chalk River: Considering that it takes about 10 years to design and build a new research reactor and several more years to build and commission neutron scattering instruments, even if such a future research reactor included neutron beams, it may be too late to avoid a neutron gap and maintain the existing neutron scattering competency in Canada... "A new reactor is a possibility for Chalk River. AECL is gearing up for the second phase of restructuring, and AECL CEO Doctor Bob Walker presented County Council with an overview of the plans over the next four years. One of the possibilities is a government - commercial partnership to build a new research reactor sometime after 2016. He says the government is not willing to go it alone but would be willing to talk about cost sharing.
These changes will not come overnight. It is expected selecting a new consortium to take over management of the lab will take two years, followed by a phase in period of an additional two years. AECL currently contributes $300 million in salaries and an additional $250 million in supplies and services to the Renfrew County economy."

OPAL Research Reactor

A great short video on OPAL Research Reactor: "Australia’s Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor is a state-of-the-art 20 Megawatt reactor that uses low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel to achieve a range of nuclear medicine, research, scientific, industrial and production goals."

Report predicts $5.5B radiopharma market by 2017

Report predicts $5.5B radiopharma market by 2017: "The report estimates that Tc-99m diagnostic procedures are expected to increase by more than 15% in mature markets of North America, Europe, Japan, South Korea, and Asia-Pacific nations between 2010 and 2030.
However, a shortage of molybdenum-99, the precursor to Tc-99m, has been a threat to this industry. Also, the high cost of devices using radioisotopes, short half-lives, lack of good manufacturing practices, and stringent regulatory approvals are major hurdles to growth of the market, according to the report.
The scheduled shutdowns of the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor in Canada in 2016 and the Osiris reactor in France in 2018 pose major risks for manufacturers in the near future, MarketsandMarkets noted. However, radiopharmaceutical companies have increased the production of thallium to meet the shortage, as it is the radiopharmaceutical most commonly used as a substitute for technetium-99 in cardiac stress tests."