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:

Thursday, 29 November 2012

History of crystallography

History of crystallography, a great listen from BBC radio: "Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of crystallography, the study of crystals and their structure. The discovery in the early 20th century that X-rays could be diffracted by a crystal revolutionised our knowledge of materials. This crystal technology has touched most people's lives, thanks to the vital role it plays in diverse scientific disciplines - from physics and chemistry, to molecular biology and mineralogy. To date, 28 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to scientists working with X-ray crystallography, an indication of its crucial importance.
The history of crystallography began with the work of Johannes Kepler in the 17th century, but perhaps the most crucial leap in understanding came with the work of the father-and-son team the Braggs in 1912. They built on the work of the German physicist Max von Laue who had proved that X-rays are a form of light waves and that it was possible to scatter these rays using a crystal. The Braggs undertook seminal experiments which transformed our perception of crystals and their atomic arrangements, and led to some of the most significant scientific findings of the last century - such as revealing the structure of DNA. "

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Understanding Nuclear Power Plants

A great short video from CNSC: Understanding Nuclear Power Plants "The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has recently created a video showing the progression of an accident scenario involving a total station blackout at a nuclear power plant.
This video was designed to help the public better understand the multiple layers of safety systems at Canadian nuclear power plants. It highlights that even during an extremely severe accident, nuclear reactors in this country will safely shut down and contain radioactivity."

New York City's greenhouse gas emissions as one-ton spheres of carbon dioxide gas

Nuclear energy can help cut down the greenhouse gas emissions!
New York City's greenhouse gas emissions as one-ton spheres of carbon dioxide gas: "In 2010 New York City added 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent) to the atmosphere, but that number means little to most people because few of us have a sense of scale for atmospheric pollution.
Carbon Visuals ( and Environmental Defense Fund ( wanted to make those emissions feel a bit more real - the total emissions and the rate of emission. Designed to engage the 'person on the street', this version is exploratory and still work in progress. Mayor Bloomberg's office has not been involved in the creation or dissemination of this video."

Small Reactor for Deep Space Exploration

Neat! Small Reactor for Deep Space Exploration: "This is the first demonstration of a space nuclear reactor system to produce electricity in the United States since 1965, and an experiment demonstrated the first use of a heat pipe to cool a small nuclear reactor and then harvest the heat to power a Stirling engine at the Nevada National Security Site's Device Assembly Facility confirms basic nuclear reactor physics and heat transfer for a simple, reliable space power system."

Stop the War on Science

Stop the War on Science: "It's time to stop the war on science. Since Prime Minister Harper came into power, Canada has been subjected to a ruthless assault on its science capacity. This attack has been systemic and strategic, targeting science that seeks to understand the impacts of industry on the environment -- information the Harper Government considers inconvenient to their economic agenda. These actions will result in the significant and widespread degradation of our country's environment and natural resources.
The crippling of Canada's public science capacity under the guise of austerity measures, coupled with the weakening of federal environmental laws in the absence of open debate, is a blatant desecration of science, nature, and democracy. We need to stop this war on science, and let's start by saving the ELA.
Help spread this video in the name of ending the Harper Government's war on science. Go to for more information on how YOU can take action!"

Monday, 26 November 2012

UK grants first nuclear site licence for 25 years

UK grants first nuclear site licence for 25 years: "The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation today granted the first new site licence for a nuclear power station in Britain for 25 years.
The licence has been granted to NNB Generation Company, a subsidiary of EDF (Euronext: EDF), which wants to build a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset."

France to build world's largest tokamak nuclear fusion reactor

The French state has authorised full construction of the world's largest tokamak nuclear fusion reactor with a formal decree to allow creation of a 'basic nuclear installation':

Friday, 23 November 2012

Gas industry joins anti-nuke movement

Why this is not surprising!??? Gas industry joins anti-nuke movement: "A new nuclear debate is starting to percolate in Ontario.
At industry conferences and in the corridors of Queen's Park, energy activists are questioning whether Ontario should invest billions in new nuclear energy units.
But these activists aren't the longtime foes of the nuclear industry, who based their arguments on moral and environmental grounds.
They're working for corporate clients and asking hard questions about the economics of nuclear power, given the alternatives, like plentiful natural gas.
They're suggesting that producing electricity with gas may be cheaper, faster and less risky than building new nuclear units.
"In our view it's going to be extremely challenging for any government in the future in this province to do new nuclear," Jason Chee-Aloy of consulting firm Power Advisory LLC said in a recent presentation. "From a pure dollars and cents cost point of view, there are real issues with it," he told the Association of Power Producers of Ontario (APPrO).
Chee-Aloy is not a fringe player. He's an economist and former senior energy bureaucrat with the Ontario Power Authority.
The skepticism is a direct challenge to Ontario Power Generation's proposal to build two new reactors, each capable of producing 1,000 megawatts, at its Darlington nuclear station.
Bruce Boland, senior vice-president of OPG, makes the case for building new nuclear units.
"Same reason we've done nuclear in the past," he said in an interview. "Reliable, relative low cost power, and very clean."

Why Communicate Science?

A good read: Why Communicate Science? People Need What Scientists Have; Scientists Need People to Have it... "By “communicate science,” I mean professional scientists explaining something about science to non-scientists. My question is, “Why?” But many scientists are still debating whether we should; many see why they should not.
Communicating science takes time away from research, from teaching, from being home; from something else we need to be doing. The time is not adequately compensated. Doing interviews with reporters, or visiting legislators, has no assigned “impact factor” that boosts vitae-value. Appearing on the radio or TV or in the news, giving talks to civic groups, writing op-eds or articles geared to “popular” audiences, or even a translational book for the general public; all count little, sometimes nothing, towards tenure. Sometimes they actually hurt. Communicating science can be seen as unprofessional. Peers may think less of you. It may seem absurd that many scientists would think it unprofessional to explain science, but that thinking is a fact in academia. And anyway, communicating is the job of communicators such as professional science writers.
All the above reasons not to communicate science are valid. Next question: Are those reasons sufficient? Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein apparently didn’t think so. Granted, we’re not them. We all juggle priorities and make compromises on how we can and must spend our time. But it’s my conviction that scientists should elevate communicating science as something important and worthwhile. That brings us to “Why.”
Some scientists believe we should communicate because public support is crucial for continued public funding. That’s circular and self-serving. In the long run, it’s likely self-defeating. Simply explaining that the space program resulted in such marvels as Tang and Teflon–two oft-cited benefits of science that, in fact, everyone can live without–doesn’t adequately elevate the power of science above everything else vying for public money, such as military spending, bank-bailouts, infrastructure, etc., etc.
I believe it’s important for people to get to know scientists as people, as members of civil society in their communities. And I believe the message is not one of facts, nor reports about the latest research, but of the overarching and deeply penetrating grandeur of science: how it uniquely has the power to unlock the secrets of life and the universe–and how scientific thinking can help people evaluate claims, think for themselves, and demand proof."

South Korea invests big in basic research

South Korea invests big in basic research, really amazing that such recognition for support of basic research is done by a country that is traditionally big in industry, it is a simple but important fact: The countries that lead in science and technology have “not only produced numerous Nobel laureates but also generated colossal national wealth on the strength of the achievements of basic research.” yet why is Canada moving in the opposite direction???: "When times are tough, the tendency among Western countries is to knuckle down and demand that research produce results fast. South Korea, with its new Institute for Basic Science (IBS), is doing the opposite. Starting with 15 or so research centers this year, the IBS is on an ambitious track to grow by 2017 into a network of 50 centers with a total annual budget of $600 million.
At the 17 May IBS inauguration ceremony, South Korean president Myung-bak Lee said, “We have thus far only emulated advanced technologies of other countries and traced their footsteps. In order for us to emerge as an advanced, leading nation, however, we need to become a creative pacesetter based on basic science and original technologies.”
The countries that lead in science and technology, he said, have “not only produced numerous Nobel laureates but also generated colossal national wealth on the strength of the achievements of basic research.” With the launch of the IBS, Lee said, “the nation is marking a new beginning. Our future depends heavily on the science community.”"

Open Letter from the EIROforum DGs to the European Council

An Open letter from the eight EIROforum directors general, preparatory to the European Council summit on the EU Multiannual financial framework. The letter is signed by - among others - the ILL Director, Andrew Harrison: We need a similar letter for Canada! "We call on you – the Heads of State or Government of the EU Member States and the Presidents of the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission – to reconfirm your collective support for science so that it can continue to make a significant contribution to Europe’s economic recovery and beyond."

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Uranium Moratoriums Are Not Supported by Science: CNSC President

Uranium Moratoriums Are Not Supported by Science: CNSC President "Following the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) recent decision to license a uranium exploration project in Quebec, I’m dismayed that recent statements and discussions over the safety of uranium mining have been based neither on fact nor science. Uranium mining and milling in this country is tightly regulated by the CNSC. Canada is a world leader in responsibly developing this resource. This is largely attributable to a solid safety track record.
Uranium mining is the only type of mining that has a dedicated federal regulator that oversees all aspects of operation on an ongoing basis. Provincial oversight is also strictly applied. In fact, uranium mining is the most regulated, monitored and understood type of mining in Canada.
Activists, medical practitioners and politicians who have demanded moratoriums may have various reasons for doing so, but their claims that the public and environment are at risk are fundamentally wrong. The provincial governments that have decided to ban uranium exploration have done so ignoring years of evidence-based scientific research on this industry.
The CNSC would never compromise safety by issuing a licence or allowing a uranium mine or mill to operate if it were not safe to do so. All monitoring data shows that uranium mining is as safe as other conventional metal mining in Canada. "

How cosmic ray muons could reveal hidden nuclear waste?

Very cool! How cosmic ray muons could reveal hidden nuclear waste? "Muons were once used to "X-ray" an Egyptian pyramid. Now physicists hope to use a similar method to peer inside old nuclear waste repositories."

Recycling spent nuclear fuel: the ultimate solution for the US?

Recycling spent nuclear fuel: the ultimate solution for the US? "Unlike Russia, Japan and several European countries, the United States does not recycle its used nuclear fuel. But new, advanced drivers are reviving the possibility of recycling the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. What will influence this decision and what conditions will need to be met first?"... "Through Areva, France has been at the forefront in UNF recycling and has reached an industrial maturity that lends itself well to use elsewhere. Areva has undertaken de-conversion of enrichment tails at Pierrelatte since the 1980s, and today, at its La Hague site, it operates the MELOX plant; a used-fuel recycling facility with capacity of 1,700 tons per year that has been working since 1995. It is also the world’s only operational large-capacity MOX fuel production plant.
Areva has proposed building a $20bn plant in the US with a similar technology to the one it uses in France, where 17 per cent of electricity is derived from recycled UNF. According to Areva, the group has joined with Duke Energy, one of America's largest nuclear power producers, to submit a proposal to the Department of Energy for the construction of an MOX-fuel fabrication plant to supply MOX fuel to reactors in the US.
“A common question raised during discussions on reprocessing is, ‘If the French are reprocessing used fuel, why isn’t the US?’. In many ways, the U.S. and France represent opposite ends of the spectrum,” notes Sowder.
“In France, the recycling of MOX in light-water reactors is a mature, ongoing commercial practice supported by an existing industrial, commercial, and regulatory infrastructure. This situation has resulted from a deliberate, multi-decade national energy policy prioritizing energy security for a country with limited domestic natural energy resources. Accordingly, there would need to be a compelling reason for France to abandon its recycling programme,” he explains."

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

US to fund small, modular nuclear reactors

The US government to fund up to half the cost of a five-year project to design and commercialize small modular nuclear power reactors: "o develop a new generation of nuclear power, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will fund up to half the cost of a five-year project to design and commercialize small, modular reactors for the United States.
The Department of Energy said it aims to have these reactors, which have attracted private funding from investors including Bill Gates, in operation by 2022. It said it will negotiate the project's total cost with Babcock & Wilcox, an energy technology company based in Charlotte, that will lead the project in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International.
"Low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America's energy future," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in announcing the award, citing President Obama's push for an all-of-the-above energy strategy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. He said DOE will accept funding requests from other companies developing such technology.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) are typically about one-third the size of current nuclear power plants. Although some of the technology has been used in naval propulsion plants, DOE says it's not been commercialized yet in the United States but could offer lower upfront costs, improved safety and greater flexibility. It says SMRs could be made in U.S. factories and moved to sites, including remote or small areas that cannot support large reactors, where they would be ready to "plug and play" upon arrival."

Monday, 19 November 2012

Astronauts Could Survive Mars Radiation, Curiosity Rover Finds

Astronauts Could Survive Mars Radiation, Curiosity Rover Finds: Mars rover Curiosity's radiation measurements - the first ever taken on the surface of another planet - appear to be roughly similar to those of low-Earth orbit. "Absolutely, astronauts can live in this environment."

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Nano insights could lead to improved nuclear reactors

Nano insights could lead to improved nuclear reactors: "In order to build the next generation of nuclear reactors, materials scientists are trying to unlock the secrets of certain materials that are radiation-damage tolerant. Now researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have brought new understanding to one of those secrets—how the interfaces between two carefully selected metals can absorb, or heal, radiation damage.
"When it comes to selecting proper structural materials for advanced nuclear reactors, it is crucial that we understand radiation damage and its effects on materials properties. And we need to study these effects on isolated small-scale features," says Julia R. Greer, an assistant professor of materials science and mechanics at Caltech. With that in mind, Greer and colleagues from Caltech, Sandia National Laboratories, UC Berkeley, and Los Alamos National Laboratory have taken a closer look at radiation-induced damage, zooming in all the way to the nanoscale—where lengths are measured in billionths of meters. Their results appear online in the journals Advanced Functional Materials and Small."

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Quebec latest decommissioning supply chain opportunity

Quebec latest decommissioning supply chain opportunity: "In Canada’s largest province of Quebec, Hydro Quebec has announced that the only nuclear power plant that exists there is to be shut down in a $1.8m project, where the decommissioning process will take up to 50 years.
Quebec Hydro recently revealed that the Gentilly-2 generating station that has been in reliably in operation since 1983 will stop producing electricity on December 28 this year.
It was decided that the plant will cease to be in operation due to financial reasons, after an audit revised refurbishment cycle costs up to $4.3bn, which was a significant increase on the original cost of rebuilding.
Hydro Quebec has said that it will release further detailed analysis of why they decided to pull the plug on the plant.
When the plant becomes dormant, plans are in place of how stage by stage the building will be decommissioned. Initially there will be an 18- month period where staff will be involved in defueling the reactor, treating the heavy water and deactivating several systems."

Isotope analysis provides clues in crime case

Very cool: Isotope analysis provides clues in crime case:

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Bragg Centenary

Bragg Centenary: "In 2013 it will be 100 years since the pioneering work undertaken by William Henry Bragg and his son, William Lawrence Bragg, which underpins the discipline of X-ray crystallography, and for which they were jointly awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915. By formulating the relationship between a crystal’s atomic structure and its X-ray diffraction pattern they provided a tool which has revolutionised our understanding of the structure of matter ranging from minerals, pharmaceutical materials, and catalysts to DNA, proteins and viruses."
For those who could also access Nature Magazine:

CNSC invites comments on Draft GD-384, Site Access Security Clearance for High-Security Sites

Here is your chance to comment on CNSC's Draft GD-384, Site Access Security Clearance for High-Security Sites: ... it also has the link to the full draft pdf document... "The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has released for a second round of public consultation draft guidance document GD-384, Site Access Security Clearance for High-Security Sites.
GD-384, Site Access Security Clearance for High-Security Sites, sets out the guidance of the CNSC for processing a site access security clearance. The document was developed to address key considerations for licensees of high-security sites and nuclear facilities within Canada who will be authorizing unescorted access to protected areas, as defined under the Nuclear Security Regulations. The purpose of the Site Access Security Clearance (SASC) is to prevent unreasonable risk to high-security sites. This includes risks to operations, personnel, safety and national security from an insider threat.
The document has undergone significant revisions as a result of the first round of public consultation. The revised draft of GD-384 includes additional details on the screening and interview processes (including managing risk), and on granting a SASC. Guidance on reporting to the CNSC and the need for an appeal process has also been added. Furthermore, three appendices with process maps have been inserted into the document to clarify and provide step-by-step instructions on the SASC process."

Optical atomic clocks could redefine unit of time

Neat! Optical atomic clocks could redefine unit of time: "Optical atomic clocks now outperform the best microwave cesium atomic clocks in terms of precision.
Never measure anything but frequency!” was the advice [1] of the late Arthur Schawlow, the 1981 Nobel Prize winner in physics. Frequency is, in fact, the physical quantity that can be measured with by far the greatest accuracy. This is because it can be referenced to a highly accurate standard: the cesium atomic clock, in which a second is defined as 9192631770 periods of the microwave radiation emitted by a cesium-133 atom transitioning between two nuclear spin (hyperfine) states [2]. Now, in Physical Review Letters, Alan Madej and colleagues at the National Research Council in Canada report they have greatly increased the accuracy with which another atomic frequency standard, the optical transition in an isolated strontium ion, can be measured. Furthermore, the precision of their frequency measurement now supersedes that of the existing cesium standard, which could lead to the adoption of a new frequency standard for defining the second as the basic unit of time"

Reactor reuses nuclear waste

Reactor reuses nuclear waste: "Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral candidates are designing a nuclear power plant that would convert nuclear waste from conventional reactors into electricity — a plant you could walk away from, they said, without the risk of a radioactive leak like the meltdown last year that crippled parts of Japan.
Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie, co-founders of Transatomic Power, have developed the WAMSR, or Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor, a 400- to 500-megawatt plant that would convert high-level nuclear waste into electric power, at a price competitive with fossil fuels."

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Happy birthday Marie Skłodowska-Curie

Happy birthday Marie Skłodowska-Curie! A French-Polish physicist and chemist, famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity, she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences. She was also the first female professor at the University of Paris (La Sorbonne), and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris. Just a remarkable human being all around! Also see:

A change in supply to meet isotope demand

A change in supply to meet isotope demand: "Nordion does not produce isotopes itself, but uses the NRU reactor in Canada, which is scheduled to be shut down in the next four years. The reactor is currently operating at full capacity, yet the demand is greater due to a shortage in other regions. The company has had to evolve over the years with more efficient means of producing medical isotopes-- in other words, getting more bang for the buck. Nordion has become the world leader in cobalt-60, which is used to produce gamma radiation, and also in the creation of targeted therapies with yttrium-90. Therefore, Nordion is a diversified company; but if the NRU reactor were to close, it would be a huge hit to the company. The company does have a backup isotope supply in Russia; but in terms of supplying the U.S. (its largest market), the costs would drastically rise if the NRU reactor closes because of the logistics involved in transporting and producing various isotopes."

Mounting storage concerns in US: Who’s responsible?

Mounting storage concerns in US: Who’s responsible? "After 50 years of generating nuclear power and with approximately 67,000 tons of fuel being temporarily stored at about 75 operating and shutdown nuclear facilities, the United States is still at crossroads regarding what will be the nation’s policy for the disposition of its spent nuclear fuel.
Since 1987, Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been the federal government’s primary choice for a nuclear waste repository. But despite the $10bn spent on the project, doubts linger over the Department of Energy’s (DOE) planned opening of the repository in 2017, after it failed to open it in 1998 – the original deadline established by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
A multitude of issues have delayed the project, from Nevada’s opposition to building the repository in their state, to President Obama’s withdrawal of the project’s license application. The current debate is whether to link or one or more short-term storage facilities or to build a permanent repository, similar to Yucca Mountain. Until a decision is made, however, storage concerns for utilities with used nuclear fuel (UNF) will remain. "