News in Depth: Global Nuclear Growth in Context

This week, in an article for The Energy Collective, Jesse Jenkins, a writer and current PhD student in Engineering Systems at MIT, aimed at putting the growth of renewable energy in perspective. The article provides more than just an overview of renewable energy however, it also provides some interesting context for discussion of the future of nuclear power.

A year in review: thinking about energy capacity worldwide

Before thinking about what comes next in our energy future, it’s important to have some context. In his article, Jenkins provides a succinct summary of the progress made in the last full calendar year:

The world added 103 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity in 2014… That figure excludes large hydropower projects… and is dominated by wind and solar, which saw growth of 49 GW and 46 GM respectively. More importantly, the share of renewable electricity… in the global electricity mix ticked upwards from 8.5 percent in 2013 to 9.1 percent in 2014.

As is noted, that figure is close to the 10.5 percent of global electricity supplied by nuclear power.

Global_Electricity_Market_Shares_1980-2014

(Image Source: The Energy Collective)

A link to the International Energy Agency’s (IAE) World Energy Outlook 2014 Factsheet is also provided. The factsheet highlights some additional key points:

  • 434 operating commercial reactors worldwide at the end of 2013 (capacity: 392 GW)
  • Nuclear power has avoided the release of an estimated 56 Gt of CO2 emissions since 1971
  • Almost 200 of the 434 reactors operating at the of 2013 are to be retired before 2040

Finally, Jenkins articulates two visions for future growth in renewables. In the first scenario, growth is linear at about 100GW per year. In the second, growth compounds at a 10 percent per year rate. As he notes, neither scenario is perfect, but they “bracket the realm of most likely outcomes.”

What’s next for nuclear power and renewables?

The IAE’s factsheet provides an apt summary of the challenge ahead for the nuclear energy sector, “the industry will need to manage an unprecedented rate of decommissioning, while also building substantial new capacity for those reactors that are replaced.” It is clear that the next few decades will be filled with difficult problems: how do we handle the decommissioning of so many reactors, how do we balance short and long term cost economic and political concerns, and how do we safely and steadily grow nuclear capacity, especially in the so-called BRIC countries?

From a review of conference topics and recent news articles, it’s clear that the industry is well aware of these challenges and is making positive strides. As we’ve highlighted here at Future of Nuclear, companies are continuing to develop new, smaller reactors that can be deployed in both industrialized and developing markets. In addition, governments continue to explore how to safely deal with radioactive waste. In all, the challenges are great but not insurmountable.

This, finally, brings us back to the topic of renewables. As highlighted earlier, there is no single panacea for our energy needs or a clear idea of what the future will bring. Powering a diverse world takes a diverse set of solutions. As Mr. Jenkins points out in his article, the best way to ensure that low-carbon sources continue to grow is to not put all of our eggs in one basket. What is needed is a toolkit of locally relevant and sustainable technologies that can respond to the growing need for reliable, safe, and clean energy worldwide. That is the industries’ north star. The trick, as it were, is to keeps steering towards it.

Nuclear Innovation announced as theme for Future of Nuclear 2014 Conference

In recent weeks, sources as diverse as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Dalai Lama have all commented on the relentless growth of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the earth’s atmosphere and the need to mitigate resultant climate change effects.  In all instances the sources have talked about the need for nuclear energy to play an increased role in the global energy mix.  Along with renewable forms of energy such as wind and solar, together with innovations in smart grid and energy storage, leading thinkers believe there still may be a chance to rein in overall global warming before certain irreversible tipping points are reached.

In our post-Fukushima world many leading policy makers, politicians, and stakeholders are revisiting and reassessing the role that nuclear power can play in the global energy mix. What innovations have taken place since the Fukushima generation reactors were designed and deployed?  What innovations have there been in safety, regulation, and decommissioning?  Have there been advances in quantifying the risks and liabilities of nuclear projects?  What are the innovations and considerations in public policy, education and awareness that have prompted several jurisdictions to ramp up their nuclear programs?

On November 4, 2014, Mindfirst will host the second Future of Nuclear Conference that will address many of these questions. We are currently in the process of developing the agenda, content and speaker list.  Interested participants and potential speakers may contact admin@futureofnuclear.com.  Click here to view the agenda from last year’s Future of Nuclear conference.

Early bird registration is available at:
http://futureofnuclear2014.eventbrite.com

 

 

 

Westinghouse and OPG agreement a watershed moment for Canadian nuclear industry

With little fanfare, an unassuming tweet came across my screen yesterday afternoon while attending the global carbon leakage seminar at Bennett Jones. Apparently, Westinghouse and OPG had signed an agreement to collaborate and work on selling their nuclear expertise, products, and services in global markets. Under the agreement, the companies will consider a diversity of nuclear projects including refurbishment, maintenance and outage services, decommissioning and remediation of existing nuclear facilities, and new nuclear power plants.

This agreement could represent a watershed moment for Ontario’s economy, certainly for the nuclear industry. Like a sportscaster that tries to call the definitive momentum shifting play in a game, we won’t know for a while yet. But this agreement could be a gamechanger. Let me tell you why. Ontario has been built on the back of cheap energy, first from Niagara Falls and then nuclear. It is cheap energy that allows us to mine economically and manufacture cars with the best the world has to offer. Similarly, in Quebec, the vast hydro projects underpin their economy. In Alberta, oil and gas are key drivers. Any robust economy in the world has an abundant, secure source of energy.

Ontario’s CANDU technology has been a global leader and a gamechanger for many countries in the world. However, as in all technology driven industries, there is great innovation happening, it happens relentlessly,  and CANDU is not the only nuclear technology that growing nations are considering. The thriving economies of the world, China, India and others, are craving cheap, abundant, clean, safe energy. While Ontario does not have the demand to build new reactors now, other countries do. The challenge for our nuclear industry has been to somehow get our tens of thousands of nuclear related jobs serving the global market, not just maintaining our stable domestic market. This means being able to support the multiple and diverse nuclear technologies that are evolving in the global marketplace today.

The significance of the Westinghouse deal is that it ties OPG to a global leader in a non-CANDU technology. OPG is a globally recognized leader in operating nuclear power generating stations. It has an unblemished safety record that is the envy of the world. What a glorious opportunity this represents to market that operating expertise and enter other markets being served by emerging nuclear technologies. There is certainly a place for CANDU in the future. However, Westinghouse has their APS-1000 line of reactors that are making inroads in several countries. Kudos to OPG for seizing this opportunity and diversifying how they deploy their expertise.

Kudos also to Westinghouse. Westinghouse recognizes that in the 21st century the world will need more nuclear energy if it is to stem the effects of GHG driven climate change. In a post Chernobyl world there has been a relative shortage of young engineers and trades trained in the nuclear sciences. Ontario has almost 300 companies in the nuclear supply chain. There are more than 25,000 jobs related to the nuclear industry. There are nine universities that have courses in some sort of nuclear science. We have Chalk River and AECL, world leading nuclear research in medical isotopes and other applications beyond energy. And we have the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) which is increasingly being viewed as an innovator and leading exemplar in nuclear regulation by emerging economies and jurisdictions that need to model their own regulatory regimes.

Ontario’s Green Energy Act has spurred wind and solar energy. Cumulatively, renewables represent a single digit percentage of our energy mix. There are thousands of jobs related to renewables, depending on how you count them. This is wonderful news as renewable energy represents an important part of the energy mix. The Westinghouse OPG agreement reminds us that Ontario’s existing nuclear industry, expertise and workforce are an order of magnitude larger than the current renewable industry.

The full press release may be viewed at http://bit.ly/1m7nPmg .

Henry Vehovec
Chair, Future of Nuclear Advisory Board
President, Mindfirst Inc.

Topic announced for Future of Nuclear Seminar #3 – Nuclear Energy Finance: the UK Experience

On May 8, 2014, Jonathan Dart, Consul General at the British Consulate in Toronto, will speak about the UK’s recent experience in nuclear energy finance and lessons that can be learned.  Below is the abstract for the event:

“Financing nuclear energy projects has become increasingly complex in recent years. The potential for projects going over budget and difficulty in quantifying project risk contribute to financing complexity and cost. The large capital requirements in nuclear energy projects have typically required that national governments become involved in order to guarantee payments or backstop projects. In many jurisdictions the high level of complexity have made nuclear projects prohibitively expensive. Coupled with negative public sentiment towards nuclear energy there has been a decline in nuclear power useage in several Western economies. Concurrently, there are numerous countries such as China and India, that are ramping up their nuclear energy capabilities. In the United Kingdom, after years of decline in nuclear energy the government has decided to proceed with building a new reactor. How was this financed? What changed in the eyes of policy makers that they decided to proceed with new nuclear? Is there an opportunity for Canadian funds and investment bankers to participate in the large nuclear projects that will be deployed globally?”

Click here to learn more and to register.

Panellists for Future of Nuclear Seminar #2 – Human Resource Requirements of Refurbishment

The Future of Nuclear team is pleased to announce the panellists for the upcoming seminar on March 4, 2014 regarding the human resource requirements of nuclear refurbishments.  Below are the experts who will discuss the topic.

Speakers

Mark Arnore, Vice President, Refurbishment Execution, Ontario Power Generation

George Bereznai, Professor and Director, Industry Training Programme, UOIT

Patrick Dillon, Business Manager, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario

George Bereznai, Dean, School of Energy Systems and Nuclear Science, UOIT

Patrick Dillon, Business Manager, Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario

Abstract

In our first seminar Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Rick Jennings described the nuclear energy components of Ontario’s Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP). Although the Province has said no to new nuclear at the moment, refurbishment plans for Bruce and Darlington plants are scheduled to start in 2016 and carry on until 2031. Collectively, Bruce and Darlington represent the majority of Ontario’s base load power and 50% or more of the total energy mix. Refurbishment will create tens of thousands of jobs requiring skilled workers, professionals, researchers, academics, managers and executives. This human resource base will not only serve Ontario, but will also serve as the foundation for Canada’s export efforts in supporting supply chains of growing nuclear energy jurisdictions. How many jobs will actually be created? What skills and expertise will be needed? How will organizations build and transfer the corporate and tribal knowledge to new generations of engineers, workers and professionals? What other related industries will grow as a result? Will Canada become a leader in infrastructure finance, energy systems design and deployment?

To learn more and to register, click here.

Dates Announced for Future of Nuclear Seminar Series

Mindfirst Inc. (M1) is pleased to announce that it will organize six (6) luncheon seminars on various nuclear energy related topics over the course of 2014 as part of the Future of Nuclear Seminar Series. Dates, topics and speakers are determined through the input of the Future of Nuclear Advisory Board and participant surveys.

The dates for the 2014 Future of Nuclear Seminar Series are:
January 21 – Speaker Assistant Deputy Minister, Rick Jennings, re. Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP) and Nuclear
– March 4 – Humans Resources Requirements of Nuclear Refurbishment
 May 8 – Trends in Nuclear Energy Finance, the UK Experience, Jonathan Dart and Panel
– June 24 – TBA
– September 23 – TBA
– November 4 – Full Day Conference, Innovation in Nuclear Energy, Science, Research and Applications

Please contact Future of Nuclear organizers directly if you have speaker suggestions for the following six (6) topics will be addressed on the given dates:

– Export opportunities for nuclear industries
– Jobs analysis and Growing HR Needs in Canada’s nuclear industry
– Chalk River
–  Ontario’s  refurbishment programs – an overview from OPG and Bruce Power
– Trends in Finance, UK’s experience in planning and financing new nuclear|
– Nuclear Waste Technologies

Following each seminar organizers provide a written report of the Top 10 Learnings as compiled from the survey of seminar participants.

The Future of Nuclear Series is possible through the support of Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, OPG, Power Workers’ Union and Torys. Additional sponsors are welcome so that we may continue to build on our mission to build awareness and discussion for important energy topics.

Debate re National Bank Report: “The Nuclear Power Sector’s Dim Prospects”

Earlier this month National Bank released a report with entitled “The Nuclear Power Sector’s Dim Prospects”. This report provides a wonderful opening position to start a debate on the often polarizing topic of nuclear energy. As the report points out, several jurisdictions such as Germany are shutting down their nuclear plants, while others such as China and India are growing their number of nuclear reactors. When is it appropriate to decommission reactors? When is it time to build new or refurbish? What are the benefits of nuclear power? How realistic are the concerns about radiation, proliferation and meltdown? Can the world possibly reign in GHGs without nuclear playing an important role in the global energy mix? Comments welcome. Please view the linked report and let’s start the debate.

Click here to view the report.

The Future of Nuclear Power and The Long View

Below is a comment from Future of NuclearChair Henry Vehovec on his opening remarks and in response to post-event press coverage:

“The day after Wednesday’s Future of Nuclear 2013 Conference in Toronto the Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Province of Ontario announced that new build nuclear reactors would not be pursued at this time. Articles in the press cited pricing pressure from cheap shale gas, a decline in energy demand, and increased resistance to nuclear power in the post-Fukushima world as reasons for the decision. Although there has been a recent decline in nuclear power in the global energy mix it would be premature to dismiss nuclear in the longer term.

Henry Vehovec, Chair, Future of Nuclear

Henry Vehovec, Chair, Future of Nuclear

The global mix of major energy sources evolves over decades and plays out in time frames of a century or more. The first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859, however, it wasn’t until the development of the Model-T Ford fifty years later that oil truly took off as a major global energy source. Similarly, civilian nuclear energy started about fifty years ago and the industry now needs game changing innovation if it is to compete with shale gas and address concerns of radioactive waste, safety and proliferation.

Are there any such game changing innovations on the horizon? At the Future of Nuclear Conference we heard about several nuclear technologies that hold the paradigm shifting potential to compete with shale gas.  New nuclear technologies that are on the drawing board can burn spent fuel, are incapable of meltdown, and do not produce fissile material. We heard about fusion from General Fusion, thorium and molten salt reactors (MSR) from Terrestrial Energy, small modular reactors (SMR) from Babcock and Wilcox, portable reactors, travelling reactors, floating reactors and more. These technologies have attracted investors such as Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates as well as some of the wealthiest sovereign funds. The only problem with most of these technologies is that they require at least a decade to develop and would cost several billion dollars to produce their first prototype let alone a commercially available product. In this era of short term pressures for quarterly results in business and governments that rarely think beyond the horizon of a 4-year election term it is difficult to find jurisdictions that plan decades into the future as is required when considering energy infrastructure.

China, India, Russia and UAE are examples of countries that are taking an appropriate long view to energy planning. Not coincidentally, these are also among the countries that are proceeding aggressively with their plans to build nuclear power capabilities. China alone has 29 reactors currently under construction. Although some jurisdictions in the west do not have local demand to support new reactors it would certainly make sense to stay engaged with the industry and act as a supplier to international markets where possible. As a commodity, shale gas will not be cheap and plentiful forever.”