Perspectives on nuclear issues

Nuclear is a fascinating and complex topic. Countless studies, opinion pieces and news articles are frequently released. Below are a number of links of interest that represent some of the voices contributing to the debates over the use of nuclear technology in Canada, including regulatory aspects.

2017 | 2016

2017

  • The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists focused its 2016 Clock Symposium on the role that nuclear can play in achieving deep de-carbonization, and produced a report outlining the symposium’s discussion and findings. The symposium’s final report provided seven key takeaways based on its discussion.
  • A recent Forbes.com article reported on small modular reactors cooled by molten lead. The article refers to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission as a capable regulator with many decades of experience in safe nuclear plant design review and operations oversight.

2016

  • An article titled “Fears, Feelings, and Facts: Interactively Communicating Benefits and Risks of Medical Radiation With Patients” appeared in the American Journal of Roentgenology. The purpose of the article is to increase understanding and suggest strategies to improve communication of radiation risk in a medical setting (physician to patient). However, many of the insights from this paper can be applied in radiological risk communication in general. The following four topic areas are reviewed: 1) Shared medical decision making and informed consent, 2) Psychologic aspects of radiation risk communication, 3) Typical medical radiation risk communication approaches, 4) Suggestions for improved benefit and risk communication. The authors highlight that a person’s decisions and views can be influenced by the way benefit versus risk is communicated. Effective risk communication should consist of simple and clear messages, the use of numbers and visuals, an open two-way dialogue with people and an evaluation of the person’s understanding of the topic area.
  • A recent collaborative study between Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, France’s Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, and Australia’s Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer (Bannister, L. et al. 2016) suggests that the current Canadian drinking water standards for tritium are sufficiently protective. Experiments showed that there was no increase in organ weight or increase in specific DNA abnormalities in the spleen of mice that were exposed to tritiated water at doses that reflect chronic human consumption. This study was partially funded by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
  • In a June 2016 TED talk, Joe Lassiter, Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, focuses on one of the world’s most pressing problems: developing clean, secure and carbon-neutral supplies of reliable, low-cost energy. His analysis of the world's energy realities includes a look at nuclear power.
  • David Ropeik, an instructor in the Environmental Studies Program of the Harvard Extension School and a consultant in risk communication, recently published an article titled “The Dangers of Radiophobia”. In this article, he explores society’s fear of nuclear radiation, arguing that the level of alarm far exceeds the actual danger and that these fears pose dangers of their own to human health.
  • A recent article in Nuclear Engineering International magazine titled “Expanding the Table” discusses how nuclear safety regulators must maintain their independence to effectively provide impartial nuclear safety oversight to the nuclear industry, and that the strength of relationships and communication with a variety of stakeholders can contribute to an informed dialogue without compromising the regulator’s independence.
  • On June 6, 2016, Canada 2020 hosted its 3rd Annual Global Energy Outlook. The event was headlined by Daniel Yergin, best-selling author and Vice Chairman of IHS and Founder of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Mr. Yergin was joined on stage by the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources, who posed questions on global energy trends and their impacts on Canada. Minister Carr raised nuclear energy, noting that most people in Canada do not know that 60 percent of Ontario’s electricity comes from nuclear. Mr. Yergin commented that nuclear has to be part of the agenda and that shutting it down is counterintuitive, especially if the current focus is to pursue renewable energy.
  • The Guardian recently published an article entitled Why it's time to dispel the myths about nuclear power that clarifies some of the myths around the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents.
  • In February 2016, Bill Gates was featured in an interesting video in which he shared his views on combatting climate change. He uses an equation to calculate greenhouse gas emissions and explain the need for clean energy sources.