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The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


Published in the July 2009 issue of the Canadian Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol.30, No.2.

Eau Lourde, It's Heavy Water!

by Jeremy Whitlock

I'm sitting here with a very special guest, the 2000 Megawatt Man. Welcome sir.


Okay, 2000 megawatts. That's a lot of megawatts. Tell me, what's it like having that many megawatts?

Well you know, it's a bit embarrassing to be this… how you say… fantastic, you know. We have a lot of megawatts, this is true, and we can build this anywhere on the planet. We are very, very big.

I understand. And you want to build big reactors in Canada?

Oui, this is true. But we are not new to Canada, you know. We have been here for forty years.

Well, okay. Some of the companies you have acquired have been here that long, yes.

This is what I have said. And you know, we like Canadians as well. They are very funny people. We love your Jerry Lewis.

He's not Canadian. Perhaps you mean William Shatner?

Oui that is him. He is very funny.

Okay. And so, you have big reactors to build in Canada?

Yes they are very big. And you know, we are building two of them right now in Finland and France, and they are very big indeed.

Everything is going well?

Magnifique. Of course, they are first-of-a-kind, so they are of course behind schedule. But everyone who builds a new reactor will be, as you know, behind schedule for the first time, and so we are the first to be behind schedule and that is our advantage.

I see. And do you think Canadians have any advantage because they have never stopped building reactors around the world, unlike other vendors including yourself?

But the new Canadian reactor is first-of-a-kind, and so you see it is no advantage, and it is silly to say so I think.

Well not really. But anyway, so you have these very big reactors…

Very big, yes.

Yes, and so do you feel they will be more attractive to Canadian utilities than the CANDU design?

But of course. Because you know this is not about nationalism anymore; this is about business, and in this new business you see that state-owned technology plays no preference in the decision. The traditional advantage of state ownership over the private sector is, how you say, "les nouvelles d'hier"?

"State-owned", like your own? Your country is ready to consider CANDUs then?

Pardon… I don't understand? Oh, did I mention that we have been in Canada for forty years?

Yes you did. Okay, so you don't feel that Canadians will prefer the advantages of heavy water technology over light water.

Heavy water! What is this… heavy water? It is a silly thing. Heavy water. Oh please, I can't lift this water, it is too heavy! Where is the heavy water - is it at the bottom of the ocean? Help, I don't understand this water - it is too heavy for me!…

Are you mocking heavy water?

But of course not. One can only mock what is serious in the first place, and this heavy water is very silly. If it had a mouth it would laugh at itself.

I see. Some people say heavy water reactors have certain advantages over light water reactors. Simpler supply chain, inherent safety, flexible fuel cycles, localization of manufacturing, more control and experience with aging issues.

Aging issues! What is this "aging issues"? We, you know, offer a 60-year plant that does not need refurbishment.

Really? Sixty years of operation and no major maintenance?

I did not say that, of course, but we don't need refurbishment. It is not even in our vocabulary.

But, um, "refurbishment" does mean major maintenance. You know, to address aging issues. You don't see a need for this with your design?

Pardon… I don't understand? Did I mention yet that heavy water reactors have proliferation issues?

Well, that's not really true. They're no more proliferation-prone than light water reactors.

They make plutonium.

Like light-water reactors…

But in higher concentration.

No, actually about half. But look, do you not feel Canadians will want to protect the nuclear industry they paid billions to develop over 60 years?

But there is a flea in that thinking. There will of course be a Canadian nuclear industry, regardless of the reactor design. Somebody will have to clean our floors and get my coffee.

What about the design and engineering, the major supply chain, not to mention the R&D infrastructure…

Ah, yes, the R&D. Your NRU is a bit leaky, no? We can fix that too. The 2000 Megawatt Man can do 120 megawatts.

You can fix our NRU? What do you know about the NRU?

I know it's not heavy water! Ha ha.

Um, it is heavy water.

Pardon… I don't understand. Our reactors are very big you know. And beautiful.

Hey wasn't it you guys that supplied the processing system for MAPLE? The system that never worked and had to be replaced by Canadian technology?

Okay, I have to go. A bientôt, and as they say in Russia, "Moio sudno na vozdušnoy poduške polno ugrey!"

Discussion welcome.

©2011 Jeremy Whitlock

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