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The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


Published in the April 2014 issue of the Canadian Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol.35, No.1.

Nuclear Spin

by Jeremy Whitlock

And welcome back to "Extreme Makeover: The Energy Edition". Before the break we met Nuclear Energy - he's in his 50's, he's a workaholic, and he doesn't get the respect he feels he deserves.

Hey, I didn't say "workaholic"...

Well, you did tell us how you work 24/7, Mr. Baseload....?

Oh dear, I am a workaholic...

Nuclear Energy is clean living - he doesn't smoke, he drinks only water (tonnes of it every hour), and he eats almost nothing - and all of it natural.

I tried organic once - in my experimental days, out near Pinawa, Manitoba...

You've dabbled in a few things I understand - medicines to diagnose heart disease, machines to fight cancer, sterilization of medical supplies, food irradiation, superconductors, something called a super-deformed nucleus, whatever that is...

Oh you see, for high-spin nuclei close to the magic numbers...

Very good, hey this is impressive: you've helped NASA figure out why its Challenger shuttle blew up, you help the aircraft industry every day to ensure the safety of its turbine blades, you help the IAEA keep the world safe from nuclear weapons, you keep 75 million tonnes of pollution out of Canada's skies each year, and you might just have the solution to energy independence and sovereignty in Canada's north.

Well, ahem, and I make a pretty good cup of coffee as well...

I bet you do. So folks, what's Nuclear Energy's problem? Nobody cares. He keeps Ontario's lights on, and nobody knows he's there. He's earned a Nobel Prize, he saves lives, he makes a name for Canada around the world - and it's basically "what have you done for me lately?" Nuclear Energy, in short, has an image problem - and we're going to fix that!

I just want people to like me.

And who doesn't? Tell me, Nuclear, who was your favourite superhero growing up?

Well, not sure about growing up, but I'm kind of partial to Superman.

Ah, the Man of Steel. Well, we'll make you the Man of Zirconium - faster than a prompt-critical excursion, more powerful than a thousand locomotives, able to supply a family's lifetime power needs with a single fuel bundle... No wait, hold on... Superman's an alien, and Krypton's a radioactive fission product... hm, bad mojo...

What about the Incredible Hulk? He's cool. And he goes from scientist to strong guy just in time to save the day - talk about load following...

Nah - green and angry, and even more linked to radiation.

Spiderman? Anonymously keeping the citizens safe while they sleep?


Batman? Iron Man? They're not radioactive.

Hm, too wealthy. We want a hero of the people. I'm thinking a young George Bailey with a nuclear degree - you know, It's a Wonderful Half-Life... that sort of thing.

Bilbo Baggins - The Desolation of Smog? That has a certain "ring" to it...heh..

Fantastic, now you're getting it. Folks, this guy's got the secret to slaying the fire-breathing dragon that's changing your climate!

But I do wish I could just be myself though...

You've tried that. It's boring.

Only because people don't know the real me. What about an exciting tag line - like "Nuclear Energy - we create energy for a better world!"

Uh, that's taken... by the oil sands.

You're kidding. Okay, what about "economic prosperity, social well-being, and a healthy environment for today and tomorrow!"


Really? Man, they're good. Let's just state the facts then: "innovative and economically effective solutions to manage climate change and air quality issues!"

Natural gas.

Wow. Who buys that line?

Everyone. That's the point.

Well I don't care - I'm Nuclear and I'm "doing the right thing!"...

Again, natural gas.

I give up. I have to go back to work.

And that's all the time we have for today. Join us next time on "Extreme Makeover: The Energy Edition" as we meet Biomass - today's rotting crap, tomorrow's gigawatts!

Discussion welcome.

©2014 Jeremy Whitlock

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