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The Canadian Nuclear FAQ  

by Dr. Jeremy Whitlock


Published in the April 2012 issue of the Canadian Nuclear Society Bulletin, Vol.33, No.1.

Nifty at Fifty

by Jeremy Whitlock

Hello old-timer.

What are you talking about, "old-timer", I'm only turning fifty.

Really? Canadian Nuclear Power is only fifty? But…

But I look much older right? Hey it's been a long fifty years.

I was going to say you've achieved so much, I thought you were older.

Yeah, pull the other one skippy.

No really - you're a legend. You were the first power reactor to refuel on-line, the first to use natural uranium and heavy water, the first to use computer control… You run half the province of Ontario, you've generated over a hundred million megawatt-days of electricity in Canada and avoided over 20 million tonnes of air pollution, over two billion tonnes of CO2…

My back hurts.

Honestly, we should be celebrating you more. Fifty years eh? You're like a Canadian icon: the Avro Arrow that the Tories didn't destroy.

Not yet anyway.

You should be on a stamp. You've saved over 20,000 lives from lung disease. You add over $6 billion to the GDP each year. I mean, you should at least be up there with everything else celebrating fifty years in 2012.


Like the Canadian Coast Guard! Or the Canadian Wildlife Federation! Or the Queen's reign! Or the Beach Boys! Or medicare!

They're all fifty this year? That's pretty good company I guess. I like the Beach Boys.

And you're responsible for just as much "good vibrations" over the years, my friend.

And some "bad vibrations" too. You recall the impeller problem at Darlington in the early 90s?

I sense you have some self-image problems. You know what I think? I think you haven't had enough people hug you.

Keep away from me.

Fair enough. Listen, how are things going?

I told you. My back hurts.

Yes, besides that. How do you feel about turning 50?

Well, to be honest I don't know where the time has gone. It just seems like yesterday we were on that bluff over the Ottawa River in Rolphton, doing stuff that nobody's done before.

Like on-line refuelling?

No, like standing on a bluff over the Ottawa River in Rolphton.

Oh, um…

Yes, of course on-line refuelling, and making electricity from uranium without needing a weapons program to make the fuel.

See? That's the spirit.

And we designed that reactor to change out pressure tubes as needed - imagine: built-in system aging management in an intensely radioactive environment.

There you go. Technology built on NRX and NRU experience, and still setting CANDU apart today right?

And we tested thorium fuel in that reactor on the bluff over the Ottawa River, can you imagine that? People are just thinking now, in the 21st century, that that might be a good idea.

Probably didn't even seem like being innovative right? Just seemed like a good idea at the time?

And talk about a Small Modular Reactor! 22 megawatts: just the right size for the job, scaled up in the decades to come as the market required.

So here you are. And turning fifty isn't so bad right?

Well, you know, it's just that you get tired of the aches and pains, the poking and prodding. Back in the day my pipes were clean, my chemistry was tracking closer to spec, and hardly anything was leaking...

Big plans ahead? Prime of your life...?

Ah, that's where the irony sets in. I'm fifty years old and the biggest plans I have are to do the same thing I did fifty years ago: in 2012 it's almost as unusual to build a nuclear power reactor in Canada as it was in 1962. In fact in some ways it's even more unusual.

How so?

Well these days it seems to be all about the windmills, the solar panels - the "feed-in" ransom paid to ideology, while natural gas is burned to take up the slack. I've got a boil on my bum that can do it more efficiently and greener than all of that noise combined. The most sustainable way to make electricity today in Canada was pioneered on a bluff over the Ottawa River in Rolphton in 1962.

Anyway, thankfully you didn't bring up early retirement...

Show me the package, skippy.

Discussion welcome.

©2013 Jeremy Whitlock

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