top of page

The Case for Candu

Chris Adlam

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Chris Keefer  0:00  

Welcome back to decouple. Today, I'm joined by my good friend, Chris Adlam. For an exciting episode, which will be Ontario focused. But I think we're gonna make the argument as we have on some previous episodes, notably with Gary rose the anterior nuclear advantage, that this is a jurisdiction that folks should be paying attention to. There's some really exciting things happening here in Ontario. We are looking at solid demand prediction projections. And I think fundamentally, I've come to see, thanks to Edgardo Sepulveda, actually, that the number one reason that we haven't built nuclear in the West in the last 2030 years is that there hasn't been the demand, why are you going to put a lot of money into capital intensive projects, if you're not sure there'll be customers for the kilowatt hours at the back end to make it all pay for itself? So we're seeing a real reversal of that in Ontario pretty solid demand projections that are just increasing year by year. 60 terawatt hours, I believe, by the mid 2030s. So we're talking about space for 10, new, large, CANDU reactors. And I think today, we're going to be echoing the recent Canadians for nuclear energy case for Canada report making the case that, that that's 50, Terra. Sorry, 50 or 60 terawatt hours worth of demand should be met primarily by can do. So before we go any further. Chris Adlam. You've been on the we can do it podcast. But I believe this is your inaugural decouple episode. So a warm welcome.


Chris Adlam  1:39  

Thank you for having me.


Chris Keefer  1:41  

So I mean, in addition to being you know, a, you know, real co founder of C forany. You were the first Canadian that I kind of met in real life, as this whole crazy idea came together to form a nonprofit focusing on advocacy for nuclear in Canada. You're kind of the spiritual godfather of the Canadian movement here. And you've really been very influential both in sort of keeping the faith on the Pickering refurbishment, which at times looked utterly hopeless. And you've really, I think, been a guiding sort of, I don't want to use too hyperbolic language here, but it's just what comes to me kind of a visionary when it comes to this case for candy that we're gonna be talking about today. So maybe just a little bit of background, we'll keep it pretty short and sweet, but just how you came to be passionate about what you are passionate about.


Chris Adlam  2:36  

Well, amusingly, it came as a result of the rate increases that we experienced under the Green Energy Act. And that whole being blamed on on nucular, despite there being no nuclear construction projects happening at the time the refurbishments haven't hadn't started resulted me kind of deep diving into the Ontario grid and what made it up and what were the contributing factors? And that launched my interests in nucular. So yeah, it's been over 10 years for sure. My family has a an engineering background. My grandfather and his father both work for GE and hydroelectric. So do sort of come by my interest naturally. But yeah, it was the GA that essentially launched this whole interest interest.


Chris Keefer  3:37  

Yeah. And just for international listeners, the Green Energy Act was our sort of feed in tariff program to include to encourage a massive build out of renewables here in Ontario. Apparently, it was to create 50,000 jobs here in Ontario, we're really trying to do supply chain localization for wind and solar. And it's been a pretty massive flop in terms of the promises of of green jobs. It's also cost us net loss, net loss, because of deindustrialization as a


Chris Adlam  4:06  

result because we had the manufacturing Exodus. And the funny part was, it was framed as having no impact on rates. And so then they went and signed contracts for 80 cents a kilowatt hour for solar, you know, 15 plus cents a kilowatt hour for wind. And the going rate, prior to that was four cents retail. And supposedly, this was going to have no impact on rates, and then rates escalated. And then people you saw in the media, they're blaming the nuclear plants. And it's like, how is that possible because return rates were four cents and the nuclear plants haven't changed?


Chris Keefer  4:43  

Well, we will have probably a whole other episode on the Green Energy Act. And it is a fascinating story, because you know, just kind of euphemistically or simplistically, I often frame Ontario as the France of North America or 60% nuclear. But we attempted to be the Germany of North America with this very Pre massive investment, which over the lifetime of those contracts will cost us something like $60 billion. You know, we currently subsidize those subsidies on the tax base, I think at the cost of about 3.1 billion per year, which is like item line number nine or 10, on the whole Ontario budgets that comes after healthcare, which is number one, and I think long term care, which is number five or six. So, you know, really, really quite a scandalous history. And I think something that that we should deep dive in the future. But back to the matter at hand. We're gonna talk can do. And, you know, again, I made the case with Gary rose, that Ontario was the best equipped jurisdiction in the western world to build nuclear. And that is primarily because of our Canada refurbishments. We talked about what that's done to our supply chain or skilled workforce, the kind of institutional excellence that we've seen. But, Chris, maybe just give us a quick background on on those refurbishments, because I think they're so important to what makes Ontario such an attractive spot for new nuclear in the West.


Chris Adlam  6:13  

Well, I think we have to historically look at the Pickering one and for refurbishment, so they often get referred to as an I've been corrected by Tom has never to call them that. They are essentially reactivations. They went over budget Well, sorry, that's incorrect. Unit, four went over budget. Unit One was on budget, but it was still claimed to go over budget by people that were using the initial estimate, rather than the revised estimate after Unit Four was completed. But then Bruce Power undertook the unit one, eight units one and two refurbishment. Those were the first large scale refurbishment we had ever done. And they were actually surprisingly close to budget. If you look at the overall project cost, but the budget for that kind of changed a little bit at the beginning, once they modified the scope a bit. They had to do full boiler replacement. But they'd also ordered the boilers for units three and four, which were just kept on site. But those projects were really really long. We we'd never done before Bruce Power had never done it before. So it was a huge learning exercise for them. So then, while that was happening, we also had the refurbishment of Pickering be cued up and the refurbishment of Pickering two and three McGuinty cancelled the refurbishment of Pickering two and three also cancelled the refurbishment of Pickering be. But they but Kathleen Wynne, I believe at the time did approve the refurbishment Darlington a which started in 2016, which was long after the the GA stuff we touched on earlier. Anyways, it's been on time, on budget there was there was a ton of learning that came out of the Bruce one and two refurbishments and that helped both OPG and Bruce Power, which is why both of them are ahead of schedule. And on budget right now with the refurbishment projects. And that gives them some social license, right? If they can execute these massive undertakings on time on budget, then, you know, they could also do the same with new builds. So the success of these refurbishments really creates an environment where we could execute large scale new builds with very low risk, which nowhere else in the world, you know, other than perhaps China has that opportunity. And you're looking at the Vogel project in Georgia, you know, 15 years, they're still having problems with unit three, you know, resurrecting that that industry and that supply chain is it's a bit of a disaster. We haven't had that problem. We you know, we had our learning experience with the Bruce eight units. And everything else has been since has been perfect.


Chris Keefer  9:07  

And just to backtrack a second and not in too much detail, but just this maybe maybe it'll help us differentiate the technologies a little bit the P WR or the BW are pressurized and boiling water reactors. I won't understand what exactly refurbishment is, we'll keep it really brief. But you know, this is just for context, Canada's largest infrastructure project, the refurbishment of the, I believe between Bruce and Darlington, once that it'll be 12 units, Pickering, of course will be added on to the list. But for just the Bruce and Darlington units, we're talking $26 billion. And I think a lot of people when they hear that number, they think, Okay, this is an investment just in the assets. And of course, it's an investment in the assets. But I think what gets missed there is this is a massive investment in the supply chain. This is a huge investment in human resources and in building the kind of institutional excellence that can deliver projects Next, not just on schedule, but I think unit three at Darlington is six months ahead of schedule, that's pretty unprecedented, not just a nuclear, but it should say not just in modern nuclear, but also in in mega projects in general. And each of these is a nuclear mega project with all of the challenges of, you know, absolute precise in a workman ship, etc. I think their boats, they've been about three to 4 billion apiece, so not not small budgets, although those budgets are coming down as as you mentioned with this with this kind of learning by doing but just briefly, how is a candy refurbishment different than the kind of maintenance we see at a at a, you know, standard American style, shall we say pressurized or boiling water reactor?


Chris Adlam  10:44  

Well, boiling water reactors don't have steam generators. So the pressure vessel is the steam generator. Actually, interestingly enough, the RBMK Chernobyl also didn't have steam generators. It was kind of a hybridization. But PW RS do have steam generators, just like candies. But I can do has sort of a unique feature with respect to the pressure tubes, right, we don't have a pressure vessel, we have these tubes that perforate the Calandra. And they are where item


Chris Keefer  11:18  

just for people to visualize this the way the way that I've sort of simplified it is like a PW or maybe a BW, er and correct me if I'm wrong. And this is kind of like a pressure cooker, you have this, you know, big forged vessel that can handle you know, large pressures. And it sounds pretty kind of simple. And then when I think about a CANDU I've just been looking at like a lot of cutaways of, of locomotive engine steam engines with my son, and you have this, this chamber and then within it, you have all kinds of tubes coming from the firebox that are, you know, moving heat through. I'm not sure if that's like a good analogy, but I'm just trying to create like a very simplistic visual image for people of what a Calandra what it can do core looks like compared to you know, PW RB WR core,


Chris Adlam  12:02  

the BW or the steam doesn't stay in the cord, right, it goes out and runs the turbine. But with a PW Er, yeah, it's basically a pressure cooker. And then that water is used to heat a secondary circuit, which in turn runs the turbine, which is the same way the CANDU operates. But yeah, we have this giant vat of water that has these perforations through the pressure tubes, while Calandra tubes and inside the Qalandia tubes of the pressure tubes. But that's what boils the water and the water, heavy water circulates through those pressure tubes, which then like with the PW or heats secondary circuit, which runs the turbine, and these are replaceable component and they're aware item 30 to 40 years is usually the the range. Darlington was done early. They started 30 years because I think OPG just saw the opportunity to to get that project underway so that it couldn't get canceled. There was some some simulation at the government level at the time. OPG had already had two projects canceled on them. Well, actually, no, they've had three projects cancelled them at that time. They had Pickering, two and three Pickering B and then Darlington be at all been canceled on OPG. So I think they just really wanted to get that project underway so that you know they could be working on something and then less opportunity for the government to cancel it or to pull it out from underneath them. So Darlington seem to have started early. The Bruce units are in their 40s. When they're starting there's so you know there's your 30 to 40 year range. The Pickering units are also in their 40s There'll be late 40s By the time they start refurbishment. Maybe even pushing 50. So you know there's this range and it's all dependent on of course the the hydrogen equivalent concentration of the pressure tubes, which is a variable that we we track and model. But yeah, that sets the CANDU apart from the other two designs that it has this replaceable component. So with the BW or PW are both Light Water Reactors. with DWR specifically, you don't have the steam generators to deal with but with a PW or you have steam generator replacement at some point during the plant's life. You have turbine turbine upgrades, control system upgrades, these are all things that you would also do it I can do. But you don't have that single midlife event that you have to plan around. So these things are kind of staggered over the plant's life. Where's what they can do, because we have this large project of pressure to build replacement. And we've done pressure tube replacement without doing refurbishment. And that's important to note, you know refurbishments are seen as Whoa, you have this massive, very expensive undertaking in the middle of the plant's life. Well, yeah, we do. But it's not necessarily to do All of those things, it's just convenient to do all those things at that time because the unit is going to be offline for a period of time. Like Pickering a units were all re tubed, but they were YouTubed without refurbishment, and the cost was considerably last it was like in the millions of dollars versus the billions of dollars. So that's, that's a, that's a differentiator there that kind of needs to be acknowledged, when you're talking about the price of this project, because all of these other things that we're talking about the control system upgrades, the steam generator, replacements, turbine upgrades, all of those things have have cost. And they have cost, regardless of the type of plant. So we just kind of roll that together with the can't do and do it all in one project. The stator was being replaced, I believe at Darlington Unit Three, for example, Darlington's not getting new steam generators, because they're a new enough designed that they didn't need to be replaced, Bruce, all of the units are getting the steam generators replaced. So there's two refurbishments with two different approaches. And Bruce, we're seeing massive operates on all of the units, like the units 750 megawatts originally, they're currently churning out, you know, 825 830, and then there'll be more still, once they're allowed to run out 100% Full power. So overall, I was gonna say in terms of cost, I don't really know there's that much of a difference, it's just with LWR is you're seeing that kind of drawn out over a longer period, you're not seeing this single project at the 3040 year mark.


Chris Keefer  16:38  

And with that replaceable core, presumably, if the civil engineering holds up, the concrete holds up, we may be able to do more than one refurbishment. I mean, PW Rs, we're talking about lifespans now, you know, licensing being extended to 80 years. That's, that's pretty impressive. The reactor pressure vessels, the kind of limiting factor, it sounds like, but you know, yeah, but that's incredible. Yeah, incredible. But potentially can just could be refurbished multiple times and, like the century plus infrastructure, like hydro dams, I think, absolutely. It's interesting.


Chris Adlam  17:10  

And that was studied by the Koreans, if I remember correctly, they already looked at what it would look like to do a second full refurbishment. And depending on the rest of the plant, right, like depending on the condition of the turbine, depending on the condition of the generator unit, depending on the condition of the control systems, and how that looks relative to what's available the time, you might not do all of those things on the second refurbishment.


Chris Keefer  17:34  

Okay, so, so moving, moving on from this kind of deep dive discussion. Let's talk a little bit more about I guess the case for can do just just briefly can because I think we have covered this in previous episodes, with Jeremy Whitlock, and a little bit with Gary, in terms of the candy's development, those those advantages and kind of being tailored to Canada, just briefly, what are those? How did it come about? And what are some of the technological changes? For instance, the pressure tubes? Why did we do that, rather than pursuing these these more traditional, or just options, a more traditional but these other approaches of a big reactor pressure vessel?


Chris Adlam  18:12  

Well, the Western world was going to a killer, fishing was being pursued by all nations post World War Two, Canada was in a position where we had no heavy forging capacity, we have no enrichment capacity, because we didn't have a nuclear weapons program. So rather than becoming beholden to the United States, for enrichment for sulfur fuel, and forgings, we decided to pursue doing that, without a dependence on the United States, what could we do domestically. And that resulted in NPD. And our whole pursuit of this pressure tube design, which we could produce domestically, and the use of deuterium heavy water, allowed us to do it without enrichment. And we have the richest uranium deposits in the world. And so we're in a unique position to, to exploit that and have incredibly low lifecycle emissions. Because we have so much pure uranium versus other locations. We don't have to worry about enriching it. And we have a design that is wholly domestic. So in talking in terms of energy security, it presented a fantastic case for us to just do our own thing, basically.


Chris Keefer  19:28  

Right. And that's becoming even more relevant now. As we attempt to boycott, enrichment, and Russia controls about 46% of world's enrichment capacity. China, I believe another 10%. And I think the dwarfs are for the dwarfs there. The Chinese have a huge fleet and a rapidly growing fleet and some geopolitical nuclear allies looking to become an export nation. I don't think they're going to share a lot of that enrichment capacity with the West, and then a bunch of the West's enrichment capacity is in Europe where energy prices are absolutely through the roof. And as my friend Kalev Kallemets was pointing out, if the West is to pursue a major investment in new enrichment capacity, the investors kind of need to be certain that the Russian uranium won't be won't come off sanction in the midst of that investment cycle and essentially bankrupt those companies that take that risk. So you know, that that natural enrichment case, is kind of accidentally much stronger in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is absolutely another part of the case for candy. But let's let's talk about a few things because I think the candy reactor is being criticized for some of those advantages, no longer being advantageous, he didn't mention, and no fault here, but the online refueling component of CANDU, which maybe just briefly go into that, that that quality of the reactor before we kind of move on to sort of break down some of these advantages and whether they are still advantages. Well, you're


Chris Adlam  20:56  

using natural uranium, right, so you have less fissile content per fuel element. So you're gonna have to be swapping that fuel out. And you don't want to be taking the reactor down to be doing that. So we developed online refueling as part of the candidate development, so the units can stay on line and have the fuel shuffled. And there's two fueling machines, one, either end of the class area that shuffles the fuel in and out, we did used to do, and I learned this at Bruce, that we don't log or do it, we used to do a core reorder, where you take stuff from the center, move it to the outside stuff from the outside, move it to the inside, but you wouldn't be put necessarily putting in new bundles, you'd be trying to optimize the core. Now we do that through just straight up refueling. The stuff that's in the center gets swapped out faster than the stuff that's on the periphery, less wear and tear on the fuelling machines. There was if the fuel was more expensive, which it's not it's we have the cheapest fuel on the planet. There might have been set, you know, some sense made of doing the reorder, but in the current context, there isn't.


Chris Keefer  22:04  

And I guess the original promise was that this would give us absolutely outstanding capacity factors because we wouldn't have to have outages. Correct for refueling. Obviously, certain countries are struggling with their pressurized water fleets to have short outages and France would be I guess, the showcase there but even I wouldn't call


Chris Adlam  22:21  

that struggling. Okay, there's an you're touched on a very important subject here. So, yes, very early on candies had incredible capacity factors compared to other designs, because they didn't have to shut down to be refueled. You know, you look at Darlington 11 106 days of uninterrupted generation, we've always held the records for longest run time. Briefly, the UK, one of their ADRs was able to take that title than we took it back with Darlington so and that's not only nuclear that's thermal plants period. That record with Darlington, but the US market based system, they don't have any single state that has the same level of capacity that Ontario has. So they don't have a problem. Or they have too much nucular. France is in the same boat. As Ontario, you know, the spring and fall you have too much capacity. So there's no incentive to optimize these these outages because it bringing capacity back to early you can't bring it on was not killed off anyways. Yeah, yeah, it was, there's nowhere to put them. So we've that's been a bit of a luxury for both Ontario and France that we haven't had to rush our maintenance outages. And in fact, it's been beneficial to just extend them and you know, kind of drag our heels and we see that still with France, we still see that still with Ontario now. OPG has been putting in efforts to improve on their efficiency because they are comparing themselves to the US LWR fleet and the US LWR fleet is the benchmark in terms of low levels of outages and high capacity factors. But as I said, they don't have the problem that France and Ontario have with excess capacity. So it's not really fair to contrast either Ontario or France to the US because, you know, you're looking at that. Well, you know, the, the, you know, people draw conclusions about it being a design issue. It's not a design issue. The many of the candies outside of Ontario, have much higher capacity factors than we do in Ontario. It's a situational issue, not a design issue. That gets viewed as a design issue or spun as a design issue. When it fundamentally is


Chris Keefer  24:59  

this This whole conversation I think, is leaping out of a tweet that I made quoting our natural resources Minister Seamus O'Regan, and he basically said, you know can do is, I'm not sure if he said the or a gold standard reactor around the world, I guess it must have been valid because there's only one gold standard. And I retweeted that, because I feel like CANDU has been significantly under marketed and under appreciated, particularly in the most recent context, we're not really building anything, and we're really hyping, so called advanced nuclear. And, frankly, where ACL and s&c have, again been a bit of a mess and not not really too focused, particularly when it comes to, you know, actually promoting and bidding on new nuclear builds around the world. So that was the motivation for me posting it generated a kind of Firestorm on Twitter, and some really intelligent responses, and a really lively debate about you know, whether whether Canada should be called that, of course, it was music to my ears hearing friend of marker at the Canadian Nuclear Society, actually quoting the press data, looking at capacity factors between 2011 and 2021. And indeed, a Canada unit was the top performer in the world Cernavoda unit two, I believe. And then he was pointing out that in jurisdictions that run candies and other reactor technologies, the top, you know, the top performing reactors in Korea and China over that time period, were also candy. So that was a nice little arrow in the quiver. But I don't think that the goal of either of us is to say that, you know, the candy was the only reactor that we should be building in the future, far from it, it's just that it makes a lot of sense in Ontario. And as we were saying, with the uranium enrichment issues, makes a lot of sense for countries that are very concerned about their their energy security, and also maybe wanting to prioritize local manufacturing as we did at the beginning. Just one other point about the online refueling another benefit that I've heard, in addition to, you know, some of these extraordinary long runtimes is there's an ability to decide on when exactly, you're gonna do an outage. And if there's a forecast that, hey, you know, the next month is going to be a bit of a squeeze, there's not sort of a fixed date, when you have to come offline or where your fuel is aging and your power output is going down, you can continue to run that baby at sort of full output, which gives, I think, a little bit of flexibility in terms of grid planning overall. Yeah,


Chris Adlam  27:17  

absolutely. We have full control over when we have the outages to a point, there are hours based parameters, that's actually what killed the Darlington runtime 11 106 days, it could have kept going. But they had to do an inspection that was based on the number of hours the unit had been online. And unfortunately, that's specific inspection, require the unit to be offline to do it, post refurbishment, that is no longer the case. One of the optimizations and tweaks that have been made as part of these refurbishments has been to minimize the events that take the require the unit to come offline. So maintenance and inspections, some a lot of this stuff can now be done with unit operational. So I think we should be looking to OPG to exceed that record in the future. Now that that no longer weighs in there. So there's an interesting CANDU advantage. Another thing I never mentioned in that Twitter exchange was, of course, the production of medical isotopes. And that's also a unique candy, there's so much to talk about Chris 60, Molly 99, the CHESSIE 177, like,


Chris Keefer  28:32  

so much, so much to talk about. Now, you know, when I was planning this podcast, I'm like, this has the potential to go completely off the rails and be super annoying, because I think we both have so much to say, but I think we're doing a good job so far. I do want to touch on a thread there, you know, plant the seed, what will hit it later. But basically, you know, what you're touching on with the potential now with some tweaks and the operational experience to to minimize outages even further or optimize the design. And often that's very mundane stuff, I was hearing someone saying, you know, part of our modernization program is simply to, you know, for for equipment that requires frequent maintenance, to make sure it's accessible without you know, having to erect a two story scaffold, because sometimes you're short on carpenters, and that can actually delay things slightly. Like the, the, the, the, I wasn't going to say it's mundane, some some of the things that we think of like when we think about improving a reactor design, often we're thinking about like novel, you know, cooling fluids, etc. And sometimes it's, you know, some of this very, very basic stuff, and that does, it's not sexy, so it doesn't get talked about, but I want to plant that seed, talk about it later. But just finishing up there. We've talked we kind of deep dive online refueling, using natural uranium was a huge advantage early on for energy security reasons. And also because gas diffusion enrichment I understand was very energy intensive, very expensive. Those costs came down. But of course we have this novel challenge now of Mo As enrichment capacity being outside of the west and in Russia and China combined,


heavy water is obviously kind of the the expense when it comes if you want to think of it that way to the to the kind of fueling of a candle or its, you know, its optimal physics. How does that compare in terms of the costs towards towards enrichment? And what are the challenges, I guess that we have moving forward with heavy water?


Chris Adlam  30:24  

Well, we did have three massive heavy water plants at Bruce, that all got raised when the export market vanished after the financial collapse, which is unfortunate, because that would have driven down the cost of heavy water significantly, it was powered using process steam at brews. So it was, you know, basically, excess heat was used to to create heavy water, which would have been extremely economic. Of course, the process used has a toxic element to it, which resulted resulted in part of the injury here on Park not being usable when the heavy water plants were


Chris Keefer  31:09  

not because it was discharging the toxin. But if something went wrong, it could have gone really bad. No, correct.


Chris Adlam  31:15  

Just a risk associated with the I think Gertler sulphide, I believe is the process that was in use, you have these massive distillation towers that you're you're utilizing to essentially distill out. And further, I increased the purity of the of the heavy water. I don't know if you've seen the pictures of them, but it was they were I do


Chris Keefer  31:41  

remember, I do remember the story of this, you know, Provincial Park. And there's these kind of evacuation notices, like if you hear the air siren Get out fast, and then people would probably assume it's because you know, maybe there's a risk that the nuclear plants gonna melt down. And it was no has nothing to do. Which is interesting.


Chris Adlam  31:57  

Yeah, yeah. Well, it's because of the chemicals right, the curlers using the girl, girl or sulfide process, you have a risk with those chemicals. And there was basically a exclusion zone around the heavy water plants. So suffice the result? So but first sites massive,


Chris Keefer  32:16  

suffice it to say heavy water is is an expense, and it's it is going to be a challenge to a candy Renaissance, because we got to make a bunch more of it.


Chris Adlam  32:24  

Well, we will if we have to build a lot of units, we do have some excess heavy water right now. But yeah, if we were, you know, if your undertake a construction of for new units, we don't have in our report, we're


Chris Keefer  32:36  

advocating for another 10. So starting


Chris Adlam  32:39  

starting with exactly and now it's not a recurring expense, right, like you can operate existing heavy water stores, which is what we do at Darlington, Pickering and Bruce. So it's not a consumable, it's something you just hold on to, but it is part of the initial capex. But how considerable that is, I think you have to look at that in context, like Vogel was what $35 billion for, you know, 2200 megawatts, or 2400 megawatts whatever it was. And took 15 years, and the most recent CANDU bills for Ken Chan and China, to EC sixes, 1400 megawatts, $3.8 billion, four years that they had no startup issues like that the plants just came online and worked. They were wholly unremarkable. There's no news about those two units in Kenshin. Because nothing happened, like when they built the EPR is in China, they had fuel leaks. And that was all over the


Chris Keefer  33:43  

oil auto weather with their massive and that was got these massive pumps because their core is like sick. Yeah, exactly.


Chris Adlam  33:49  

And these are first of a kind designs, right? And they're, they have growing and teething pains, whereas the EC six is just a tweak these tweaks, C six, it's a design that we built for 50 years, yet, it's Gen three plus. So, you know, that's another thing is that all of these new PW or, or, or BW or designs? Yes, they're revolutionary, but they have some significant safety system upgrades for you know, for passive controls to make them Gen three Gen three plus compliant, that have been part of the CANDU design since the beginning. So we haven't had to make those upgrades because the designs already compliant. So you know, you make some small tweaks to make certain things automated, but at the end of the day that that safety system was already in place. So it was much easier to turn the C six into the EC six and make it Gen three plus than it has been for any other design. So we would see the same thing if we resurrect,


Chris Keefer  34:51  

you know, I think some people would argue that the kitchen units while they're built in China and China has a ramped up, you know, supply chain workforce. They're hyper efficient with you know, mega projects of all different kinds high speed rail building hospitals quickly I guess one of them collapsed during the COVID response but even the AP 1000s Didn't go super smooth in China understand the the build time was about eight years per unit. Neither the DVRs so this is not just a China Yeah,


Chris Adlam  35:18  

no no the the easiest fix is a cookie cutter design. And as I said the execution for years, like ridiculously fast it three years on premise because they they go from actual first, first concrete but it's for actual shoveled a breaker. So like site to producing power was four years. It's ridiculous. So that's


Chris Keefer  35:39  

interesting to me, because in terms of the lifetime cost of a nuclear plant, if you have construction issues, obviously you've got a massive loans that are that are generating interest, particularly if you're not state backed or sort of bond backed, like Hinkley Point for instance, where I think, what does it have that the final cost is going to be? Or maybe even two thirds is just going to be interest payments over the lifetime of a plant? How much does that upfront construction cost impact? Because I mean, I remember Mark Nelson talking about hey, even Diablo Canyon sort of almost cost, what vocal cost, but now it's producing Ultra cheap power. Like how much of an advantage is that if you can build on time and on budget in terms of the kind of immortalized costs?


Chris Adlam  36:21  

It's significant. I mean, Darlington was our was our white elephant, right, because it goes delayed by Chernobyl and the financial collapse you do we finish the plant? Well, interest rates were insane at the time and so a large portion of Darlington's cause far more than in any of the other projects is interest or was interest. But depreciated. Darlington produces power for 3.7 cents. So it's ridiculously cheap, like the CapEx for the plant is ridiculously cheap. So as long as you can pay off and you can amortize that capex, which which Ontario Hydro was doing with all of the plants at the time, you know, Hydro Quebec has something like 50 billion in debt, on their hydro assets, when their construction projects. And it's not an issue because the assets are worth more than the debt. So Ontario, hydro is in very much in the same boat, which is, you know, you can do that with public utilities, they can carry large debt, they have cheap borrowing costs, don't have that advantage with these private projects. And I think that's maybe one of the reasons there were no real plants built in other jurisdictions, especially in the United States that rivaled the size of what Ontario Hydro built, you know, Ontario Hydro built eight units, one plant, and then did another eight, and then another eight, but they didn't finish the second part of the eight, right, because Darlington was supposed to be an eight unit plant, which we've seen the pictures of. So, you know, that level of ambition and the commitment to stuff of that scale. You didn't have elsewhere other than France, France did the same thing. Gravelines is a huge plan. Yep. Japan. Yeah. And other example, Ukraine. Units that are currently Yeah. You know, so the private, the private projects versus the public projects, the private projects, they're these companies are more risk adverse. They can't do the scale that we see with these public builders. Like who's who is going to build the James Bay project. Right? Look at the Hoover Dam Well, it's huge. It's


Chris Keefer  38:32  

not it's a hydro project, Northern Quebec. We'll talk a little bit make make some comparisons with the anterior Canada fleet maybe right now. But yes, just to just to feel the international listeners in we're talking about is like the big dam in China from blanking on the name right now in terms of output or not quite


Chris Adlam  38:49  

know that that dam is the largest hydro dam in the world. James Bay project is multiple dams,


Chris Keefer  38:54  

that total output,


Chris Adlam  38:57  

totaling about 25 gigawatts or 24 gigawatts, something like that. It's quite large. But that spanning four, six dams, if I remember correctly, all on the same water system, right all in the James Bay watershed. It flooded an area the size of the state of Florida, or Belgium.


Chris Keefer  39:17  

If you want to go to European comparison, there's that 17,000 square kilometers Yeah, I just posted a video of Dylan at Yosemite, talking about Ansel Adams, the iconic Sierra Club. One of the I think one of the founding members or at least very prominent also one of the you know the photographer's of Yosemite and he was just mentioning that you know comparing the the Ontario nuclear build out which including the mines and the fuel fabrication and the sights is on a on a footprint of 20 square kilometers. The James Bay project which actually has a lower output 17,000 square kilometers. So, this is not to bash on hydro which is a very important power source and has some great qualities to it but you You know, just to just to point out, you know, some of the the trade offs between different technology sources.


Chris Adlam  40:07  

Oh, absolutely. And one thing you mentioned earlier was about the cost of the refurbishment so they know that capital cost the, you know, 26 billion or whatever it's going to be to do. Bruce and Darlington. Bruce can produce 55 terawatt hours a year. Its lifetime output so far, is almost 1600 terawatt hours. Darlington's pushing 800 terawatt hours now, Pickering is on the cusp of petawatt hour at the moment. So, you know, and that you look at that, okay, well, that's an investment to do that, again, to continue that for another 4050 years, whatever. We're looking at $24 billion. So the Green Energy Act cost us $60 billion. So it costs more than the entire Ontario nuclear fleet. And it will produce roughly 300 terawatt hours for the entire lifetime of all of that equipment. So in terms of, you know, value for money, they're not even remotely comparable, right? You make that $24 billion investment. But then you look at how much that equipment has already produced in tears like and you you're more than double it, because Bruce is going to be more productive, Pickering is going to be more productive. Darlington is going to be more productive.


Chris Keefer  41:21  

We will deep dive the Green Energy Act that is, you know, a strong commitment. Based off of this conversation. I want to loop back to the the safety and the Gen three plus stuff. You know, I've been told not to use this, it's a bit of a low blow, perhaps, you know, we really shouldn't be making any safety arguments and denigrating other technologies. You know, and I think that's a real lesson for the advanced nuclear people and that use of the term advanced nuclear, which I do intend to do a small diatribe on in this conversation. But, you know, it is it is a fact that, you know, there's been five widely deployed reactor technologies we've already talked about PW are boiling water reactors, Pressurized Water Reactors, the pressurized heavy water reactor, the CANDU. And then we have the RBMK. And I guess the gas graphite reactor, these were widely deployed, there's only three that kind of our AGI, eg ours, there's only three that are, you know, continued to be viable and widely deployed as the RBMK has kind of went out of fashion with Chernobyl and the ADRs. Unfortunately, their cores are exactly right. So yeah, the interesting fact that was pointed out to me that there's only one of these reactor technologies that has never experienced a core melt. So why don't we talk a little bit about that, and again, why the candy was so inherently safe?


Chris Adlam  42:32  

Well, the the candy is kind of a bit like an onion, you have all of these layers, and they all have water. And it's really hard to melt stuff, when everything is sitting in multiple vats of water can do can be passively cooled, which is a new feature for everybody else, not a new feature for the CANDU. The Calandra is surrounded with light water shielding. So you have the Qalandia that itself is full of heavy water. It's surrounded by lightwater the pressure tubes have water in them. And then you have a massive water makeup tank, which is also a new feature for other designs, which we always had massive water makeup tank in the top of the individual units, or if you're talking about our four packs, which are unique to Ontario, the entire top of the vacuum building, which is a another safety system that other plants don't have, which is why that I'm gonna have a little bit of a tangent here. But if you ever look at how close Pickering is to housing and businesses, nobody has a plant that that that's that close. But we have a plant that's that close. And it's part of the reason we have this vacuum building. And that facilitated that it's, you know, you already have your redundant safety systems. But then you also have this secondary containment structure, which if you did have an event, and we've never had to use them, but if you did have an event, it would suck the contents to any of the volatile into that dose it


Chris Keefer  44:04  

like I had on one time one would use the water that's in this tank, radioisotope to cause significant, you know, morbidity and mortality at Chernobyl for non workers on site. Yeah.


Chris Adlam  44:13  

But that water can also be used as a makeup source for any of the units that are connected to it. And it is an obscene amount of water. So you know, so you had a fuel channel break, which we have had, we had a fuel channel break at Pickering. And it was a total non event. It dumped a whole pile of water that had to get cleaned up. They shut off the unit. They didn't even have to use the safety shutdown system, the emergency shutdown system, they just shut the unit down normally. And that was the largest safety event that we ever had a two meter long split and a fresher two.


Chris Keefer  44:46  

And so we had we had some rather hysterical reporting from an anti nuclear reporter Marco COVID. I will name his name and he talked about you know the potential or maybe he caught an expert potential for like a domino effect and like cascade given pressure tubes, you know, collapsing and that this kind of provided a mechanism for, I guess, kind of a core melt scenario, is that that probable possible,


Chris Adlam  45:10  

it's never happened. So we did have a situation where he had massive level of hydrogen uptake in a localized area, which is what resulted in the two meter split and the pressure tube, there were adjacent pressure tubes that were affected with the same problem. That the, what the heck that they called the annulus spacers. So the pressure tube sits inside the Calandra tube. And there's these little rings that essentially go around that keep the pressure tube off the Calandra tube, they move. And in this case, they moved and the there was some sag. And they touched. And that created a spot that developed a massive amount of hydrogen reddleman. And it's from that spot that the crack propagated. That happened in adjacent tubes as well. Only the one tube split. As I said the unit was shut down conventionally. Now we monitor for that we there's you there's an ultrasonic probe that goes into the pressure tubes, knows we all we know where all of the annulus spacers are. And we've never had that level of hydrogen uptake, again, greatly exceeded the design the design level, you know, what the limits for hydrogen concentration are extraordinarily conservative. Which is part of the reason shutting off Pickering. prematurely is is ridiculous, because it has its hydrogen uptake levels are so low compared to the other two plants.


Chris Keefer  46:45  

Okay, so we do have a whole episode on on pressure tube. So I want to stay a little clearer that but if you're interested, we will post that in the show notes. Just a last point because you mentioned all the safety features. And I think this is really, really important because we talked about how a lot of the novel designs have a lot of first of a kind features a lot of wrinkles to work out it's made them very difficult to construct. And I think about you know, designs that are pushing that potential even further chasing these safety increments, which are basically irrelevant. I mean, these traditional gen two PW RS and BW Rs are very, very safe machines, particularly even in an accidental concept. The health consequences are essentially zilch with proper containment, unlike the Chernobyl reactors, but leaving that diatribe aside,


you know, the idea of like, of new skill, you know, having a sort of traditional PW are like it's the steam generators are kind of put within the RPV, if I'm understanding correctly, but the idea of needing to build the world's largest and robust swimming pool to dunk these RP reactor pressure vessels, and I mean this is to chase the safety margins, but it radically increases cost and material usage and potentially makes these functionally unbuildable. Obviously, the AP 1000, not functionally unbuildable. But a massive challenge EPR similar story. And I think that's a real concern I have for a lot of these other first of the kind designs, and where that can do advantage shines through in terms of constructability is all of these little lessons learned along the way of operation without significant design changes being necessary, because we have so much inherent safety built in. So just one other thing I've heard about is you mentioned it, the passive cooling feature, just explain briefly how that works. And then we're gonna move on.


Chris Adlam  48:25  

So the CANDU can be cooled via convection. That's a new feature with other designs. That's an inherent feature with the can do you flood the steam generators, with the unit shut off it just naturally convex through the steam generators and dissipates the heat. And if you need to make up water, it gets pulled from that massive tank I mentioned earlier. That's like 2012 days. I understand. That's correct. Yeah, it's almost two weeks worth of passive capacity there. So if you can't get a pump on in two weeks, because you you can't, you can't have a tsunami on on the Great Lakes. So but yeah, if you can't get a pump on in two weeks, you've got other problems. But yeah, I mean, conceivably, you could use a bucket line. If you're looking to fill up and fill the makeup tank if you wanted to write like so much margin there.


Chris Keefer  49:15  

Yeah. Okay. Okay. I'm at a loss for words here. Let's let's move on a little bit.


I think we've kind of really touched on the rationale and potential. It's a little facetious of calling candy, the gold standard reactor admitting that there there's really no gold standard.


There's reactors that have slightly different use cases. I guess, if you'll permit me, I really want to workshop. This, this bit of messaging I've been working on which is this idea of there being no such thing as advanced nuclear. To me, it's kind of similar to talking about or using a framework of well advanced fossil fuels. For me, it's just that there's different use cases. So it's like saying a non gasoline Engine is advanced like a diesel engine can do things that are different, it's better suited for, you know, runtimes that are basically going constant for farm machinery for mining equipment for certain types of propulsion for ships. That doesn't make it advanced. It's just a different use case or, you know, a jet turbine that can fly an airplane or generate power in a way that a gasoline engine can, does that make it advanced or just a different use case. And you know, when I think about trying to generate high process heat with nuclear that is vitally important if we want to if we're serious about decarbonisation, does that make it advanced? And, you know, because we've done it before, right, and I mean, a lot of these these designs are coming out of the 1950s experiments, but


Chris Adlam  50:39  

yep, they're all coming out of the 1950s experiments. Yeah. And


Chris Keefer  50:43  

it's, it's similar to, you know, using a language is vitally important, particularly when communicating to the lay public, you know, just the the ridiculous basket of renewables to incorporate things as environmentally harmful as biomass and trying to lump that in with things like wind and solar, hydro, you know, being dispatchable and have great utility, creating kind of low entropy, useful power. It's not a useful term. And it also appeals to the natural, the appeal to nature fallacy. But I think advanced nuclear is kind of similarly problematic. Things like, you know, new scale, or BW, or x, often are classified in this advanced basket.


Chris Adlam  51:20  

And there's nothing advanced about the BW or x. It's a BW er.


Chris Keefer  51:23  

And that's not to denigrate it. That's amazing. It's amazing.


Chris Adlam  51:28  

It's a small version of a conventional design.


Chris Keefer  51:31  

But let me finish the diatribe if you will. Obviously, using a term like advanced denigrates the existing fleet instills in the public, this idea that what we have right now is no good, it's going to go the way of the dodo. It's not safe enough. You know, it's it's, it's, it's creating too much waste. This just plays into the anti nuclear communications book. So I would like to forward that as an idea. I'm very open to people pushing back on that, but I think this is a marketing term, which was a massive mistake, and we need to really move away from it. Dylan, Moon, author, you know, the guy putting the words on the page, and doing a lot of analysis and research said that Canada is the only advanced reactor that has 25 units deployed around the world. I thought that was kind of funny. But I think I think we need to have a certain amount of humor and and we need to entertain debate about the language that we use, I cut you off, Adam, go ahead, refund and


Chris Adlam  52:26  

humility, I need Candy's not perfect. I love it. It's complex, you have 480 or 380, depending on which design you're looking at feel channels, you have feeling machines, they're going all the time, right? It's complex, you have stuff that other designs do not have that enable it to function as it functions to make that work with natural uranium, you know, you you have these additional complexities. bw er is the simplest reactor out there. Right? You don't even have steam generators. So, you know, in terms of simplicity, you know, you have that DWR that kind of, I would say sets the simplicity benchmark. But then you have to have all these additional safety features, which make complex and what why is that very brief. Or in case you had a field melt event, okay. Just like with any other act design, you had to prevent that. So, we had, as I said, earlier, we had those from the get go, but per your point about this language and using advanced, it's, it draws one to infer from that that addition that existing designs aren't safe, you know, these focuses on safety. Oh, it has passive safety. Okay. Well, that means that we have currently doesn't have passive safety, and it's risky. And that freaks out the public, or you're running a design that was built in 1970. You know, it's horribly unsafe. No, it's not. So yeah, you're right, that framing really casts in a negative light, the existing fleet, which is what's currently doing all of the hard work. But per that point, or to that point, rather, if, if we were to build an EC nine, or a series of EC nine being enhanced standard nine, a larger version of the enhanced Kansas, yeah, it would be they can do six EC six tweaks, right, applied to the 480 field channel design. It wouldn't be any more safe than Darlington, it wouldn't be any more safe than Bruce Lee. It wouldn't be any more safe than Bruce a. Because fundamentally, the safety systems are the same. That's not the case with other reactor designs. Their safety systems had to get upgraded for Gen three plus. We added some additional passive parts of it there which were previously active but they're the exact same safety systems. So that's a differentiator. I Don't say that I wouldn't say that makes the CANDU more advanced per your language there. But it is something to I think, make note of. You know, we did have, you know, a lot of this comes out of the whole initial incident we had at CHOC River, which was not again do but really underscored the importance of redundant safety systems, which when we did go to pursue actual power reactors, was fundamental to how that whole program developed, which I think has been a keystone as to why the whole candy program has been so safe. You know, you look at India, those are not ideal operating conditions. Yet, there's never, there's never been an event, right. Like, they had some horrible capacity factors, doing fuel shortages. And due to being non compliant with the International Atomic Energy Agency on some of this stuff, other than poor capacity factor, if we don't hear anything out of that, right. So yeah, you have units that may not be deployed in ideal locations that still have not presented to safety risk.


Chris Keefer  56:17  

And that this is yeah, I mean, I want to be careful here not to like not to denigrate the Indians who, you know, again, faced pretty, pretty massive challenges, in terms of not to say that they're not very capable at running the reactors, but And similarly, I they are obvious. And similarly, I don't want to denigrate people involved in developing reactors with different use cases, I don't want to use the term Gen four, I don't want to use the term advanced. But clearly, you know, for the long term sustainability of nuclear, we need fast breeder reactors, clearly for decarbonizing process, heat, at least kind of that mid range process heat that we can replace, we need high temperature gas reactors, this isn't to sort of poke holes and say there's not a use case, am I biased in terms of the near term deployment of nuclear, particularly in the West, where we're out of practice, that we should be pursuing designs that we're intimately familiar and have operational history with? Absolutely. And I mean, again, just look at the rising capacity factors with with all nuclear designs, there are kinks to work out in the early days. And if we move too quickly, and don't deploy reactors, we're familiar with, the public's not going to have a lot of patience for a reactor that keeps shutting down every, every six weeks or something like that. And having these long delays and threatening the economics, we need to pursue on a core of what we do well, and then we need to start slowly developing other technologies, which don't necessarily replace the existing fleet, but add a different use case just like a diesel engine as a different use case or a jet, a jet turbine as a different use case. Anyway, that's kind of that's kind of my my diatribe on that. Why don't we talk a little bit more specific to Ontario. Now, I'm conscious that we're running up on an hour, we have a proposal, which is in this report the case for Ken Do you know to build 10, new large CANDU reactors in Ontario. Let's talk a little bit about the nuts and bolts of that, maybe where we would put those reactors. You know, the report, we do talk about Darlington B, which currently is slated for at least one VW x 300. Let's let's talk through that a little bit. You know that that site, as I understand it is probably the most valuable nuclear site in the western world in that it is a ready to build site with a grandfathered in environmental impact assessment, we could sort of break ground. Well, there's a few other things to go through. But we could break ground very quickly there. Tell me more about the Darlington D site. And then let's explore some of the other sites available. And again, I mean, I think this is just so exciting. Because you know, south of the border, there's a lot of talk about nuclear there's inflation Reduction Act, which is finally steering some dollars towards nuclear, but the whole thing seems to be a bit of a mess. They've they've invested a lot of time capital human resources in AP 1000. And there's no plans to build another one. There's a number of advanced nuclear reactor cons, I just said, there's a bunch of different use case, nuclear reactor concepts. It's a bit clumsy, I'll admit it. A lot of them require Hey, Lou Haley's gonna be in very short supply because enrichment isn't is intensely limited. Should sanctions on Russia hold. So anyway, wait too long of a question. Let's focus in on on the future of Ontario and the future of CANDU in Ontario and some of the sites. My god that was a long question.


Chris Adlam  59:28  

As you know, Darlington B was originally supposed to mirror Darlington a I had this screenshot but I don't so I can't share it, but we have a picture of Darlington and it looks like Pickering, other than it has two backing buildings. And Tom had said when he visited when he worked for the for Ontario Hydro back in the day and Darlington was being completed. The rebar was still sticking out of the side of Darlington a were Darlington B was supposed to be constructed. So The plans for the B units which were supposed to mirror the units has been around a very, very long time. Then that plan was resurrected by Dalton McGuinty. This was before the the GA kind of derailed things in Ontario. And ACL wanted to build their the ACR 1000, which is a kind of a lightwater can do takes enriched fuel. And that didn't go anywhere. It made it through the the vendor design review process. But then the government basically said that, you know, if there were any cost overruns, or anything that happened to this project, ACL was on the hook for everything, that they had to bear the entire risk of the project. So they're like, Okay, well, we're gonna price it at 24 billion. And they did. And then we didn't build it, because that was stupid. And we should have just built EC sixes at the time. But anyways, that that was when we went through this environmental assessment process, which took six years to get a valid EA, which would take even longer now, as you know, because of the revisions made under the Trudeau liberals. And that site was licensed for up to 1400 megawatts and where does the 1400 megawatts come from? Well, for ACR 1000s, they were 1200 megawatt design 1400 megawatts. So that's where that figure came from. And it was supposed to be, as I said, 24 billion for two was a ACL was designed, or was told that they had to bear the entire project cost. Now, this important to realize this is on the heels of this successful kinsman project, which only cost 3.8. It's not like there wasn't a track record of success here, like ACL went in there with this in their back pocket, like, look, we just did this and make it he's like your, or maybe it was when at the time, I can't remember it was, I think later on. So it was when I was like, well, guess what? You have to bear the entire risk for the entire project and like, Okay, well, if everything goes wrong, we're going to use this number that basically killed it, but OPG assuming that they would eventually get a government that was more receptive to new nucular kept the site license active. And they found that of course, with the Ford government, who's also directed OPG to revisit the Pickering be refurbishment, of course. But at that time, like after Kathleen Wynne formally canceled, Darlington B, and OPG, has maintained that site license, we of course, had the federal SMR roadmap. And so we had all these SMR designs that got submitted to the CNSC. And they had this vendor of vendor design review process. And some of these designs are like stuff that, you know, might have been theoretically proven in the 50s or 60s. But there's never been commercial version. Other designs are more conventional, like the VW RX 300, which is just a shrunk VW car. And OPG saw an opportunity to they had this license site, they had this federal support to build SMRs. Early on, there was a CANDU SMR. s&c Lavell, and kind of half ass resurrected the CANDU three, which was the theoretical design that came out around the same time as the CANDU nine but we never exported it. Like the candy nine. And so that dropped off the radar. So, you know, there was all these hypothetical designs that, you know, could maybe be constructed, we don't know what the risks are, don't really know what the costs are going to be. And then there's this conventional BW or design which you could probably put a price tag on and so it'd be G settled on building that instead. Or well building that instead of all these, one of the theoretical designs because they figured it was had the highest likelihood of success. And you know, that somebody had to build an SMR because we had this program might as well be obg they figured they fit they're gonna build something. They build what was currently being supported. candies were never in the picture. After s&c pulled the plug on the can't do SMR There was never a consideration that we would build candies at Darlington beyond that point. It was okay. We're building SMRs


Chris Keefer  1:04:40  

just interject quickly here. The kind of SMR hype train is very interesting to me because I think prior to about 10 years ago, if you told people that even in the nuclear industry that the future of nuclear is to reject the economy of scale. And to go small, I think you might have got laughed at by A large majority of folks in the nuclear industry and I feel like that's, that's completely flipped. And obviously, there's been scaling issues, there's a limit to how large you can go. And I think the EPR is at the edge of that. And there's a bunch of universe specialized equipment, just like we're seeing with offshore wind made a great episode with Angelica Huang, you can take things to largely run into some additional engineering problems. You're too too big for your britches in terms of the grid you're on. But there's been this kind of sweet spot between probably around six 700 to a gigawatt, the nucleus tended to trend towards now like my take on the SMR rationale is ultimately like, why why have we why have we sort of changed our minds so much on that? Is it well, in terms of the hype, shall we say, insufficient demand, insufficient demand projections to justify large nuclear, if you don't have customers for the kilowatt hours, you can't throw four or five, 6 billion at a large reactor, this idea that nuclear is deeply unpopular, because Fukushima happened, it needs a rebrand, we wanted to put nuclear in the name. It's a small modular reactor. Similarly, after Fukushima, and maybe without strong impetus for demand growth, or fuel security or energy security implications, not really being there, this idea that government will never finance nuclear again. So we've got to make it about a billion dollars. So we can, you know, get private capital and in the game,


Chris Adlam  1:06:18  

that you just you just touch right, right, that's it's all about making the capex low enough that private money will flow into it. It's not about having the lowest price per megawatt hour per kilowatt hour, it's about bringing the capital cost down enough that the private risk adverse, private parties are willing to put money in.


Chris Keefer  1:06:39  

Okay, so a few more, let me let me finish my diatribe them. So the kind of fourth principle, I guess, is that economies of multiples will trump economies of scales. And I find this interesting, because, you know, building eight units at one site, one certainly gets towards economies of multiples. And if the demand is there, sure, if you only have, you know, a couple gigawatts of demand to fill in, then maybe it is best to build, you know, six or seven SMRs to get economies of multiples at it. But if you have large demand, then you could build a lot of larger nukes and get both economies of multiples and economies of scale. Lastly, and I think this is something that drives me nuts. You know, as we were saying, there's problems with using the wrong words or being not specific renewables being an example, advanced nuclear being an example, small modular reactors being an example, small ranges from micro reactors of, you know, maybe a megawatt up to what Rolls Royce is proposing. Apparently, they fit in the small basket of something towards 500 500. Well, they're small modular reactors. So we can move to a manufacturing model, we can just bang them out like Tesla's in a factory, well, maybe with a micro reactor, but let me tell you a 300 to 500 megawatt reactor, you're going to be doing a lot of stick building on site, we had a great episode with Tony Roulstone, on the kind of case for SMR economics. And of course, the more that you can modularize as long as you have very capable manufacturing facilities that can actually size things correctly. So the Lego blocks fit together. That's a great idea. But you know, in terms of the kind of stick building elements, things I've heard are, well, we can use steel bricks, which is like as a novel construction technique in terms of laying concrete that might speed it up. No reason why that only applies to small and not large, as far as I can tell with my deep civil engineering training that I have. I can't being facetious here. And again, I put these ideas forward, I hope that they can be chopped down. But you know, this this is a little diatribe similar to advanced nuclear on on SMRs. Obviously, Canada has a number of small grids that are a great fit for a small modular reactor, don't get me wrong. This is not a kind of simplistic diatribe against the idea of having smaller sized reactors or even, you know, reactors that can you know, that like the Dow Chemical reactors with X energy producing high temperature processes, you don't need a gigawatt scale reactor there. Right. But in terms of the rationale for small nuclear in Ontario, and that Darlington site, as I understand it, current plans have been that we'd build for BW x three hundreds, they're using one quarter of the license capacity of the most valuable nuclear site in North America in the midst of massively increased demand projections. And I'm going to keep on the diatribe here. I'd love to feel if you'll bear me out. The last point being last point being that the utilities are saying in regards to the enhanced CANDU six which is through the vendor Design Review, which is basically ready to build which you have the Qin Shan units demonstrating they're not interested in a smaller reactor that's, you know, 700 megawatts. It's too small. They want to get a gigawatt reactor. They have you know, we have a number of sites like West Louisville and Nanticoke old either old coal facilities or places that were wired with transmission for actually oil generation. at Westlake Village, we have these sites their precious precious sites, we can't afford to waste a single license megawatt. So we need gigawatt scale candies. They need to be you know, need to develop a new CANDU essentially Really, but this Darlington site is somehow an exception to that rule that somehow you know it, we shouldn't be taking advantage of the capacity we have when we're forecasting, you know, 50 terawatt hours of increased demand of organic demand, not climate based demand, but organic demand. In the next 10 years diatribe over that wasn't a question. I feel like one of those people at an event where they're supposed to ask a question, but you just go on a huge lecture and the moderators like, Okay, I'm trying to give you signals. Anyway, Adam, you can run with anything.


Chris Adlam  1:10:31  

I don't even know where to begin now. I mean, you touched on small grids. So the there's the case for SMRs. Right? It's better to have a design that maybe has crappier economics, but at least you can build it and put it there than to not have a design that fits. I mean, you look at Lowepro that's a 660 megawatt plant. In a grid that doesn't work with a 660 megawatt plant. There's a lot of support in play to make Lowepro work. Nova Scotia would be even worse. If you tried to squeeze a C six into Nova Scotia, it's like it represents half of Nova Scotia is power. One unit, you take the unit down, well, there goes Nova Scotia. So those sorts of designs are those sorts of grids are more conducive for SMR. acknowledging the fact that it's not going to produce power as cheaply as Darlington, right. There's a reason Ontario Hydro went with four packs. There's a reason we went from the 380 fuel channel design to the 480 fuel channel design. There's the reason Darlington produces the least expensive electricity. The economies of scale are real and they work. So the our 480 fuel channel plants are cheaper to run than our 380 FuelBand channel plant. Pickering is more expensive to operate than Darlington and Bruce. It they produce more kilowatt hours. So they're going to be cheaper per kilowatt hour because the capex doesn't matter at this point because they're all paid off. The OPEX is higher, you have the same staffing level. Pickering, as you have it Bruce or Darlington, but you're producing electricity. Does it mean Pickering is not worth refurbishing? It doesn't mean Pickering is not worth investing in. But it makes the point that the economies of scale work. And if you have this four pack design, which of course we do, which I'd like to see you resurrected, but I don't know what the likelihood of that is. That's that was a learned approach that Ontario Hydro had long prior to its involvement with nuclear that was the approach that they flushed out to be the most effective with their thermal plants, period. And it's based on like, you know, they did the same thing with the hydro plants, how many turbines are at Niagara Falls, right. So how many units were at Nanticoke eight, how many units were at Lambton for how many units were supposed to be at Leslieville for. So, you know, the these this multi unit, they built them in pairs, but they ultimately ended up being because if I don't say that we're building pairs, Tom's gonna kill me. The nukes for the same way the pairs that became four packs, which became eight packs. And that was the most efficient, it was deemed the most efficient process by Ontario Hydro. And that's why they pursued it Lowepro doesn't have the economics that the Ontario fleet has because it's one unit. And Gentilly was supposed to be four, there was one unit. So, you know, there there is that advantage of that the economies of scale. And if you do have a grid that's large enough, like Ontario's where you can continue to build those large units, you'd be absolutely stupid not to Darlington B should have for whatever the modern version of the CANDU nine ends up being, so the C nine or EC 10. You know, it would be incredibly simple and don't mean simple. As inhalers, it's, you know, takes five minutes, but it would be simple to take the existing CANDU nine design, which is what Darlington is just like the CANDU six, add the EC features, right the the more modularization. The condensing of some of the systems basically just take all of the design tweaks that we did for the C six, apply them to the CANDU nine, which you know, fundamentally is the same design just blown up. Build that again. It would be extremely similar to the Darlington eight plants. And if you could do a four pack if if you could do that column and turbine Hall and optimize the civil side of the plant, which is what Ontario Hydro is doing, though it would be your lowest cost option, for sure. And, you know, to your point about the refurbishments, I mean we're already building most of these components, because they're being replaced As part of the refurbishment so to build that design, when you've already got the supply chain for it for everything but the civil side, you'd be stupid not to. So yeah, there's there's definitely a case to build can't do nines alongside the SMRs. OPG. wants to build the SMRs. Because A, they're supported by the federal government. And they're supported by the federal government across Canada. And be they want to be the export partner, they figure that if they show that they can do it, then they can then do that in the other provinces. Because they have some export ambitions now, which is something that Ontario Hydro add. So you know, they come by it naturally.


Chris Keefer  1:15:41  

So I got one question for you. And I guess this all depends upon, you know, we've used the kind of visualization of passing the baton between the relay race between refurbishment to new build, and if that's done smoothly, and we take the supply chain that's fully ramped up, and that ultra skilled workforce that's learned all kinds of new lessons, both from the operation of these plants for 40 plus years, as well as the refurbishment, that that is going to be the most efficient. You know, I can't say it enough, nuclear is really hard to get right. It's a very low risk construction project to attach solar panels made in China to steel frames, maybe also made in China, maybe here, you get my point. Nuclear construction requires such incredible institutional excellence, right, from, you know, the blueprints to the project managers, to the engineers, to the skilled trades, to the person physically working with the object and figuring out what orientation to hold it to do some welding. I mean, it's an incredible level of complexity, which needs to be dialed in. And I think, again, that's like, why do I care? You know, what kind of nuclear gets built? Nuclear is good, right? I mean, that's why I think it's because of kind of a careful analysis. And seeing that this, in my mind, and my opinion, probably your opinion, as well, this is the most efficient route for Ontario to succeed with a nuclear renaissance, build the credibility, you know, and continue to be an active part of of a nuclear renaissance, maybe, you know, new CANDU export ambitions available.


Chris Adlam  1:17:06  

We have 50 years of operating experience.


Chris Keefer  1:17:08  

But the question I have for you. The question I have for you, I guess, is related to that timing, you know, moving next to Pickering the workforce that's available. Should we be jumping ahead at Darlington? And it's rather presumptuous for me to say so I'm going no planning position here. But, you know, if we if we were making decisions, would you advocate trying to get some enhanced CANDU sixes built at that site, given that there may be several years delay and engineering to get the enhanced CANDU nine together, and potentially a change in government a lack of political will like how important to you think it is to get shovels in the ground building new Canada units, even if they are slightly smaller, and don't use the full license capacity at Darlington?


Chris Adlam  1:17:50  

I'm gonna throw the curveball here and say, I would cancel the SRT Darlington B. And I'd build that somewhere in the prairies where they can actually utilize it. Use that as the beta testing site. And build can use a darling to be which is supposed to be there. The guy OPG could still be the partner in the in the constructor. But it wouldn't be in Ontario, because it's it's silly building a 260 megawatt unit in Ontario, when we already figured the Pickering units were too small, which is why the big 900 megawatt units. But yeah, there is this a good debate, whether you build the EC six, which is already licensed, and good to go. Or whether you wait for SNC to resurrect the see the can do and I design and make it easy nine, I think a strategic partnership between SNC and OPG, similar to how Ontario Hydro had the same strategic partnership with ACL that would allow enable them to flush that out somewhat organically, you know, if it's going to if we could start site prep now. And it doesn't matter what design we ultimately go with. They could get work started on that, because they're gonna require the same sort of cooling setups, no matter which design they build, right. And a lot of the civil work would be the same. They could flush out, you know, whether the EC nine would make it through CNSC approval in time to be constructed within the timeline we're looking at or if whether they just forge ahead with doing the EC six. And you're right, it would, you'd be using about half the site license if you built built for it for EC sixes, which is still an improvement for building for the beat of yours. But yeah, it's not ideal. I mean, Darlington told me an idealist but Darlington Naish and B should mirror each other, they shouldn't be the same design, just like Bruce c should be the same as Bruce B. Well, similar to Bruce B Brucey should look like when that gets built. Well, I turn up my volume. They're like Bruce C and D, both show up on the Bruce site. Obvious, obviously some serious ambitions for that site and those would have been good United's because that's what was on the table at the time. Right. So I'd like to see that design. Succeed. I think that would be the best choice for Darlington B. But being realistic, yeah. If you had to put shovels in the ground tomorrow sort of thing. You'd have to go with DC six. Just because it's the it's good to go. It's turnkey. We've already built to


Chris Keefer  1:20:53  

All right, Chris, we've gone substantially over the usual one hour limit. This might be the longest episode ever, and we are getting into some weeds here. But I really do sincerely hope that the listenership outside of Ontario enjoys this as much as I have. And if you do enjoy the couple, please consider making a generous donation on Patreon was meant meaning to work that into the middle of the episode. But Chris, an absolute pressure, pressure, pleasure getting to spend an hour and a half with you and deep dive this. Again, one of the visionary co founders of C forany. tremendous, tremendous asset. You have been mistaken, I think multiple occasions for being a nuclear engineer or a project manager. I think I think you talk like one. Anyway. We'll we'll let it go there, Chris. Pleasure having you back. Thank you, Chris.



bottom of page