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What Does a Just Transition Look Like?

Dan Campbell

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Chris Keefer  0:00  

Welcome back to Decouple. Today I'm joined by Dan Campbell, Dan's a licensed nuclear operator at Bruce Power, the world's largest nuclear waste were the world's largest operating nuclear plant. Prior to being authorized nuclear operator, Dan worked at Nanticoke, North America's largest coal fired Generating Station. Dan's also a chief steward with the power Workers Union. And really pleased to have you on the show. Dan, looking forward to having a pretty exciting conversation at boat. I guess the just transition and and your story. So welcome to the

Dan Campbell  0:36  

show. Thanks for having me. I

Chris Keefer  0:36  

appreciate being so then we do a little bit of a self introduction here. But you like working at big places? Is that Is that accurate? Tell us tell us more about yourself

Dan Campbell  0:45  

seems to be Yeah, seems to be so. Like you said Nanticoke generating station at eight 500 megawatt units all lined up from one big long row there. And it was big place, big coal pile, big smokestacks, big power station. And I guess that's kind of what I'm used to. And that's very similar to the blue station that I'm at now. With the difference in technology

Chris Keefer  1:08  

minus the coal pile.

Dan Campbell  1:10  

That's right. All right. But

Chris Keefer  1:11  

but there is more to you than this. You know, we've been working closely with you, Jesse Freeston, of Decouple studios. Got the red carpet tour of Bruce Power to film a little bit about your life up there. And, and so we've been chatting for a little while. I know you're a musician, as well. So yeah, I mean, tell us a bit more about yourself, man, let's, let's say personally.

Dan Campbell  1:34  

Yeah, I mean, I was happy, so happy when you guys reached out to me to talk about this kind of stuff. Because, you know, it hits close to home to, to be able to communicate these, this transition that I went through, and to be able to have it reach people that, you know, aren't often reached through our normal corporate communication departments. So you guys have a very cool way of reaching out to people with all these new forms that aren't necessarily the traditional ways that big business operates in. And first myself personally, I guess, you know, to do a little intro, I love playing music, play all the instruments. I'm an avid boater I love playing sports, my kids. I love living in the town that I live in now that I grew up in since I was a child and I worked with my dad on shift for five years. My grandmother worked at Bruce Power before it was Bruce Power. Yeah, I guess that's, that's the gist of it.

Chris Keefer  2:37  

Awesome, awesome. So we're gonna, I guess, you know, it's gonna be a personal interview, because we're gonna be telling I'm talking a bit about your life story. But you were saying kind of going right back to that your, your family has worked at this Nuclear Generating Station for three generations now. Yeah. But there's, there's some interesting bits there that I've heard about, like your dad used to work at the 40 units, the Bruce a side of the plant, which was actually closed down and lost his job. And I think that had a pretty big impact on you. We're talking about just transition, I guess there's such thing as a unjust D transition as well. So yeah, I don't know where you want to start. But I'm interested in hearing it all, then

Dan Campbell  3:17  

sure. Well, I can I can go over that piece. So that was about don't quote me on the exact number about 12 years old or something like that, when they close down Bruce A, and my dad was faced with, you know, not having the job that he had been accustomed to, and that we, as a family had been accustomed to. And I say, as far as just transition piece, he was somewhere in the middle. So he didn't get fired, he didn't lose his job, but he had to move away, like far away. So the company was big enough at the time that they were able to absorb him somewhere else. But that was in a city away from the place that we all lived. And, and that was pretty tough time for us understanding that, you know, in other places in the world, when these places closed down, you can be just out on the street. So we're somewhere in the middle there. As far as just transition to go.

Chris Keefer  4:09  

What did your dad do it? Bruce Lee again, just for people that don't know, Bruce, world's largest copper nuclear facility. There's an A there's a beside, I think he was pumping out 3400 megawatts or something like that. And I

Dan Campbell  4:23  

mean, they're a little over 800 megawatts each,

Chris Keefer  4:26  

each unit, but there's four units each size. And so why did Bruce he shut down what happened there? Because those units are being refurbished now. Right.

Dan Campbell  4:34  

Yeah. So that was kind of an economic feasibility study that went on at the time and there was a new management group that came into Ontario Hydro at the time to look at profitability and the provinces needs and to be I guess, I'm probably not the expert to ask about what exactly went into that decision, but I know what the decision and nobody around here was very happy with it, that's for sure. Right? and proved to be, you know, in the long run, obviously not the right one because here we are running these reactors that were essentially going to be mothballed. And I'm just glad they didn't full on ruin them when they shut them down. But we got them back. And we've rebuilt parts of them. And we're really rebuilding some of them now. And, you know, they're contributing to third of the energy in Ontario right now without any greenhouse gas emissions. So call that when.

Chris Keefer  5:30  

Right, right? Yeah, I mean, it's actually interesting. The second episode we did on Decouple was with Steve Aplin, who's a local kind of Ontario Energy guru. And he talks a lot about how, you know, nuclear and coal were on the grid for a while. And you know, when nuclear units would come off, coal would come on, and there was kind of this dance that happened. But I guess, because we had those multiple units around, we were able to bring them online, to finally get coal off the grid entirely. But by that time, they'd shut down, I guess, Bruce, say our coal use, I think has went up in the meantime. And so it was your family kind of relocated down to what was it Port Dover, or to the to the Nanticoke? area? Did your dad end up working at that coal plant as well, he

Dan Campbell  6:11  

went to work at Pickering, actually, for a while. Okay. And he wasn't there an incredibly long time, he ended up getting another job back here before we had to permanently move anywhere.

Chris Keefer  6:21  

Yeah, cuz I think that's a big part of, of when people talk about just transition, is the ways in which people are tied to the communities that they grew up in, and that their parents grew up. And I've been reading a few reports recently, and they're a little bit flippant about that, you know, they say, you know, I mean, fossil fuel workers, it's only sort of, you know, a small amount of the total jobs in this country, and everyday people are losing their jobs and getting new jobs. And, you know, sometimes it's a bit flippant, yeah, it's, it's good to talk to someone who was kind of affected by that. Yeah. So what what leads you down to, to Nanticoke, to working at North America's largest coal plant.

Dan Campbell  7:00  

So Linda, when I was a kid in high school, and I was deciding what I wanted to do in the world. I wanted, you know, as a kid, before, my dad worked in the nuclear industry, like, we did not have a lot of money. I knew what it was like to be financially insecure as a child, and I didn't like it. So I told myself, that's not gonna happen to me, I'm gonna make sure I have financial security for my family for myself, and I can lead a life with that as a base foundation. So when I was in high school, I sought that out specifically, and I landed on, you know, being an operator in a nuclear power plant. That was my goal. So when we school for a program that would lead me to that and found that from that qualification I got in college, there's all these other opportunities to work, creating steam, all kinds of different ways aren't nuclear fission. And I'd started to explore some of those. And you know, I was a 20 year old kid, I was young and had this opportunity to go live in another beach town away from the one I grew up in and meet new people and see new things. And I'm like, Yeah, sure, let's do it. And I did. And it was fun. It was great. I met all kinds of people down there, I still friends with all kinds of them. And I really had a great experience as a young person, just you know, exploring a different part of the world that I hadn't grew up in. That's how I got there.

Chris Keefer  8:24  

Different different Great Lakes.

Dan Campbell  8:27  

same but different.

Chris Keefer  8:31  

Run some steam stuff and see the world I guess it's it gets a different take on the Navy. But yeah, yeah. So yeah, I mean, how old were you was your first job working at Nanticoke,

Dan Campbell  8:41  

I briefly worked in actually a steel mill that was a neighbor to the Nanticoke chattering station for about a year and I was 20 years old when I started that job and 21 When I started at Namco generating station.

Chris Keefer  8:55  

So what's it like working at a coal plant like paint, paint, paint the picture for me, as someone who's kind of bone ignorant of this, my I've toured like one large industrial site, which was Bruce Power. So that's my context. I think some of my listenership will be better educated than me. So I'm not. So what do you see when you walk in there?

Dan Campbell  9:12  

There's two ways to answer that question. And there's the perspective of when I was there and the perspective of what I have now. So which, which one do you want?

Chris Keefer  9:21  

Take Take us through some virgin eyes, and then and then give us your reflections? Sure, you know, looking back on it.

Dan Campbell  9:26  

So, you know, when I was waiting school that we had a very small boiler plant there that was, you know, licensed by the TSA so we could get our experience and get our certification to run boilers, essentially. And I worked there and then I had a smart summer job at a small cogeneration power plant that was like 50 megawatts, ran a little jet engine is very small, very clean and tidy place to work. Then I went to graduate college I was maybe just turned 20. I went to work at coal plant. And when I did my physical at the coal plant, the first day I got there, the doctor said to me, I hope that you don't work here for your whole career, this is not a healthy place to be. And it's not good for you as a human being to be here for a long period of time. And I at the time, you know, in retrospect, you know, I appreciate that advice, but at the time, it was kind of like, you know, screw you, man, not everybody gets to be a doctor, like somebody places, so I have to make a living like I didn't, I didn't appreciate the time at all, actually, I found it condescending solving. But with the but and then, you know, I worked there, and I kind of saw what he's talking about. And it's a different world, it's, there's all kinds of industrial processes that just are because it's a dirty world, like there's, you make coke oven gas from coal, and you burn that and boilers, and it's a huge operation. And there's benzene and that stuff everywhere. And if there's any kind of leak, you know, by the time you get around to putting on an air pack to deal with it, and stuff, like you may or may not be exposed to it. The coal plant or the steel mill is, you know, it's in the heart of industrial experience. Exactly, right. Like, it's, that's what it is, right. So when I went from there to the coal plant, like it was a step up in job security, pay health and safety, it was a step up from what I was used to, so I was quite impressed with it. You know, the, the just the electricity generating process is cleaner than making steel out of coal and iron ore. So, you know, 21 year old Dan Campbell at the time was pretty pumped, but he was making more money, then every single one of his friends who was still in university was working in a place that was safer than what it was used to is. Everything was good, right? So I was quite happy with it. And in fairly ignorant to the drawbacks of what was actually going on in that place at the time. Happily ignorant, I guess I could even say, because everything was good for me. And, you know, then the, at the time to the government had a policy saying they wanted to get rid of coal power. And those of us in the generating station that at the time, we were, like, those units weren't filling in the voice of electricity at the time, they're running full bore all time. So and it's a big station. So we're like, okay, like, that's nice that you want to do that. But that's not possible. So we kind of laughed about it, right? Like Good Luck. Like, that's not gonna end well, when you start having brown notes and hospitals, like your policy isn't going to be very popular then. Right. So it was it was funny to us, like we would laugh when people would bring that policy up that the government had at the time. And then the economic downturn of 2008 happened, and the electricity prices were going up industry was leaving the province, and in a massive scale, and the electricity demand went way down. And it was no longer funny in an instant, it was absolutely possible that they could close that place down and they did. So in the dynamics of working there, then were like, it was not a not a happy place to be like, people were angry, they were upset, they didn't agree with the policy, they didn't agree with global warming period. And I was led to believe by a lot of people that I trusted that it wasn't what people were making it out to be not that it flat out wasn't happening, but not on the scale that it was claimed to be. And that was that was people, you know, justifying their own ends to a means. And I certainly took part in that at the time too. You know, people would say things that were potentially true, but not the whole truth. Things I remember one of the quotes that would go around at the time was the biggest emitters of co2 or forest fires and volcanoes. And while that may be true, if you significantly ramp up the third biggest contributor to co2 in in the world that we live in, like that's going to have dramatic effects but that that piece was part of the conversation right? It was these people are wrong in it.

And I hate bringing up this debate now because we put it to bed but like that's what was going on at the time. And and we were we were justifying our own ends to a means like we didn't and it was when you when you talk about coal in a negative light as to what it did to the air what it did to our atmosphere. You know, that was we took that to be and I shouldn't talk to too many people but for certainly myself, you know, it was an attack on on myself worth. I spent years learning how to run that coal plant and being qualified to operate that equipment and learning how it all worked and that and making a living out of it like, like, that's like a cabinet maker making a beautiful set of cabinets, but then saying, you know, you, you stole this tree from your neighbor and you're a horrible person, but like I tried my best kind of thing, you know, like, it's the attack on your livelihood doesn't feel good and your person, and then just us as human beings, we have a reaction to protect ourselves from that. And the protection was to, you know, not validate what was going on at the time, and maybe ignore a bit of the actual factual information that was contributing to this narrative.

Chris Keefer  15:42  

Before before we get you know, more to the sort of like, criticisms you guys were getting. And you mentioned, sort of the climate stuff and the air pollution was another factor. But I'm still just wanting to get a bit more of a sense of, you know, again, what it's like to be in plant. You know, how big is the coal pile? Like what is your day look like? What was your trade? Are you a boilermaker? Are you like, what what did you go to school for what's just fill me a bit more in on just kind of the nitty gritty? Was there a lot of dust in the environment, like, you know, how hot was it, I just want to get a sense of,

Dan Campbell  16:11  

so this station, your engineering engineer, certificate, like a third class stationary and your certificate so that anything licensed by the TSA to make steam, depending on how big it is, you need one TSA certificate to do that. So that's how we got that job there. You know, as far as our day goes, the coal pile was like, you could ski off of it, it was huge. And it would change in size based on how much we were burning and ships that were coming in and whatnot. The whole of the coal pile itself was its own little world has its own crew of people that would run the massive crane to put that coal into the powerhouse and unloaded off the boats and run the huge system of conveyor belts through the station to get the coal where it needs to be. We kind of took over once the coal was in these hoppers in the units, and we would take it from there as operators. The plan itself, like I said, from my perspective, at the time is it was a heck, it was a clean, safe place to work compared to what I was used to. Now being in an industrial environment of a nuclear plant, it was disgusting. There was everywhere. And, and those units are so hot, like on a hot summer's day, you couldn't spend 10 minutes on the top floor of that coal plant like, like if your hard hat would almost feel malleable, it'd be so hot up there, you know, and the dry dry heat. And there'd be like this coal dust would just accumulate everywhere all the time. And, and it was, it was gross like, and yeah,

Chris Keefer  17:47  

well, did you guys wear like masks or respirators like at work in that in that dusty environment or No? No. Okay. And then where's the coal coming from is that it's coming in on ships. We're on just for international listeners were on I guess, lake here on one of the Great Lakes. This is, you know, again, like, was a four gigawatt plant on the lake. That's a lot of coal. Like, how's it getting there? How often are the ships coming? How big are the ships,

Dan Campbell  18:12  

the ships are massive coal freighters. And they came from the coal, coal mines and coal pits in the Midwestern United States. So they they train that coal to the lakes, and then you get on ships and over to us. And we had a big, like, dock that the ships would dock at and unload into our coal pile.

Chris Keefer  18:33  

Right? And then, you know, there's, like fly ash is the thing, right? Like, what, what's the kind of end product or the byproduct of burning all that coal? And where does it go?

Dan Campbell  18:44  

Yeah, Flash is definitely a thing. So fly ash and wet ash are the two kind of byproducts of what comes out of that boiler. So you burn that you pulverized that coal powder into a dust. And that dust burned in the boiler with combustion and huge air flows and stuff. And then the, the ash like what you'd see in a bottom of campfire can't fire pit essentially falls down to the bottom of the boiler and some of it is carried out with that airflow through the stack. So the stuff that falls down to the bottom of the boiler, we would use water to kind of pump that out to settle and put into other big hoppers, essentially just full of coal dust. I shouldn't got told that to dash at that point. And then the fly. So that's the stuff that comes out with the air. And that would go through electrostatic precipitators. Which just charge it up. And then and then allow it to fall and be collected as well and removed from the air that goes out. Not all of its removed, obviously, but some of it and then the rest isn't it stack goes.

Chris Keefer  19:54  

So it sounds like Nanticoke I mean comparing it to coal plants around the world. I'm guessing this was one that had better pollution controls and scrubbers and things like that. But, you know, Cole got a lot of criticism for contributing to smog in Ontario, how, how significant was that? Like, your thoughts at the time and your thoughts and rhetoric as far

Dan Campbell  20:14  

as pollution control and Nanticoke, there was there was no scrubbers on those units, there's scrubbers on two of the units at Lambton generating station, and there was SCR. So they're selective, kind of like what goes on tailpipe of your cars next year and there too, but it, it will remove the nitrous oxides from the gases that were coming out of the stack. Those were only installed on two of the eight units and jittering station. So the techs, were just sending the pollution out in the environment, same as any other coal plant anywhere.

Chris Keefer  20:52  

And those units are west of the big cities. So they were presumably blown towards, like Canada's largest city, Toronto, and

Dan Campbell  21:01  

you know, at the time, like, the narrative again, in that place was, yeah, like we do emit pollution. But you know, all those small days in Toronto, those are all caused by the excessive amounts of coal plants in Ohio and the Midwestern United States. And that's what's causing that. And I believe that to be true, I was told that, but then that was the narrative and the place at the time.

Chris Keefer  21:24  

So yeah, I mean, there's this whole, I guess, what they call a cognitive dissonance, right? When you hear something that you don't want to hear. And so you have these kind of reflexive responses think that's kind of what you're describing a lot of like, did it ever was there anything anyone said that ever sort of got through that, like defensive barrier that I think we all have to sort of protect ourselves and protect our sense of kind of doing the right thing in the world? Or?

Dan Campbell  21:48  

Um, yeah, that was, that was a sub narrative that would go on there that there was environmentalists that worked there, too. There's environmental engineers that were more cognizant of what was going on in the world? And I would listen to them too. But it was a minority of the narrative, I would say.

Chris Keefer  22:07  

Right. And like you said, it's more about just making sure you got food coming under your table, and you can support your family and things like that. I mean, I guess I'm guessing I don't want to put words in your mouth, or sorry about that. But I mean, I'm just trying to get a sense of, you know, you've been like a former fossil fuel worker for a chunkier career. And I think part of why I'm excited to talk to you is because that gives us a bit of a window into, you know, current fossil fuel workers. And what their, I guess, what they're being threatened with in terms of their livelihoods, or, you know, maybe what they're being offered, if we want to look at it really optimistically. But maybe that's a good a good sort of transition point, no pun intended to talk about sort of what what comes next for you. So the government of Ontario, the sole owner of I guess, Ontario, hydro, at the time decides we're not doing coal anymore? How does how does that play out for you what you're

Dan Campbell  22:57  

doing at the time, again, we were somewhat lucky to work for a massive company. So they they had other places where they could absorb the employees that were going to be disposition from this coal plant. So at the time, it was put into our collective agreement that nobody would lose their job, as long as they are willing to accept a transfer, then that could be to literally anywhere, right? It could be a hydroelectric power dam and remote northern Ontario or somewhere, right. And I wasn't interested in that. So I quit my job and got a job with Bruce Power. Because I was familiar with this. I was familiar with people that work here, I talked to them. My qualifications, were valid to get myself a job there, which was great. And I had tons of background knowledge about electricity generation that was very applicable and, you know, crush the interview based on that. So so that was, you know, that was a great option for me, and many others so many people that were operators there now work in the nuclear industry, I could probably name 10 or 15 of them off the top of my head.

Chris Keefer  24:13  

Right. And, and when did those Brusa units get get fired back up? Because you see the diagrams of coal going down and nuclear going up and nuclear provided I think 90% of the, the energy needed to phase out coal. So in terms of like, from your from when you quit at Nanticoke to when you started at Bruce, were you starting to work in those mothballed units? Yeah, came back or

Dan Campbell  24:36  

so. When I started working at Bruce a units three and four were operating in units one and two were being refurbished at the time. So early in my career there I worked on those units and was there when they connected to the electric electrical grid for the first time.

Chris Keefer  24:53  

So you literally saw kind of the the death of coal and the rebirth of at least some part of nuclear the nuclear It had been sitting idle. Do you like what you mentioned before it was sitting idle? Because I guess the people were just saying there's not a huge need for it. There's in terms of the demand profiles and what people were anticipating, they just didn't think they needed it. And I guess coal was cheaper for a while or like, was that the rationale?

Dan Campbell  25:16  

But I mean, again, I was 12 year old kid when that decision was made.

Chris Keefer  25:22  

Fair enough. So, yeah, I mean, what's you had you? Okay, so you're working at Bruce now. And when you catch us up a little bit about what what that's been like, you had some reflections on, you know, looking back at Nanticoke from the perspective of now, having worked in a nuclear power plant, but I mean, what's what's life been like for you? I guess he's a homecoming, because you grew up, you grew up there in your dad had worked there before they shut that part down.

Dan Campbell  25:49  

So I mean, the first time I walked through the door, I remember people telling me who had made that transition before me said, You won't believe it, when you walk in there. It is so different, it is so much cleaner, you won't believe it. I'm like, Yeah, okay, like, it's still a industrial setting, which I've worked in a few of them now. And, okay. And then sure enough, when I walked in there, like you can eat off the floor, and they're like, it's unbelievably clean. That's the most striking thing. And that's kind of a reflection of everything that goes on in there. And just how they do business like it's big messes aren't tolerated, the things have to be clean, they can't have big piles of like, some of the railings at Nanticoke, the hand railings would have so much dust on them, that the it would like make a little mountain a Peak Peak Mountain on there. And to the point where there can be no more dust, it would just fall off and just go where like it was saturated with us. And like that's that you just don't see that at Bruce any at all.

Chris Keefer  26:52  

And sort of one more thing, kind of going back to like everyone was kind of guaranteed, I guess some people retired, maybe took severance packages and left their careers early, but everyone was guaranteed a job just because of how big Ontario Hydro was. You know, I was talking with another friend. And he's like, you know, nuclear did offer, you know, you know, I guess what we kind of referred to as this gold standard of a transition towards jobs that were kind of as good or better, or, as you were saying in a cleaner or safer working environment. But that's not to paper over the fact that, you know, people had to leave. And you know, I've heard stories of, you know, couples breaking up, because someone said, I gotta go work up here. And their partner didn't have that same flexibility to move. I mean, was it wasn't messy like that, in terms of your your co workers or like, what happened to that community? You know, a lot of people were playing, I'm guessing,

Dan Campbell  27:40  

right, there was 500 people that worked at Nanticoke. And a lot of them left, tons of them own or retired. And because it took a few years from when this was going to be a possibility to when it actually did happen. It was a very slow drawn out process, really. So you know, people would it would just be kind of like, one by one, somebody would leave somebody, go do something else, that kind of thing. And to make for myself at the time, I was probably 24 I was getting married to a girl from Southampton. And I was pretty naive to the repercussions for other people at the time to be honest. So I, I can't really talk to that a whole lot.

Chris Keefer  28:36  

I guess you can imagine it now. Right? Because you got your own kids and stuff and you got to take your kids to be tear off. Well, I

Dan Campbell  28:43  

remember my remember what happened to my dad. So remember, that agony of him just being gone all the time to have decided that we're gonna have to uproot our family in this small little town and move to a big city. Nobody was interested in that whatsoever. And yet, and I'm sure that happened to lots of those people. I know it did.

Chris Keefer  29:05  

So take us back again. So you're talking about kind of your your new career and your, your new your new work environment. It's a lot cleaner, it's a lot safer. I mean, is it? How does it compare? I mean, what were you at Nanticoke. You were an operator. And at Bruce, you're actually drive the reactor, right? You're one of the couple people in the control room at all times. Yeah, running the dials and stuff. I mean, just give us a quick overlay of what's

Dan Campbell  29:28  

so like, both at Bruce and at Nanticoke you would start as being a field operator. So walking around all the different pieces of equipment, turn valves, you know, watching pumps start controlling all the systems that aren't controlled from the control room, that kind of thing. And that's where I started Nanticoke and that's where I was when I left and then I had that same role and Bruce for a few years and then I went to the Certification Training Program and got licensed to run the nuclear reactors. which is what I do now.

Chris Keefer  30:03  

There's a great book called How to drive a nuclear reactor for dummies. I didn't get all the way through it, but it was pretty interesting. Got it got a little window into what you do. So I mean, at the time, I mean, I mean, even now, like, have you heard this term just transition? Like when you were at Nanticoke? Was that in the purlins? Were people talking about that? Or is it something you've heard about displacing recently,

Dan Campbell  30:26  

like when I was at Nanticoke, it was all, you know, anger and resentment. That was that was going on at the time. And just people dealing with what they have to deal with to make the best of their life with the circumstances at hand.

Chris Keefer  30:43  

I mean, it's it's something that, you know, that I've been interested in I was I give some testimony to the House of Commons Standing Committee on I mean, they call it what was it a fair and equitable transition for the Canadian energy transition? I mean, it's the same thing, basically, just transition. But this idea of, yeah, I mean, if we're going to have an energy transition, a lot of people are going to lose their jobs or need to do different kinds of work. And yeah, I guess I'm just trying to get your sense on what what you feel about that, given the perspective you've had, you've talked about sort of the the defensiveness and the resentment, but in terms of like, if nuclear hadn't been an option for you, or for your co workers, with the coal phase out, like, what do you think you've been

Dan Campbell  31:31  

in some northern Ontario community working at a hydroelectric dam or at a cooking generating station or something like that? And I'm not a Northern Ontario person. So I wouldn't have enjoyed that.

Chris Keefer  31:45  

Right. I mean, they did build a 60 megawatt solar farm at Nanticoke, which recently replaced it.

Dan Campbell  31:54  

I don't know, the math there, but okay.

Chris Keefer  31:59  

All right. All right. I've been told not to ask leading questions. But yeah, clearly it clear that one wasn't going to wasn't going to do the replacement. And there's not really a ton of jobs in that. I don't know, I just, I guess I've just been reading through, we're doing a policy report now. Because looking around at this question of just transition, you know, it's the conversation really seems to be being led by, you know, environmental, NGOs, academics. And just as an outsider, and again, I'm a doctor, right, I'm not, I don't work in heavy industry or anything like that. But I do, you know, have spent a lot of time talking to people within the labor movement, it just, it seems like a lot of this discourse is really, quite divorced from working people, and it's, you know, really kind of superficial skin deep stuff of getting a bunch of actors and hard hats and safety vests kind of posing in front of solar panels and, and wind turbines, and, you know, just transition language. But, you know, and I've had some arguments with people, you know, some academics on this topic, particularly when pointing out, you know, what are the transition opportunities for fossil fuel workers? And there's one academic saying, Well, yeah, I mean, the jobs don't pay as well, and wind and solar, but, ya know, it's like, but what, but what, like, isn't that kind of where it ends? But I think, you know, for a lot of a lot of these sort of professional managerial class people, it's more about sort of the glory of getting rid of fossil fuels and the glory of of, you know, taking climate action that completely you know, outs, what I'm trying to say, here, you know, out, you know, that the, the issues for workers wages, you know, workplace, negotiating power, etc, just doesn't really factor in, it's an afterthought. I'm not sure if

Dan Campbell  33:46  

I can say, you know, when you try and implement a policy like that, if you if you're going to piss off all the workers, like, you're not going to have the sway in your society that you need to make these changes, people aren't going to understand what you're trying to do if you're using fancy words like just transition, but not actually treating the people justly. And, and then you're going to run into huge roadblocks with people opposing your policies based on what it does to them as opposed to the value of the policy itself, right. You need to treat people fairly new to get them on board to do the right thing. Doing the right thing includes not just your policy, but treating people fairly.

Chris Keefer  34:25  

Yeah, I mean, ultimately, like you need social and political license to do this, an energy transition is no no small thing to undertake is as you experienced, but you need people to vote for it and kind of consent to it. And I think that's, that's where I really see some challenges ahead, based upon sort of what's what's on offer, again, from from the establishment on this topic. Not sure where to go next with you here, Dan. I guess you know, maybe in closing your thoughts on that? You know, the role, the role of nuclear in terms of maybe other parts of the country, you know, speaking to workers, if I can give you a chance here, you know, if you were talking to like a worker in the oil sands or another sort of, like, fossil fuel rich area in the country, and you were to talk to them about nuclear, you know, how would you how would you frame it? How would you have that conversation,

Dan Campbell  35:27  

I would, I think you need to, you need to disarm their fears around their livelihood. So that they, they can have an open heart and an open mind to really understand what it is that we're doing to the environment right now, with these fossil fuels. And if you can do that, and you can have that conversation from an open place, then you can really start to move things in the right direction, you know, if you're going to start a conversation with, yeah, you're going to lose your job, you're not going to be able to feed your family, but you know, we're going to fix global warming, like people aren't going to hear that it needs to go the other way around, it needs to be here's an opportunity for you, where we can treat you fairly, where you're going to be able to keep your livelihood, where you're not going to have fears of being in poverty. And we can move things in a direction with our society where we're going to, you know, treat our grandchildren with respect, we're going to set ourselves up for success to turn around what we've been doing in misunderstanding for so long. I think that's the narrative you have to have.

Chris Keefer  36:39  

And what do you think about I mean, there's, there's lots of proposals around like repowering coal sites with nuclear, as as a way to sort of, I guess, also helped deal with that question of geographic dislocation of people, as you were mentioning happened to folks at Nanticoke. Is that is that like, the gold standard,

Dan Campbell  36:57  

you know, the infrastructures there, the the people are used to having industrial settings in their communities, they used to work in there, they have the expertise to understand over half of the process that goes into pushing the electrons through the power lines, everything is there, such a large body of water that has cooling capability, or like all the cooling that goes into a nuclear reactors, by and large, for the most part, is condensing the steam back into water in the in the cycle of the turbine and generator. And that's exactly it works exactly the same way in a coal plant. Like, that's where all the heat is coming from. That's where it's going to, it's all exactly the same. So that's already there. It's already set up, you know, that everything's just asking to be built. But it's its policy to stopping it. It's not it's not infrastructure. It's not anything like that. It's its policy in its public opinion, and it's politics.

Chris Keefer  37:57  

I guess one of the things I wanted to touch on with you was union culture, I was up at Bruce Power on a tour organized by several of the unions that represent nuclear workers. And it was really, I think the goal was to really try and bring in non nuclear labor to see the power plant to see the union culture because there has been a fair amount of hostility, open or not towards, towards nuclear workers, I think kind of the black sheep of the labor movement kind of left out. I'm not sure all the reasons why that might be. But it was a really powerful experience for me, seeing a lot of, you know, non nuclear labor leadership coming and just going like, yeah, this place is special. Right? Like, maybe that's what Hamilton was, like, again, Hamilton being, you know, their big kind of steel town, you know, in the, in the 60s 70s 80s, you know, and it's in its prime, where you had these, you know, unionized well paying blue collar jobs, kind of intergenerational employment. But that's kind of something I really saw when I was up at the Bruce was just, you know, you hear a lot of people calling each other brother and sister and you must be a small town, everyone must be related. But but it was, it was all labor speak, right? Yeah. My sister and I was gonna speak or whatever. So, you know, and I was asking myself, like, does this does this exist anywhere else in Canada? Like, are there any other communities that sort of still have this, this kind of labor and union culture, and I couldn't really think of any other examples now that a lot of the manufacturing sectors been upended, and, you know, we're not making much steel anymore, etc. So what are what are your some of your thoughts? Because nuclear in Canada anyway, I think has kind of the highest union density of any of any sector. So get let's let's get into that a bit. Yeah. Tell me about your thoughts on on

Dan Campbell  39:43  

as far as union. That's, that's one piece of the puzzle. And that is basically workers who are in an organized trade union. But the bigger piece for me is the strength of that union in the work environment, because I've only ever worked in unionized and by are minutes and I can tell you this one is it's it's the same union that I was in it Nanticoke, I was a steward in the union in both places. And in the union environment where I work now is stronger and an order of magnitude stronger than when I was at the coal plant, or at the sorry, at the steel mill. So it's, it's there's more unionized people in the union environment is stronger and, and you only have to look as far as our compensation or benefits and our retirement packages to see that, like, it's, that's where the proof is in the pudding. Right?

Chris Keefer  40:37  

It was, it was funny, we had this just transition march in Toronto that you came down to, I think, before you were there, we were marching alongside some other folks with a bullhorn who was, like $20 an hour, you know, fighting for $20 minimum wage, which is, you know, that's better than current minimum wage, and one of the nuclear workers like dominions, like, I think we should all be fighting for 65. It was just, it was funny. But, yeah, I mean, so why why is there that difference? You know, in terms of, you know, Bruce versus that, that steel mill, why why is the union culture stronger? There?

Dan Campbell  41:10  

That's a good question, I think it probably has to do with, you know, the profitability and the reliability. And the, of what is needed, like, the steel itself is subject, it's so much more volatile on the global market, that you're, you're subjected to the whims of the economy at the time for how much money they get paid for it. And that trickles all the way down to the paycheck of the employee sitting at the powerhouse in the steel mill, right. Whereas the electricity sector is a much more predictable, kind of basing base requirement of life as we know it, and, and you're allowed to plan accordingly. And the technology that we have, allows us, you know, to create electricity out of uranium and, and the dynamics that will allow us to compensate our workers fairly for the work that they do and not be as subject to the whims of the economy at the time.

Chris Keefer  42:16  

I was talking to a guy named Matt Huber. And he was just saying that, you know, a huge part of what sort of permits union and Labour Organization is working at large centralized facilities, those tend to be more amenable to unionization because you bring all the people together, they're working closely together, etc. And that that was, you know, big difference between, you know, these contrasting visions of, you know, so called Hard energy or centralized energy production versus, you know, what's kind of all the vogue right now, in terms of decentralized distributed energy. It's hard to organize your solar panel installers, for instance, who are just kind of moving around from one town to another, setting up stuff on rooftops or on utility scale. I gotta guess that that's, that's part of it. But yeah, I mean, it was it was just pretty amazing for me as well, just the kind of vibrancy of, of that labor culture and I think it really impacted the Canadian Labour Congress and Ontario Federation of Labor folks that came there. They were, that was probably one of the biggest selling points for them beyond just, you know, seeing this massive piece of engineering that you kind of question whether I'll build it anymore.

Alright, Dan, well, listen, it's been a fun conversation. We will be dropping a very entertaining piece on Decouple studios that Jesse's working on editing right now. And that has some pretty great footage. I got to preview a little bit of it, but really got to see a lot of your workplace and I think have some great conversations with us. So if people are hungry for more after this drops, you won't have to wait too long. Hint, hint. We'll have that up very soon. And

Dan Campbell  43:53  

yeah, I was able to come up and do that and come stay with me and walk around the plant and hang out in control. And that was a great day.

Chris Keefer  44:01  

All right, Dan, and we'll, maybe we'll get a sample of one of your shots and try and fit that into the intro music or outro See you later.

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