A small group can stop big things from happening says Probus guest speaker

At the recent Saugeen Shores Men’s Probus meeting, Executive Vice-President of Corporate Affairs & Operational Services for Bruce Power, James Scongack, brought the group of retired professionals up to date on Bruce Power’s activities.

He said that the Bruce Power now has the government approval to continue through to 2064. “We are very fortunate with our education, health and infrastructure here.  Really big ambitious projects that set us up for the long term was due to the infrastructure put in place 50 years ago.  That is a real challenge today – making long-term decisions.  A small group of noisy people can stop big things from happening.”

“For instance,” said Scongack, “there is a big debate about pipelines in Canada but nobody talks about the fact that Halifax or St. John, New Brunswick gets their oil from Venezuela.  That is missing in the debates.”

Scongack said that not only is Bruce Power making the biggest investment to 2064, it is also the largest infrastructure project currently in Canada.  Bruce Power site is 2300 acres with 4200 employees and the refurbishment will come in at a cost of $13Billion.

He explained that Bruce Power has established an investment program whereby the company has been going into all the major plant systems and optimizing, replacing and refurbishing them to carry out the plan to 2064.

While carrying out the refurbishment, Scongack pointed out that, while still operating all the units on-site, which ensures investors there is a solid base for return of revenue with a solid business plan.  “It’s an exciting time. It’s not only exciting for the province but also for our investors.  The province relies on us for 60 per cent of the province’s electricity.  In the world we live in today, we rely on reliability … and when the economy is more technology driven that reliability is important.”

Scongack pointed out that being cost effective is important.  He said that nuclear generated power is very low cost with an average of 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour compared to an average of 15 cents.  “This is really important for families and businesses.”

“One of the most important and exciting initiatives, now being undertaken by Bruce Power, has been the development of medical isotope production,” said Scongack who is Chair of the Canadian National Isotope Council (CNIC). If you go back 30 years when you went into hospital for a procedure, you would ask yourself three questions – will the procedure be successful; after the procedure will it have solved the issue; will I have a high risk of infection following the procedure?  Health care is not as big concern today.  One reason in particular is that most equipment is now in sterile packages.  At Bruce Power, we generate 40 per cent of the world’s Cobalt 60 that is used in sterilizing medical equipment in those packages.”

Scongack also went on to say that ” … not only does Bruce Power supply electricity, it is also supplying the world with medical isotopes to sterilize medical equipment. Therefore, by extending Bruce Power to 2064, we are also supplying the entire world with 40 per cent of the world’s isotope supply for sterilization for health care world wide. Equipment has also been modified to harvest the isotopes.”

He added that partnerships are being formed to support the isotope health care area.  He said that an additional isotope, Lutetium-177 has been developed for use in treatment of Prostate cancer. “There is an old infrastructure that is crumbling all over the world.  The current supply of medical isotopes came from the nuclear reactor near Ottawa that was shut down.  Therefore, the supply of medical isotopes is being challenged.  This is an opportunity for Canada and our site and we want to be the world’s largest supplier of medical isotopes.”

Canada, says Scongack, has always been counted on to provide leadership in isotopes in many areas including generating isotopes, processing, research and development and treatment.  “Canada is playing a critical role in all of this. This is also a $20Billion industry and is a great opportunity and exciting time for the nuclear industry.”

When it comes to electricity however, there are two important factors said Scongack.  “When you flick the light switch, it’s on for reliability and you want it to be cost effective.”

Isotope production, according to Scongack, is not a major revenue producer at only one-half but will be 50 per cent of strategic value.  To make it viable, use all eight units that Bruce Power has.

Bruce Power has partnered with other companies that have the processing expertise for isotopes.

“We have something very special here in Bruce, Grey and Huron counties and now have more than 50 companies that support Bruce Power.  We have individuals who have worked their entire careers at the Bruce Power site and now also have people who are moving here for the long term with families to crate their lives here.”

Scongack also said however, that “As great as a  business model that we have and as great as a contribution model that we strive toward, there are people who want to see us out of business.  They are at us every single day. Complacency is something we always have to guard against.  We also cannot have complacency when it comes to our political leaders. This is a critical industry for Canada.  We do not need a subsidy and there is no government subsidy.  We do need however, consistency and longevity and reliability is important.”

He went on to say that in Ontario, there has always been “… very good political support.  We cannot however be complacent as there are people who, every day, go to policy makers, the media and are on social media to try to put us out of business.  Therefore, defense is a good offense.”

Scongack also said that one of the things that has been committed to in the isotope program is engaging with Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) and establishment of the Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) in isotope development and economic development.  A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed with (SON) to establish a new, fresh partnership working with the new isotope Lutetium-177.  “It’s really important to find common ground that we can work on together and to find a beneficial business opportunity for SON and us and the national role that we are playing in Canada’s reconciliation process.”

In a question and answer period that followed, Scongack said that Bruce Power is entirely responsible for costs of decommissioning the site in the future and the long-term management of spent fuel.  The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNIC) requires a fully funded plan be in place along with the Ontario Nuclear Funds Agreement (ONFA).  The full cost for decommissioning and waste is now over-funded at $1.7Billion. “The CNIC and Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) have set a per-fuel bundle pricing that goes into a fund.

Scongack said, “Make no mistake … the management of nuclear waste is not a technical or safety issue, or an economic issue, it is a political issue.  We can safely manage waste but there has to be the political will to make the decision.  The over-funding means we could build a DGR (deep geologic repository) tomorrow to safely manage spent fuel.”