Men’s Probus gets the low-down on nuclear from an expert

Saugeen Shores Men’s Probus Club is made up of retired men from every walk of life who meet once a month to socialize and listen to a keynote speaker.

                 Frank Saunders

On Tuesday, September 4th, the members were treated to an in-depth explanation of the nuclear industry, today and into the future, and Bruce Power as it relates to the local area by Frank Saunders of Bruce Power.

Saunders began his career in the nuclear industry with Ontario Hydro, where he held a variety of management positions in a number of disciplines such as engineering, operations, quality assurance, safety and inspection. While with Ontario Hydro Nuclear, in four years of organizing and performing nuclear plant safety evaluations on behalf of Ontario Hydro and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), he performed inspections of North American and international plants.

Following 13 years with Ontario Hydro Nuclear, Saunders moved to McMaster University as Manager of the McMaster Nuclear Reactor and then became Director of Nuclear Operations and Facilities where, as senior nuclear operating authority, he oversaw operations at McMaster’s Nuclear Reactor, Accelerator Facility, Nuclear Research Building Laboratories and support facilities.

In 2001, Saunders returned to the Bruce site, with the launch of Bruce Power, as Vice President Safety and Environment. Since 2001, he has held senior positions in a variety of areas including safety, environment, security, regulatory relations and oversight. According to Saunders, he is particularly proud of Bruce Power’s strong reputation in these areas and the opportunity he had to play a role in this. Prior to his more than 25 years in the nuclear industry, Saunders served 12 years in the Canadian Armed Forces as a Land Ordnance Engineer.  Saunders, who comes from the Maritimes, credits his father with his strong work ethic.

Today, Saunders is Vice President of Nuclear Oversight and Regulatory Affairs with Bruce Power and is overseeing a new proposed Innovation Centre to be located in Southampton (Saugeen Shores).

At the Probus meeting Saunders was introduced by Peter Day who has known Saunders for 40 years as a professional colleague.¬† “Frank was part of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators (INPO) and visited plants internationally to make sure they were operating in a safe and reliable way to ensure confidence in nuclear power.¬† My esteem of him has gone up as he has accomplished amazing things and you will see why we should have confidence in that program at the Bruce site. ”

Saunder began by explaining many facets of the nuclear industry and Bruce Power’s on-going Major Component Replacement¬†(MCR) Project.¬† ¬†“We have eight units here at the Bruce and between those with Pickering and Darlington, there are approximately 7,000 mega watts of good, clean, dependable electricity.

Nuclear, compared to other sources of electricity, is the largest contributor at 35 per cent of the overall generating market said Saunders.¬† In the world, there are a lot of programs for electricity production and Saunders pointed out that often the ‘carbon emission’ (CO2) component is not publicized.¬† “Ontario is one of the best jurisdictions in the world when it comes to reduction of CO2 emissions.¬† California is almost eight times Ontario’s and Germany is much more. Therefore, despite all their publicity around ‘green’ energy, their ‘green’ is not all that carbon free.¬† In Germany, they are producing a lot through coal and, in California, they burn a fair amount of gas and import electricity from elsewhere.”

Saunders also pointed out that most people however, are not willing to live with a ‘green’ grid where power doesn’t exist when they most want it. “In other words, if the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, they don’t want to have to turn off lights or shut off the furnace, so some form of stable power is needed.¬† That’s why the gaps in Germany and California are being filled mostly with gas generated power and, in the case of Germany, with a lot of coal.¬† Here in Ontario, nuclear is providing clean, affordable electricity.”

According to Saunders, Ontario has one of the best grids in the world and should be “bragged about more in terms cleanness of carbon emissions”.

A ten-year license has been applied for and Bruce Power is now awaiting for the government’s decision but Saunders said he does not anticipate any problems with licensing and many long-term contracts and estimates are now in place to move forward with the MCR project.

Saunders went on to explain the several types of new reactors that are being explored, including small modular and floating reactors.

Small modular reactors (2-3 mega watts up to 300 mega watts) are now being considered as they can be used in more places with the idea of replacing coal generated plants and for areas such as mining natural resources and in the far North.¬† “They are unique,” said Saunders. “All circulation is natural with no valves or pipes and is encased in steel.¬† They are called a ‘walk away’ reactor as they are all safe and do not release radioactivity outside their shells.”¬†¬†Floating reactors are on barge-like platforms.

He also raised the issue of the Innovation Institute being proposed for Southampton.¬† “It’s partly Bruce Power inspired, partly a business accelerator for the County and municipalities and partly for specialized training and education. We are also talking with McMaster University to offer courses in specializations.¬† There is a big shift going on in education where the professor can be in the room without physically being there.¬† We are also working with the County on trades education.”

Saunders stressed that there is a move away from the big cities these days for companies that specialize in engineering and design work.¬† “We are looking at attracting the right kinds of businesses and to make the Institute attractive to those kinds of businesses.¬† With the internet you don’t necessarily have to be in the city anymore.¬† Therefore, we think there is excellent potential here.¬† Also, how do we catch up with the digital revolution and still look after all the safety that surrounds nuclear, so we are keen to find those answers.¬† The people interface is different today and the kids are different and we want to use small innovation teams who can sit down and look at solutions to problems.¬† We would invite universities and companies to come in and sit down, it’s hard in a day-to-day work environment to find the time to think of solutions.¬† The Innovation Institute is about pulling people away from that day-to-day environment and giving them time and resources to find answers through the synergy at the Institute.”

“We think this location near Fairy Lake provides that synergy.¬† It would be a natural progression in education.¬† There is the local elementary school with its Indigenous relationship, the Museum with ties to the past and, then, there would be the Innovation Institute with a view to the future.”

“At the end of the day, we want to do things that are people and environment safe,” said Saunders.