Mini-Science 2011 – Nuclear power: energy for the future?

Mini-Science logoAt the conclusion of each Mini-Science lecture, audience members submit their questions to the evening’s presenter, who answers as many as possible on the spot. Three of the unanswered questions are sent to the presenter for posting here. Here are questions from Dr. Ariel Fenster’s lecture “Nuclear power — energy for the future?” (April 20, 2011).

Q1:  Why has the Canadian government stopped the production of radioactive isotopes in Chalk River?

A1: I believe it is a political issue. The government feels that this type of endeavour is best left to private enterprise. Editorial note: According to Wikipedia (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalk_River_Laboratories) a heavy water leak first detected in 2008 at the base of the reactor vessel returned at a greater rate and prompted a temporary shutdown that lasted until August 2010. The lengthy shutdown was necessary to first completely defuel the entire reactor, then ascertain the full extent of the corrosion to the vessel, and finally to effect the repairs — all with remote and restricted access from a minimum distance of 8 metres due to the residual radioactive fields in the reactor vessel. In August 2010 the Globe and Mail reported that Chalk River reactor was repaired,and medical isotope production would resume (see: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/chalk-river-reactor-repaired-isotope-production-to-resume/article1675654/).

Q2: If Zirconium causes Hydrogen to be released why do we use it?

A2: Because it allows the  proper flux of thermal neutrons.

Q3:  Given that Gentilly only produces 3% of Quebec’s electricity, should it be decommissioned at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion or refurbished at an estimated cost of $2.0 billion?

A3: Hydro Quebec believes that they should keep Gentilly so that they will have the know- how should nuclear energy become necessary in the future.

Please visit the Mini-Science website for more information about the lecture series.

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