Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Citizens’ Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
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Ziggy Kleinau, Coordinator
Citizens For Renewable Energy

Much has been made of the power contained in a single uranium fuel bundle used in Ontario's CanDU reactors to produce electricity. It is supposed to be able to generate as much electricity as 380 tonnes of coal or 1,800 barrels of oil (Canadian Nuclear Association website "Nuclear Facts").

Compared to the burning of fossil fuels to produce the steam to generate electric power the fuel bundle undergoes a fission process, splitting the uranium atoms to produce heat to fabricate the steam to drive turbines connected to the generators in a complicated process of electricity generation.

Matter-of-fact so much heat is produced by the fission-activated neutrons that - to keep the fuel from uncontrolled meltdown - there need to be huge amounts of cooling water drawn from Lakes Huron and Ontario. The 6 operating Bruce Power reactors, by the way, are drawing close to 17 million litres of lake water A MINUTE( ! !) to keep the process from overheating (Golder Associates Ltd. Consultants).

What happens to this cooling water? Most of it is discharged back to the lake, but not in the same condition - it goes back out up to 12 degrees Celsius warmer! This so-called thermal plume has been heating up the Lakes for decades, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Very little ice has been forming on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay over successive, even colder, winters, resulting in lake water evaporation over the full 12 months instead of the normal 8 months of ice-free water. Without ice cover solar irradiation will also have the effect of additional warming of the open waters, while ice cover would have reflected the sun's rays!

No wonder lake levels continue to drop, now at record low levels, affecting the economy of shipping companies and marinas, with waters getting warmer, resulting in increased evaporation and cloud forming. That powerful fuel bundle - and there are 5760 of them in each reactor - can remain productive for just over 12 months, at which time it has to be removed BY REMOTE CONTROL because the fission has made it so highly radioactive that it would kill a person, standing as close as 3 metres, instantly.

When it is removed it still contains over 99% of potential energy,"but to extract it out costs a lot more than just to take it out and put it under water" (Jeremy Whitlock, past President, Canadian Nuclear Society, quoted on New Media Journalism website).

That 'spent fuel' bundle is so hot (37,000 watts - AECL 1994, NWMO Study 'Choosing a Way Forward - 2005) that it, together with its compatriots, has to be kept in huge swimming pools, called irradiated fuel bays, for at least 10 years to bring the heat down to 5 watts, at which point it is supposed to be safe to store it above ground in heavy concrete containers.

So this impressive energy contained in the fuel bundle creating all the heat - how much electricity does it actually produce? Figures quoted generally pertain to primary power generation only.

This writer has toured the Bruce Power plant several times, also the huge Waste Management Facility adjacent to the reactors. There are a large number of auxiliary buildings absorbing lots of power, huge pumps sucking the cooling water from the Lake, stand-by power yards, fire fighting equipment - of course computers are running all the functions on site - all these together consume about one third of the electric power generated.

Together with transformer and transmission line losses and with the THERMAL POLLUTION HEAT LOSS, only about 33% of the heat released by that fuel bundle, while in the reactor, reaches the end user as electricity! ("Nuclear Heat", Issue Brief, Union of Concerned Scientists, August 2006).



Ziggy Kleinau, Coordinator for non-profit organization Citizens For Renewable Energy(CFRE) has taken part in Environmental Assessment and licensing hearings before the Atomic Energy Control Board(AECB) and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission(CNSC) for over 12 years.