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Monday, September 9, 2019
By Adrienne Ethier

 

Small modular reactors (SMRs) hold tremendous potential promise as a source of nuclear energy power generation that is inexpensive, safe and readily deployed.

These small advanced nuclear reactors, which are scalable with application and generate power up to 300 MW per module, could:

  • be pre-fab manufactured and shipped for installation as opposed to custom-built on site, reducing costs; 
  • scale to match load requirements and deployed where needed, such as remote locations; 
  • be used in tandem with alternative energy sources to provide baseload power and replace diesel and other carbon-emitting energy sources to run electricity grids; 
  • cut emissions of greenhouse gases and mitigate the impacts of climate change by replacing traditional fossil-fuel usage. 

Currently there are a range of SMR designs and concepts in various stages of development around the world, with Argentina, China and Russia the only countries where SMRs are currently in the advanced stages of construction.  With so much potential, there remain challenges.  Here, I look at three ways we can address some of the potential major obstacles to commercialization. 

Challenge 1: Public Perceptions of Nuclear Power

While this may be the single greatest obstacle, there is good reason to think we can shift perceptions. 

In 2012, the Canadian Nuclear Association found in a national survey that 37% of respondents supported nuclear power and 53% opposed it.  Chief among the public’s concerns were safety, waste management and cost. Perception is important. Poor or misguided science can also falsely inform public opinion and, as a consequence, has the potential to adversely affect the future role of nuclear power and SMR success in the Canadian market. 

In addition to this, much of the challenge here is related to the distinction between community and individual welfare. People often cannot see how they personally benefit from nuclear energy – which hampers support for it. 

For instance, take the benefits of medical isotopes, which are produced in nuclear power reactors. Many of us have loved ones or friends whose life was saved because of the medical isotopes used to diagnose or treat their cancer. And yet, most of us completely take for granted the power stemming from a nuclear reactor when we switch the light on in our kitchen. If the public could better connect with and appreciate the various benefits of nuclear power they would be more likely to support it. 

One potential way to help people make this connection would be to consider having one or more SMRs designed to serve more than one of the potential applications for nuclear reactors:  carbon-free emission energy production, nuclear scientific research, and the production of medical isotopes. Those applications from SMRs with broader public acceptance (medical isotopes) could help mitigate concerns about issues that have lower public acceptance (nuclear energy), and as such, improve the overall likelihood that technology will be successful. 

Public consultation with First Nations and other stakeholders, including discussion and knowledge sharing, will be key to paving the way forward to greater public support for SMRs in Canada. It’s important to get the message out about the safety of SMR designs, owing to their smaller size and relative simplicity. 

Challenge 2 – Building the Business Case

Many questions remain before a sound business case can be made for deploying SMRs, including (but not limited to) continued construction and fabrication costs, and the cost of decommissioning versus the long-term value of the power produced. 

SMRs, because of their smaller size, have a greater overhead burden per MWe produced. This overhead burden can be substantial and is generally fixed, but the overall economics can be improved with a fleet approach to mitigate these costs (i.e., economies of scale). 

Manufacturing innovations, such as 3D printing, are also now being implemented to further reduce the costs associated with manufacturing. A third aspect to consider in building the business case are design simplifications and the ease of maintenance that must be built into the design to minimize ongoing operational costs.

Early focus on areas with the strongest business case (e.g. mining) would also help facilitate movement from individual units to an entire fleet. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and NRCan have both made great strides in facilitating the licensing process and mitigating potential setbacks through collaborative efforts (yet there is potential for increased timelines and uncertainty stemming from the introduction of Bill C-69). 

Challenge 3 – Development & Deployment

There remains some work to be done before we move into deployment. SMR designs need further testing and verification for security, safety, and assessment of potential environmental impact (i.e., where challenges will also arise due to data limitations). Engineers are looking for additional data sources to help parameterize predictive models and build safety cases, but there is minimal data for non-CANDU reactor technologies in Canada. That said, there are roughly 50 SMR designs in various stages of development worldwide, with exciting potential. 

In 2018, Natural Resources Canada convened the SMR Roadmap Project, a national consultation involving potential end-users such as northern and Indigenous communities, heavy industry, power utilities, and interested provinces and territories. One of the aims of the consultation was to gain feedback on some of the issues discussed here and identify solutions for the possible development and deployment of SMRs in Canada. It was the first of many promising discussions. 

I am encouraged by the extent of innovation, cooperation and support I’ve witnessed. That, combined with the exciting potential within SMR vendor engineering and design technologies, I believe we may just be on the cusp of a new era of nuclear power in Canada. 

 

Dr. Adrienne Ethier is Senior Nuclear Analyst for Calian Group in Ottawa. 


Wednesday, July 24, 2019
By Kevin de Snayer

 

Few organizations are more vulnerable to cyber attacks than our post-secondary institutions. Universities and colleges face the seemingly impossible job of keeping their doors open and locked at the same time. 

To fulfill their mandate while ensuring that knowledge is freely available, institutions must give large populations of students unfettered access to systems, networks and the internet. But low barriers to entry can also put security at risk. 

While the security risks are real, most post-secondary institutions focus their resources on research and helping students with the skills and education they need to enter the job market after graduation. Indeed, almost all institutions of higher learning are using limited resources and budgets to maintain a sophisticated defence against hackers and cyber criminals. There are a few key things that institutions can do to protect themselves in these challenges. Here are my top three cyber risks for higher education, followed by suggestions to mitigate them.

1) The students 
We cyber security professionals often speak of the three pillars of security: people, process and technology. Each is only as strong as the weakest of the three. Most often, that’s people. 

Students cause a significant number, if not a majority, of breaches in school security. First, they can be problematic because they’re young and highly tech savvy. Their priority is access, and to that end they can be adept at circumventing security filters and protocols.

I recently made a presentation to a group of students. I was astonished at the level of sophistication in their questions. They asked me, for example, about Tor browser -- which powers the dark web and allows users to move through the internet anonymously.

Oh, did I not mention it? These students were in Grades 7 and 8. 

Second, a majority of students don’t care about data privacy. They often do not think about security. When access is the priority it can generally lead to a cavalier attitude toward sharing passwords, logging into the school system on public networks, and other unsafe activities. 

2) Value of student information
Universities and colleges must safeguard large quantities of personal data from students. They use it for a variety of reasons. Many schools analyze the data to learn how they can better attract and retain students.

Students are data-rich targets for cyber attackers: names, social insurance numbers, health records, email addresses, academic records, financial information, and other information can present a treasure trove to hackers. Their passwords are especially sought after, which can be used to gain access to the school’s network, systems and intellectual property.

3) The boundless perimeter
Educational institutions don’t have perimeters anymore. Data is their perimeter. Users log onto the school network from anywhere -- whether that’s from the campus library or a cabana in Mexico. 

With many students signing into the college or university system on a public network (e.g., at a café), there are real vulnerabilities. For example Pineapple routers can make it appear that the user is signing into the café’s wifi when they’re not. Then, as they log into their school network, their log-in credentials can be stolen. 

Reduce your vulnerability: People, processes and awareness
Faced with these challenges, what can schools do? A recent study by the Ponemon Institute measured the top 20 factors mitigating the cost of a data breach. Among the top five, only one related to technology (use of encryption). The other four concerned training, planning and policies. 

Student culture and behaviours, the value of information available, and the boundless perimeter indicate that schools have a very real need to focus on educating their users. A top priority should be investment in students, faculty and employee awareness. Security won’t stop users from emailing sensitive information, clicking on a bad link or transferring a payment to an apparent “vendor.” The school’s cyber resilience must involve training and education, planning and procedures, and a cybersecurity culture, backed by appropriate security and IT support.

Those outside of the IT department will be first to see or experience a security incident. That’s why many colleges and universities now run cyber awareness campaigns. These initiatives won’t change every user’s behaviour but they do help lessen your vulnerability. User reports of phishing emails, for example, are an excellent way to curb malicious messages.

Cyberattacks are successfully targeting end users with more sophisticated social engineering via mobile apps, online banking and social media platforms. Schools can give students, faculty and employees the skills and knowledge to better understand these vulnerabilities, recognize an incident and serve as first responders. 

No cyber-security program is complete without excellent technology. But by focusing on their people, educational institutions’ IT departments can go much further in fortifying their defences. 

Kevin de Snayer is Senior Cyber Solutions Advisor with Calian Group’s cyber security practice. Learn more and download our e-books and whitepapers here.

 


Friday, June 14, 2019
By Richard Moreau and Dr. Adrienne Ethier

We are not quite half-way through 2019 and yet Canada has already experienced multiple, simultaneous extreme weather emergencies, including the Ottawa River flooding and a tornado touching down East of the city. Wildfires are again burning in Alberta, a reminder of the 2016 wildfire that destroyed much of Fort McMurray. Northern Ontario communities are already facing evacuation due to the proximity of fires to their communities. Canadian communities are undoubtedly experiencing the global rise in frequency and severity of natural disasters. 

The obvious question is: How can we better prepare? Simply put, we need to proactively acknowledge the risk of natural disasters and invest in mitigation and preparedness. 

There are two vital elements to improving emergency management preparedness: 1) taking a systems-based approach, and; 2) using integrated science-based modelling to better understand risk. 

The Cost of Mitigation and Preparedness vs. Cost of Recovery
Experts tend to agree that for every dollar invested in mitigation, adaptation and preparedness, savings of up to $6 in the response and recovery can be achieved. In Canada we have seen even greater savings in projects like the Winnipeg Floodway. The Winnipeg floodway cost $63 million to build in 1963 and was modified for another $665 million in the 1990s. As of 2013 the floodway had saved an estimated $32 billion in flood damage costs over its lifetime. This means estimated savings of $44 for every dollar of floodway investment made.    

Investments in mitigation and preparedness can take many forms: re-building infrastructure stronger than the “100-year event” standard, pre-positioning physical measures in high-risk areas, and investing in diversionary measures in areas where risks are well-defined and understood. 

Systems-Based Approach
In addition to physical mitigation efforts there is also organizational preparedness – or preparing those who must respond. Depending on the scale of the disaster, a response may require resources from the province or even the federal government. For instance, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has been responding to an increasing number of disasters.  To improve preparedness, all stakeholders need to plan and train for regional risks. This includes local first responders, emergency managers, community-based volunteer groups, and anyone else willing to help with recovery. 

Preparedness means reducing the period of confusion when a disaster strikes to bring immediate focus where needed. This enables faster response, transition to recovery and resumption of normal life for the community. Integrating all response groups – including voluntary organizations – is essential to accelerating the pace and effectiveness of response.
Better preparing Canadian communities for disasters requires a shift in emphasis from response and recovery toward mitigation, preparedness and adaptation. 

Science-Based Risk Models
Understanding the risks of natural disasters in different regions is essential to taking appropriate mitigation measures. Risk modelling tools could include the integration of science-based predictive models with Geographic Information System (GIS)-based environmental and operational maps (e.g., water quality, land-use, financial liability or economic risk, watershed characteristics, dams, hydrometric data, snow survey sites, climate change) to forecast the risk of floods, fires and ice storms, and to complement or add to that knowledge with spatial analyses and/or data from past disasters. The result would be an integrated GIS-based predictive map that uses available data and knowledge on terrain and weather to simulate a range of possible outcomes based on a series of inputs.

For emergency managers and emergency planners, scenario-based experimentation is essential to planning for possible outcomes. By manipulating variables like expected rainfalls and warmer weather (and faster-melting snow), emergency planners can visualize a range of scenarios and optimize planning. This would allow for the pre-positioning of breakwaters and sandbags, execution of rehearsals and mobilization of volunteer networks. 

Communicating Risk
The outputs of an integrated science-based predictive map would provide the visualization needed to facilitate public comprehension and to better understand their own risk. Current risk assessments are generally well understood by emergency planners and environmental scientists, yet they may not be appreciated by home owners and the public. The public should have access to detailed information about the nature of the risk, its impacts, and what can be done to better prepare.  

Integrated predictive maps can also help the public clearly see high-risk areas and how the risk will manifest. Predictive maps can could show how high the water will rise in a flood; where the fire could burn; or for how long the power could be knocked out. The outcome of a natural disaster should be clear to the public to emphasize how people and communities would be affected. 

Modelling Costs
There is a cost to developing and working with models. Data models need to be built and constantly revalidated, data from multiple sources collected, visual analytics products developed for the public, and decision-makers and planners briefed on possible outcomes. Much of the data for these models is available and collected by federal, provincial or municipal agencies. 

The cost of integrating these risk models and maps will inevitably be lower than the cost of response and recovery.  In Dunrobin, west of Ottawa, the clean up for the flood of 2019 will include cleaning up the last of the 2018 tornado debris. Fort McMurray is forever changed from the wildfire of 2016.  Homes destroyed by fire and floods have displaced entire communities and forever changed their attitudes and fabric.  The question surrounding these social costs cannot be ignored or measured in the same way as financial costs.   

Houses can be rebuilt. However communities cannot fully return to their previous state.  

Conclusion
Emergency response truly requires a “whole of society”’ and system-wide approach, meaning all levels of government, with of the involvement of industry, academia, local volunteer organizations and affected residents in disaster planning and preparedness. Deliberate investment in mitigation and preparedness measures and more informed planning through the use  of risk modelling tools will help communities  better understand and prepare for the inherent risks resulting from the ever increasing natural disasters. 

Richard Moreau is Director of Emergency Management Solutions and Dr. Adrienne Ethier is Senior Scientist, Emergency Preparedness at Calian Group. 

 


Wednesday, May 8, 2019
By Dr. Mathew Fetzner


The Total Health and Wellness Strategy released in 2017 by the Department of National Defence remains the most ambitious and important program to date aimed at improving the health of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members.

Creation of the strategy was vital.

Many soldiers returning from conflicts experience considerable mental suffering, affecting their life as a whole. Repeated studies have found that CAF members deployed to combat zones experience chronic conditions such anxiety, depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after returning home, at elevated levels relative to the general population.

Mental health researchers and professionals, myself included, are still in the early stages of understanding causal links between trauma and mental health outcomes such as PTSD and addiction, but our knowledge is surely deepening. There remain many challenges ahead, but one hopeful area is in the mounting evidence showing a connection between exercise and improvements in some mental health and anxiety disorders.

It was only about 20 years ago that the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health recognized a link between physical activity and emotional well-being. Studies have recommended that adults get approximately 2.5 hours of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week to achieve significant health benefits. Yet, relatively few Canadians exercise to this degree. According to one study, only about 15% and 30% of Canadian and American adults, respectively, exercise to this extent. 

The evidence strongly indicates that exercise is an effective treatment for a broad range of mental health conditions (such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and posttraumatic stress). Moreover, exercise is affordable and accessible for most of the population. 


The research

While studies are rarely “conclusive,” the following indicate some of the promising results from regular exercise. Research findings have included:

• The positive effects of an eight-week program consisting of 30 minutes of both aerobic and nonaerobic exercise, three times per week. Substantial improvements were observed among patients with panic disorder with agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder (SAD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

• Regular physical activity is associated with a lower prevalence of select anxiety disorders. This was from an examination of data from a large, nationally-representative sample of American adults. 

• Exercise and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) led to significant improvements in mental health compared to those who had no treatment. This research was tested on 77 adults with SAD for the effectiveness of no treatment versus exercise and MBSR. 

• An eight-week study involved 40 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week for adolescent females with PTSD. Participants experienced lower levels of depression, anxiety and PTSD. 

It is interesting that longer exercise programs appear to have a larger therapeutic effect. The evidence suggests that exercise programs should be at least 10 weeks in duration in order to produce meaningful reductions in trait anxiety. 


Why exercise works

Why might exercise bring benefit? Not a lot of research has been done on this, but research indicates the following:

• Short bursts of aerobic exercise help lessen the fear that anxiety will lead to catastrophic consequences. This “anxiety sensitivity” is a common trait among individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders. 

• Exercise may provide natural exposure to bodily sensations related to fear and anxiety. Exercise may help patients understand that these associated physical sensations are non-threatening.

• Exercise may help raise the individual’s resilience to stressful mood states. A variety of neurochemicals released during exercise are thought to be possible mechanisms for regulating negative psychological states.

• Sleep disturbances, daytime sleepiness, nightmares, and poor sleep quality are prevalent among individuals with anxiety disorders. There is a strong relationship between exercise and sleep improvement. 

• Research indicates that individuals who successfully complete an exercise regimen, especially at higher intensities, may experience a sense of mastery and confidence that they have the power to change conditions around them and achieve desired outcomes.


CAF services

The CAF offers extensive services and programs focused on the prevention and treatment of mental health issues. CAF primary care physicians are all trained in suicide assessment, management and prevention. Any member that is identified as being at risk of suicide is seen immediately by a medical doctor. Base clinics offer access to psychosocial services and mental health clinicians, all of whom have training and expertise in assessing, managing, treating, and preventing suicide. Members can call 1-800-268-7708 to access bilingual telephone or in-person counselling services. Individuals are encouraged to dial 911 or go to their local hospital in the event of an emergency. The CAF offers a range of other programs and services as listed here.  


Conclusion

While research points to the positive therapeutic effects of exercise, we continue to face challenges surrounding motivation for exercise programs. Not all patients follow the recommended regimes in terms of frequency, duration or intensity. The challenge now is to better understand why this is the case and how we can get more serving members and veterans into the rhythm of regular and sustained activity.  

 

Dr. Mathew Fetzner is a Calian Clinical Psychologist and Acting Program Manager at CFB Petawawa for Canadian Forces Health Services. 


Monday, April 8, 2019
By Dr. William Barker


We expect a lot of police officers. We invest them with authority and issue firearms to them. We ask them to adhere to the highest standards of professionalism, integrity, forbearance and good judgement in situations most of us cannot imagine.

It is no wonder, then, that we take such pains to screen them properly.

After all, there is a lot at stake. Admitting individuals who are ill-suited to police work is not only a waste of training time and resources but it can introduce additional risk in terms of the safety of the public and the officers.

Screening
Screening law enforcement candidates is not easy, nor is it perfect. But our procedures have come a long way since I started conducting them back in 1979. Our sole focus used to be screening out candidates, such as those with mental health disorders or psycho-pathologies. Today, we look just as closely at competencies favouring success.

Calian Health helps numerous police forces across the country screen candidates. We also support federal departments and agencies such as Canada Border Services Agency, Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Correctional Services Canada. In doing so we measure simultaneously for strengths and weaknesses using two of the most widely used psychometric tests in North American law enforcement: MMPI2 (Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Inventory 2) and 16PF (16 Personality Factor). 

Testing
On the written psychometric test individuals are tested on a sliding scale in a variety of areas including adaptability; decisiveness; judgement; problem solving; emotional regulation; stress tolerance and management; substance abuse avoidance; and many other factors. Those demonstrating psychopathology or mental health issues are screened out.
 
Then comes the interview. Research shows that the interview is key to confirming or challenging conclusions reached in the psychometric test and providing greater overall reliability – or predictive quality – in the testing process. 

The interview is conducted in two parts: one, a clinical follow-up on the written test; and, two, a structured stress interview. In the clinical follow-up we probe any concerns that have been identified in the psychometric test to understand whether any extraneous factors may have influenced the test score. 

In the structured stress interview we ask the candidate to describe a stressful situation from their past and probe their emotional, behavioural and cognitive responses in the situation they are recalling. Research has shown that by asking them to recall a demanding, real-life situation we can read their probable level of tolerance to similar situations in the future.

Setting the bar high
Candidates, of course, are working hard to put their best foot forward. This can present challenges for testers. The combination of the psychometric test and the two-part interview helps identify inconsistencies where an individual could be attempting to distort the results.

Law enforcement officers have one of the most demanding roles in our society. The job has unusually high stressors. Public safety professionals can witness disturbing acts of violence, be threatened with physical harm and have to deal with violent criminals -- the kind of people you and I rarely encounter, if ever. As a society we must set the bar high. That’s why the ratio of rejected versus accepted candidates is higher than most graduate and professional schools in the country. 

The screening process we use is formal, structured, empirically-based and defensible. While I would never purport it to be perfect, it provides strong assurances of an individual’s suitability for law enforcement, based on objective measures. 

Dr. William J. Barker leads Calian’s psychological assessment services. He is former president of Priority One, acquired by Calian in 2018.  

 


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