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The OCNI Effect

In my June blog I wrote about the “Oberth Effect” (discovered by Hermann the rocket pioneer not Ron????) which shows that a spacecraft can achieve a higher altitude orbit by firing its rocket engine at a specific point in its orbit.  OCNI faced a challenge to its “nuclear supply chain orbit” in March when the COVID-19 pandemic forced us reconsider how we could add value to our supply chain members and the Canadian Nuclear industry as a whole. Our small team huddled and drew up a new orbital flight plan in which we would talk to our members, partners and stakeholders through Friday Town Halls and numerous other relevant and timely webinars. We fired our small rocket thruster at just the right point in our orbit and have, in my humble view, moved to a higher orbit of industry relevance. I call this the “OCNI Effect”.

The OCNI Effect

While the 40 Town Halls and webinars over four months on a wide range of COVID-related business topics, technical subjects, including three Ontario cabinet ministers, five CEO’s and numerous technical and business experts and community leaders have generated very modest revenues from some sponsorships – I get almost weekly calls from members and stakeholders telling me how much they appreciate our virtual events.  This makes me very proud of the OCNI Team and the OCNI Board that has supported and encouraged our “transformation” – but we still have bills to pay.    

Virtual Supplier Days

So we are moving to the next phase of OCNI transformation – hosting “virtual supplier days” with OPG on August 18/19, with CNL in September, and with Bruce Power in November.  As of this writing we have sold 30+ virtual booths and over $15,000 in sponsorships .  I am sure that this will be a first such experience for many of our members. We appreciate the trust that our members place in our ability to deliver “virtual value” in helping them connect to our major customers – I think this trust has been earned through our tireless virtual programing efforts over four months. Now we need to deliver, and we will.  

I also hope that our efforts will rewarded by member loyalty in September when we send out the membership renewal invoices.  As I write Nav is working on the first draft of the 2020/21 OCNI Business Plan – which depends on membership fees and event revenues along with a few “atta boys” and “atta girls” – which are also appreciated????. 

Industry Updates

We live in exciting times. We celebrated Darlington unit 2 return to full power on June 4 demonstrating that our industry – by suppliers and the project team working collaboratively under “One Team” model  – can bring in a large and complex project on time and on budget- overcoming challenges and solving problems along the way.  Bruce Power has started the MCR project on Bruce unit 6 which is picking up the pace as we implement COVID-safety protocols.  The persistence of OPG and Bruce Power in maintaining project momentum through COVID and supporting their supply chains has meant that our industry is coming through COVID in good shape.  

Crisis often bring out the best in people and organizations. I am so proud of the numerous suppliers that retooled to make PPE or contributed in other ways to the COVID battle.  You can find our “Supplier Retooling” booklet on our website. I am also pleased to see the high level of collaboration among all levels of government, our utility and national lab  partners, and unions – and especially our colleagues who accepted some COVID risks to operate our nuclear  plants,  maintain the Refurb and MCR schedules, and keep the reactor component deliveries on time. The public counts on us to power our hospitals and supply medical isotopes through the pandemic – and we did our part.  We are in a great team.  

As you would know from our six small modular reactor supplier forums, or if you have listened to Ontario Energy Minister Rickford  or Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan on OCNI, CNA or IEA webinars – Ontario, New Brunswick and Canada want to be leaders in early deployment of SMRs to help meet our GHG emission reduction targets and spur Canada’s post-COVID economic recovery.  I am reminded of another time in our history when Canada was a technology leader.  

Canada’s Technology Leadership

I have a photo of an Avro Arrow in my office:

The Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow, often known simply as the Avro Arrow

“On 4 October 1957, 14,000 people watched a large hangar on the outskirts of Toronto open to reveal a beautiful, large, white, delta-wing aircraft. The plane was the Avro Arrow interceptor. A third longer and broader than today’s Eurofighter Typhoon, the Arrow could fly close to Mach 2.0 (1,500 mph, or the maximum speed of Concorde), and had the potential to fly even faster. It was Canada’s Can$250m (US$1,58bn today) bid to become an aviation superpower.” Mark Piesing 16th June 2020.

Ironically on the same day, October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik – some say forever changing to future of supersonic fighter aircraft. BTW Ron Stewart, the founder of OCNI member company Kanata Electronic Services, worked on the Arrow in his early career. I hope to get some good material from that for a future blog.  

Now the bad news – as many of you will know – on Black Friday, February 20, 1957 the Canadian Government announced the cancellation of the Arrow Project and 14,500 Avro employees were laid off.    

There are, in my view, two lessons to be learned from this sad story. First, it’s not about how fast you start the race but how you finish the race that matters most. Canada’s early lead in design on a Mach 2.0 supersonic fighter aircraft did not translate into sustained leadership in this area.  Secondly, we need to keep our eye on SMR economics and the SMR business case – the Arrow Project escalated in cost and the market for this great aircraft did materialize. 

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)

Canada has an early lead in planning for the deployment of SMR’s (as we had with smart phones and the Blackberry – I have one and love it! We need to sustain this pace for the whole race.  We also need to keep an eye on the economics of SMRs and the competition from other forms of clean (or somewhat clean) energy. That’s why one of the 2018 SMR Roadmap actions on OCNI and the supply chain is to consider using advanced manufacturing technologies as a means of reducing the capital costs of SMR’s.

So, in closing – our small dynamic OCNI Team is working hard to serve our members, partners and stakeholders. Please stay tuned for future exciting and relevant OCNI Town Halls and webinars over the next months – and please reserve a “virtual booth” at the OPG Virtual Supplier Days on August 18 and 19.

I will be on the west coast and on beautiful Lake of the Woods in Northern Ontario for the next couple of weeks and will try not to think too much about the nuclear supply chain? 


(Originally Published August 5, 2020)