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Meet the Expert

Michele Cheng-Newson | Leader, Nuclear Industry

July 3, 2019

The road to a sustainable future: Process Automation in the Nuclear Industry

Automation is disrupting the world’s economies and becoming the core of every industry today. Developments in automation throughout Canada have helped drive innovation and increase productivity. One such industry where automation has become the hallmark of development is the Nuclear Industry. Nuclear energy is the second largest contributor of non-emitting electricity in Canada, and process automation plays a major role in bringing an ideal blend of machine and human elements to energy generation.

Canadian nuclear plants provide affordable, reliable and GHG emissions-free electricity. Lakeside supports its nuclear customers by solving automation problems and modernizing the plants to allow for another 30+ years of operations.

How is process automation applied in the nuclear industry? What kind of technology is used to advance nuclear power plants across Canada? Let’s hear from a Lakeside expert to understand more. We spoke with Michele Cheng-Newson, Leader of the Nuclear Industry Team at Lakeside, and here is what she had to say-

With over a decade experience in the nuclear industry, Michele is an active leader not only within Lakeside, but also within the Nuclear Industry. Michele is currently on the Board of the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCNI), where she is able to help drive positive changes in this constantly changing industry.

Q: Tell us about your role as a Nuclear Industry Leader at Lakeside?

A: My role at Lakeside involves leading our nuclear inside and frontline sales teams to support our nuclear customers. This leadership can take many forms from driving new strategies to executing major projects and supporting business relationships.

Q: Lakeside has a large client base working in many different industries, what interested you to work within the nuclear industry?

A: It seems like just yesterday I started working for an engineering firm as a Co-op. Who would have known that maintaining a calibration program and helping test setups and assisting in safety/risk management assessments would lead to a career in the nuclear industry? I love this industry because of the unique challenges to ensure safe operations of nuclear plants. I love working with people from all walks of life to solve a problem together. People and problem solving is the name of the game.

Q: How has your experience been working with Lakeside for more than a decade now?

A: I really enjoy working here. There is constant challenge and everyday is different than the next In a blink of an eye, it’s been 13 years. I’m now at my fourth role and it’s been a great journey so far. The opportunities here are endless. You make what you put into it.

Lakeside supports its nuclear customers by solving automation problems and modernizing the plants to allow for another 30+ years of operations.

Q: Can you tell us about Nuclear Qualification Program?

A: The Canadian Standards Association has now adopted a new series of standards (CSA N299) for the Quality Assurance Program requirements for supply of items and services for nuclear plants.  Lakeside is transitioning to CSA N299.3 with our completion aimed for this Fall. Over the next few years, Lakeside will be playing a key role to support the audits at the many Emerson facilities to meet the requirements of this new series of standards as well.

Q: What are some of the technological challenges in the Nuclear Industry?

A: We are in the midst of Canada’s largest infrastructure projects, with 10 nuclear reactors in Ontario being refurbished. This allows Ontario nuclear reactors to operate for another 30+ years, maximizing the value of its existing assets and powering over 60% of Ontario’s energy needs, while meeting climate change goals by keeping our air clean. The balance between running these major projects concurrently, coupled with the day-to-day operations, is key. To make these projects go according to plan, to be on-time and on-budget, Lakeside takes the initiative to become strategic partners with its nuclear customers.

 Small modular reactors are also coming into play. These are much smaller than traditional nuclear reactors, are built off-site (less on-site construction) and often made modular for scalability. These reactors can power up remote communities and potentially change the face of some industries. Take mining for example, traditionally the mining industry relies heavily on heat and power from fossil fuels. Instead, we could consider a small modular reactor that is more reliable, lower cost and more sustainable. This could give the mining industry quite the competitive edge.

Q: How does Lakeside address process automation challenges in the Nuclear Industry?

A: Lakeside caters to a very diversified portfolio of industries – nuclear, gas distribution, mining, petrochemical, food & beverage and many more. This gives credibility to our product and service offerings as we can leverage successes in one industry and bring it to another. We have brought the benefits of digital automation to the nuclear industry. We are also working towards bringing the benefits of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and wireless technology to our customers now. The nuclear industry was, and may be at times, very resistant to change, but there is now a strong business case to adopt new technologies amidst the current refurbishment and life-extension projects. The benefits here greatly outweigh any disadvantages. Together with our customers, we continue our journey of learning and continuously improvement to elevate our industry as a whole.

Michele Cheng-Newson