Business advice: Nuclear blindness

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atomic image
“Fancy an atomic swim? View of Pickering Generating Station on Lake Ontario,” photo by Jason Paris, August 2011. Frenchman’s Bay (Pickering—Bay Ridges)/Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frenchman%27s_Bay_and_the_Pickering_Nuclear_Plant_-a.jpg

By Bill Caswell

Special to Ontario Construction News

Nuclear energy is the clear answer to the energy-created pollution crisis, yet it barely gets a mention in the energy conversion dialogue. In this jurisdiction, Ontario, one of the top1 world jurisdictions, a crisis is scheduled to fall on us in 2024 only 1-1/2 years away. What do you as a leader need to know and what can you do about it?

Two simple facts

One: Nuclear energy is the safest form of energy available – even safer than solar energy sources.

Two: The carbon content of nuclear power emissions is among the lowest available, less than solar.

Fact One: Safety

While stories of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima made headlines, it was journalists who created the headlines, not fact finders.  Here is the list of deaths incurred per unit of energy created, found with a simple search of Google.

Energy Source                                    

Coal

Oil

Biofuel/biomass

Peat

Natural Gas

Solar (rooftop)

Wind

Hydro

Nuclear

Death Rate Terawatt-hour of Energy

161

36

12

12

4

.44 (falling off the roof shovelling snow)

.15

.10

.04

Fact Two: Emissions

Another Google search yields the following information.

Energy Source                     

Coal

Oil

Peat

Natural gas

Solar (rooftop) (gas backup2

Wind (gas backup)2

Geothermal

Biofuel/biomass

Nuclear

Tidal

Hydro

CO2 Emissions per Kilowatt-hour of Energy

1001

840

730

469

385

45

18

16

8

4

 

Two current dilemmas

Dilemma one

Ontario’s source of electricity currently is more or less as follows:

Nuclear

Hydro

Wind backed up by gas

Natural gas

Solar

Bioenergy

Other

58%

24%

8.4%

6.0%

2.4%

0.5%

0.7%

Nuclear, the current main source of energy for Ontario, is about to lose one of its key nuclear stations, Pickering, which is slated for decommissioning in 2024 after 47 years of faithful service (including the highest safety ratings possible).

No public plans for its replacement have been mentioned. The options are to refurbish it to last another few decades, build a new nuclear station, or shut Pickering down. Since it takes 10 years to build a new station, that is not a viable option to see us through 2024. That leaves us with the refurbishing option or finding another source of energy.

Currently, publicly available advocacy is for having gas as a replacement. As well, there is a loud anti-nuclear message, not to mention an almost ear-breaking sound about decommissioning nuclear stations. Yet, replacing Pickering with a gas option goes counter to Ontario’s green energy objectives.

Solar, wind, and biomass replacements simply are not practical from an ability to build in time, from a financial view and from amount-of-power-delivery perspective. More hydro is simply not available.

What logical people need to do is to express a concern so that politicians will bring this topic onto their agendas, carefully weigh the options, and then take bold action.

Dilemma two

Electric cars, electric trucks, electric buses, and electric trains are on everyone’s mind. They are technically feasible today – all of them in actual operation. But what just of cars? To make all Ontario’s cars electric we would need 5,000 mw of power – a new nuclear station on top of, and equal to, Pickering.

Now if we want to electrify hot water heating across the province, perhaps we will need to add another 1,000 mw of power.

Of course, ideally, we want to electrify home heating and air conditioning. Add, I suppose, another 2,000 mw of power. Have we stumbled onto the need for yet another Darlington?

If I am counting properly, we are up to three new nuclear stations: Renewal of Pickering plus two more. The chance of renewable sources making up for these needs (even if we agree fully on the value of renewables) is a technical pipe dream.

Which politicians are giving any of these concerns serious consideration?

Logical citizens, especially business leaders, need to ask politicians to bring these topics too onto their agendas. They must carefully weigh the options but there are not very many. Logic seems to point to nuclear – safer, more technically viable, cleaner, and currently proven reliable – as the lone viability. Why are we still waiting for key people to get into the conversation?

Bill Caswell leads the Caswell Corporate Coaching Company (CCCC) in Ottawa, www.caswellccc.com or email bill@caswellccc.com.

1 Ontario’s GDP per capita exceeds that of NJ, Shanghai, Greater London, and Massachusetts.

2 When the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, the demand for electricity doesn’t stop.  Gas power plants usually are at the ready to take over; thus, they are in continuous low mode of operation (costing dollars as well as emissions). Then gas is called upon for full power (costing even more dollars and more emissions).

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