Iâ€™m glad you brought this up. Before I start, I have to say that I donâ€™t represent any pro-nuclear group because somebody would probably think so after reading this. I do work for a company that has a union, it that'll effect anyone's opinion about anything I dunno(the source of that article is from a union, as for my own union,they do any ok job). Anyhow this is just something that Iâ€™m passionate about. Its my 5th fav proposed construction in all of Canada after all (http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=193336
) and I happen to have today off with nothing to do, so I ended up writing an essay, sorry
Currently Canada has the 4th highest rate of electrical consumption per capita in the world. At first it might be easy to refer to ourselves as energy pigs but its not really that simple. Our consumption is not far out of line with other similarly developed countries; Canada 1,910 vs US 1,460(watts per person).
The difference can be attributed to two factors. One is because of our climate. Countries that experience long cold winters, as with the 3 countries ahead of us in per capita energy use, and those that experience hot humid summers logically have greater electrical use. Secondly our consumption is high just because Canada can produce large quantities of electricity. This has attracted, or was done specifically to attract, certain industries to set up shop here. In particular aluminum smelters, which consume vast amounts of electricity. Most of these have set up in Quebec and BC due to their ample supply of hydroelectricity. For instance, Aluminerie Alouette has a smelter in Sept-ÃŽles Quebec that produces 550,000 tons of Aluminum/per year. This one facility alone consumes 800MW! (which may be a low figure â€“ 550 tons/year typical requires 1MW) Thatâ€™s enough energy for appox. Â½ a million people!
all used by just a single facility.
Clearly this is the reason for our higher than average base load vs the US and other 1st world countries. Now peak use trends to occur on the warmest or coldest of days, that's when we become 'energy hogs'. During the humid summers is when Ontario reaches its highest usage. Our all time consumption record is 27,005MW which was set on Aug. 1, 2006 when we had an extreme temperature warning in effect, the population at the time was 12,160,282. Now that might seem like a lot, but it absolutely pales in comparison to the power they can use in Quebecâ€™s. Their all-time record is a shocking 37,230 MW!
set during an extremely cold weather alert in January 16, 2009 at 8 am. Oh and their population at the time; 7,782,561 - that's 38% more power for population base 36% smaller! Guess we all know who the REAL 'power hogs' in this country are
All kidding aside, yes we all can (and of course will) do better with conservation measures but our consumption will always be high compare to other countries simply due to our climate and the types of industries we have.
Increasing our solar and wind generation is a widely accepted idea, even if it results higher electrical costs. Though 42 cents per kw hour for solar seems tad high... But then again Iâ€™m sure those cost are nothing compared to the negating the effects of all the CO2 that Coal, Oil or Natural Gas power plants would have produced instead.
Unfortunately solar and wind cannot provide base load. The sun doesnâ€™t always shine and the wind doesnâ€™t always blow. Thatâ€™s just a fact and it would be completely nonsensical to support our industries and our entire society on sources of power which are not guaranteed to always be available. Which leaves us with only a few real options; Coal, Oil, Gas, Hydro & Nuclear.
Coal Oil and gas are normally amongst the cheapest methods of electric generation, both in terms of initial and operation costs. But they are of course largely responsible for polluting our environment and global warming. We would of course like to entirely avoid them, with a few exceptions. For instance natural gas power plants are very good at providing peak load capacity, because they can be started up quickly. So it makes sense to keep them around for this purpose, but they should not be depended on to provide base loads. They are also subject to large price fluctuations and without a doubt will become much more expensive as natural gas reserves are depleted. As for coal, new technology has reduced emissions and CO2 sequestration can be employed under the right geological conditions. But there are no guaranteeâ€™s that the CO2 will be contained indefinitely and while emissions per unit of power generated are down they still produce large amounts and such plants by no means can be considered 'clean'. So that leaves us with hydro-electric generation and nuclear. Hydroelectric is typically a preferred source of power although it does have some disadvantages/negative effects. I wonâ€™t go into them because its irrelevant where Ontario is concerned. Further large scale hydroelectric development is simply not an option. Ontario has almost completely maxed out its hydroelectric potential, there are few remaining undeveloped locations most of which are relatively small in size and located located in Northern Ontario. The 'Big Bucky' tunnel & the Lower Mattagami Project at 320MW & 450MW's are pretty much hydroelectricity's last big hurrah in Ontario. Short of diverting more water from the Niagara river that is. Although they already divert between 50-75% of the water flow and it would require a new treaty with US, which won't happen since we both countries still want some semblance of a waterfall.
There are a few other powers sources which can provide predictable base load power; tidal/wave, ocean thermal conversion, geothermal and biomass. The first two option are not available in Ontario. Geothermal has largely been ignored as it is presumed that Ontario has little potential for it. Though some suggest that's only because insufficient date has been gathered. If indeed there is more potential for it, obviously it should be developed. Biomass can be fairly easily expanded but it alone cannot replace the power provided by several reactors. All together it won't be enough to make up for the loss of Pickeringâ€™s 3100MW when it goes off line in 2020.
That leaves us with Nuclear.
Now although I am in support of Nuclear, I donâ€™t feel entirely comfortable with building the plants in or near to large populationâ€™s centers, no matter how safe they may be. I can certainly understand peopleâ€™s feelings on this matter. Pickering is just to close for comfort and I am actually looking forward to the day it gets shut down in 2020. Darlington is acceptable, though a location like Bruce is best. Of course I realize that in the event of a major accident it probably wouldn't make much of a difference, as wind direction would be much more important. But quite simply I donâ€™t foresee any type of major nuclear disaster happening in Ontario. Considering the CANDU technology we employ or that of any other current reactor design. Unfortunately because of Fukushima, the anti-nuclear bias is stronger than its been in a long time. Considering weâ€™ve just seen the worst case scenario, where 3 reactors likely entirely melted down and exposed spent fuel rods may have been on fire. However Iâ€™d like to note that not a single person has suffered from the dreaded ARS (Acute Radiation Syndrome). Of course it remains to be seen what kind of increased cancer risk the local population will incur, though for anyone beyond that area it would be negligible. Thankfully the majority of the radiation released remains on site suspended in the water. An unknown amount was released into the ocean. Obviously any release is not good, but the ocean is a great dilutor due to the vast amount of water it contains. The release would only be dangerous to localized areas along the coast by Fukishima. The reactors, that I would like to emphasize are of a design that is 45 years old, survived the single most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan
a quake far beyond their design specification and one of the 5 most powerful earthquakes to have occurred in the last one hundred and ten years. The only
reason why the accident occurred was of course due to the tsunami (estimated at 14m high there). The accident could of been avoided entirely had the diesel generator and associated equipment simply been placed on higher ground/platforms(they were only designed to accommodate a 6m high tsunami). This is something that can never happen to the Nuclear plants facing lake Ontario and the Huron Bay, short of perhaps and asteroid hitting the lake to which, weâ€™ll have other concerns, if one can even survive such an event. Since there are no major fault lines along the lakes and they are too small to generate a wave to reach the plants, which are naturally built several meters above the lake level.
Now the Chernobyl accident occurred primarily because of a flawed reactor design, one that is not longer being built (only the Russians are foolish enough to still run plants of this design
) The design flaws which lead to these accidents and other lesser incidents have and will continue to be addressed. New nuclear power plants are far safer and will continue to advance to the point of being completely passively safe. Taking into account all actions needed from mining to emissions and waste, nuclear power is comparable to wind and hydroelectricity as being amongst the safest sources of energy per unit produced. Yes this even takes into account the thousands of deaths associated with Chernobyl.
I donâ€™t believe for a second some of the unfounded claims that as many as 200,000 people will died as a direct result of Chernobyl. What I would agree with is that perhaps these people will have an some degree of elevated risk(how much would widely vary) of developing cancer over the course of their life times. Still want to categorized that as directly correlating to their deaths? Fine then, but I could say the same thing about that burnt steak I had the other day or the hour I spent talking on my cell phone today. Iâ€™m not saying it should be ignored but people trend to only look at one side of the equation. They get all up in arms whenever something â€˜nuclearâ€™ goes wrong, largely because of its association. When in truth large scale nuclear incidents that have far reaching health and environmental consequences are incredibly rare. Meanwhile so many other things are surreptitiously and insidiously killing us slowly and spread out over the entire population base are many orders of magnitude more dangerous. Hereâ€™s the most common alternative; countless millions of people worldwide living downwind from coal power plants being exposed to carcinogenic emissions on a daily basis. Coal arguable produces as much or more radioactive by-products due to naturally occurring radioactive elements within it and te vast amounts of it that are require to produce the same amount of power as Uranium.
Heres a comparison I took off the web;
"Uranium-235 is the isotope of uranium that is used in nuclear reactors. Uranium-235 can produce 3.7 million times as much energy as the same amount of coal
. As an example, 7 trucks, each carrying 6 cases of 2-12 foot high fuel assemblies, can fuel a 1000 Megawatt-electrical (MWe) reactor for 1.5 years. During this period, ~ 2 metric tons of Uranium-235 (of the 100 metric tons of fuel - uranium dioxide) would be consumed. To operate a coal plant of the same output would require 1 train of 89-100 ton coal cars each EVERY day
. Over 350,000 tons of ash would be produced AND over 4 million tons of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides would be released to the environment."
Getting back to Chernobyl... The only reason that large amounts of the population were exposed during the incident was clearly due to negligence on the part of the communist government of Russia.
Aside from those incidents, there is much concern regarding spent fuel. These concerns could be somewhat alleviated if they would simply reprocess the fuel. A large portion of the potential energy in the Uranium is never used, reprocessing and in the future advanced reactor designs, would address this blatant waste of energy.Unfortunately because of (overblown) proliferation and terrorism concerns wide scale reprocessing has not been initiated.
Anyhow, my point is that three accidents over the course of over 55 years of commercial nuclear power is not even close to being a good enough reason to abandon using it a source for base load power, especially considering the alternatives. Aside from that, the world is running out of some of those alternatives. While there maybe a debate about how long our reserve will last one thing is for certain; they will not last forever and more than likely will be depleted within my lifetime (I got at least 50 more years to go I figure
). This is a problem that the world cannot escape from and baring some major developments in fusion power, Nuclear power will be needed to fill a portion of that void.
If anyone read through that I thank you for taking the time to do so.
Oh and Here's a quote of the type of ignorant fear mongering that anti-nuclear proponents spew out;
From a CNN interview with a one, Michio Kaku
Kaku: "...children now have radiation badges when they go to school."
CNN: "Kindergarteners with radiation badges."
Kaku: "Down to 4 years of age. Can you imagine that? Kindergarten kids with radiation badges going to school."
The world as we know it is (clearly) coming to an endâ€¦
Because I suppose wearing a radiation badge means the area is highly contaminated right? Or perhaps its the idea of those poor children suffering the indignity
of having a radiation badge on them that is just too much for CNN and Mr. Kaku to take.
Yeah, what a f%#$@& joke.