CNA Responds

Buying Power from Quebec: Opportunity Mugged by Reality

By Dr. John Barrett
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

Over recent months, a number of opinion pieces have appeared in Canadian newspapers advocating an Ontario Clean Air Alliance call for Ontario to cancel nuclear refurbishment plans in favour of purchasing what they call “cheap” electricity from Quebec. In response to this, Canadian Nuclear Association President John Barrett has written an opinion piece appearing in yesterday’s Toronto Star explaining why such a proposal ignores the realities of Ontario’s power system. 

At first glance, the idea of bringing electricity from Quebec into Ontario makes sense. After all, Ontario’s electricity prices are rising; Quebec already exports vast quantities of electricity to the New England states.

However, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) and its Quebec ally, Equiterre need to do their homework before pressing this case much farther. Their argument to replace Ontario nuclear power with Quebec hydroelectric power ignores the value that nuclear power provides to the province. It also overlooks the realities of Ontario’s power system.

Ontario’s nuclear plants produce power safely and reliably every day around the clock. Refurbishing the Bruce and Darlington plants will extend their lives for decades, providing an economical, long-term supply of clean electricity for Ontario. Refurbishing 10 reactors also means Ontario will create thousands of jobs within the province.

The reality of an Ontario-Quebec power deal is that it will be purely commercial. Quebec is a very sharp and tough contractor for whom electric power is a rock-hard commercial business. There will not be any nation-building discounts or new Fathers of Confederation.

If you doubt this, consult the power authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1969, they signed a generation contract with Hydro-Québec that drove power prices steadily lower over 65 years. Even the onset of massive inflation – the general price level has jumped more than 500 per cent since 1969, according to the Bank of Canada – brought no upward adjustment in the price Newfoundland receives for its power.

The six New England states buy electricity from Hydro-Québec through their Independent System Operator (ISO-NE). Since the start of this year, wholesale power contracts for this New England grid have averaged $100 per megawatt-hour – roughly a dime per kilowatt-hour. OCAA and Equiterre suggest that Hydro-Québec would sell power to Ontario at 5.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Why should Hydro-Québec accept that price when it can get almost twice as much from New England?

Even if Hydro-Québec cut a special deal for Ontario, the needed infrastructure does not exist. Ontario built its electrical grid with self-sufficiency in mind, and its ability to meet electrical demand in Toronto depends on the wires that would carry power from Quebec.

Imagine that Ontario imported all the electricity from Quebec that it could. Interprovincial connections can carry 2,545 MW, or about 70 per cent of the capacity of the Darlington nuclear generating station. But once it crossed the provincial border, Quebec’s electricity would travel through Ottawa on power lines that more resemble a one-lane cart path than a four-lane highway. Upgrading these lines would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and raise power bills accordingly.

Even if Ontario upgraded its lines, however, there remains the issue of Quebec’s export reliability. Hydro-Québec would not meet Ontario’s needs year-round.

In a May 22 letter to Ontario’s system operator, Hydro-Québec writes, “commitment periods need to take seasonal diversity into account.” Quebecers heat with electricity, making winter the season of peak power demand. Feeling a capacity squeeze last winter, and the winter before, Hydro-Québec asked its customers to turn down their thermostats. Even now, Hydro-Québec is issuing contracts to buy power for the next four winters. This hardly sounds like a reliable, year-round power supplier.

What can we learn from these realities? Do the homework, and don’t jump at too-good-to-be-true options.

There are reasons Ontario built its power system the way it did. It sought energy security and self-sufficiency. Ontario could have built a grid that relied on Quebec imports. Instead, it chose nuclear. Along the way, it gained a nuclear industry that has created thousands of jobs in Ontario.

Nuclear-generated electricity was the right choice for Ontario decades ago. It remains the right choice today.

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Gaia Theorist James Lovelock Turns 95

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Saturday will be James Lovelock’s 95th birthday. Lovelock is an English scientist, a commentator on change in our ecosphere, and the originator of the Gaia theory, which holds that the Earth is a self-regulating organism.

Rather than struggle by myself to write a fitting tribute, I have pulled out a copy of one of his more recent books, The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009), to reprint a few choice quotes. If you haven’t read Lovelock yet, here’s a good start.

It was good to recognize the huge efforts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore with the Nobel Peace Prize. . . As we hold our meetings and talk of stewardship, Gaia still moves step by step towards the hot state. . . Perhaps we were celebrating because the once rather worrying voice of the IPCC now spoke comfortably of consensus. . . Do not suppose that conventional wisdom among scientists is similar to consensus among politicians or lawyers.  Science is about the truth and should be wholly indifferent to fairness or political expediency. . . It is said that truth is the first casualty of war and it seems that this is also true of climate change. . . the Kyoto Agreement was made more than ten years ago and we have done little more to halt climate change since then other than almost empty gestures. (pp. 4-8)

James Lovelock

James Lovelock.

In its way the green ideology that now seems to inspire Northern Europe and the USA may be in the end. . . damaging to the real environment. . . we will soon discover that nearly all of what remains of our countryside becomes the site for fields planted with biofuel crops, biogas generators and industrial-sized wind farms – all this when what land we have is wholly needed to grow food. Don’t feel guilty about opting out of this nonsense: closer examination reveals it as an elaborate scam in the interests of a few nations whose economies are enriched in the short term by the sale of wind turbines, biofuel plants and other green-sounding energy equipment. Don’t for a moment believe the sales talk that these will save the planet.  (p. 12)

Nuclear energy is by far the most effective way to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide. . . A wind farm of twenty 1 MW turbines requires over 10,000 tonnes of concrete. It would require 200 of these wind farms covering an area the size of Dartmoor to equal the constant power output of a single coal-fired or nuclear power station. Even more absurd, a full-sized nuclear or coal-fired power station would have to be built for each of these monster wind farms  to back up the turbines for the 75 per cent of time when the wind was either too high or too low. As if this were not enough to damn wind energy, the construction of a 1 GW wind farm would use a quantity of concrete, 2 million tons, sufficient to build a town for 100,000 people (and) release about 1 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air. . . Wind farms are hopelessly inadequate to the UK as a source of energy (and) costly and inefficient sources of energy. You will soon discover this when your electricity bills and taxes rise to pay for renewable energy we do not need. . . These bills are imposed upon us so that politicians can appear green and good. . . it does nothing for the Earth and will only add more stress. . . (pp. 16-18)

The plight of the British in 1940 [when Lovelock was 21] resembles the state of the civilized world now. At that time we had had nearly a decade of the well-intentioned, but quite wrong belief that peace was all that mattered. The followers of the peace lobbies of the 1930s resembled the green movements now; their intentions were more than good, but wholly inappropriate for the war that was about to start. (p. 20)

I think we fail to welcome nuclear energy as the one good and reliable power source because we have been grievously misled by a concatenation of lies. Falsehood has been built on falsehood and is mindlessly repeated by the media until belief in the essential evil of all things nuclear is part of an instinctive response. (p. 69)

What is remarkable about nuclear waste is that it fades away. In 600 years the high-level waste from a nuclear power station is no more radioactive or dangerous than the uranium ore from which it originated. Far more importantly, there is hardly any nuclear waste to worry about. The yearly output of waste from a 1000 MW nuclear power station is  enough to fill a London taxi. Now perhaps you see why I would welcome its burial at my home in Devon.  It would be a useful source of heat. . . The nuclear waste is a minor burial problem but the carbon dioxide waste will kill us all if we go on emitting it. (p. 70)

The Vanishing Face of Gaia

The Vanishing Face of Gaia, by James Lovelock.

My wife Sandy and I live in a remote part of England. . . our BlackBerry mobile telephone keeps us always in touch. What madness it would be for us to reject the chance to communicate because we feared cancer from the microwave radiation of mobile telephones. But this is what more than half of us do nationally by rejecting nuclear energy on the same insubstantial grounds. (p. 73)

The cash flow of nuclear industry is tiny compared with that of oil, gas or coal companies, and the money available for advertising the advantages of nuclear is proportionately less. . . If an engineer in a Japanese nuclear power station drops a wrench on his foot and needs first aid it is given headline exposure in our newspapers as a “Serious accident in Japanese nuclear power station.” The death of a hundred or more Chinese miners in an underground coal mine explosion rates not more than a small paragraph in the depths of the same paper. What I have just written is no exaggeration. (p. 76)

I applaud our present Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, for having the strength and wisdom to start rebuilding nuclear energy. It must have taken guts to go against the political pressures from Europe and those members of his party still reliving the fun of marching to Aldermaston proclaiming the need to make Britain a nuclear-free zone. (p. 90)

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CNA Attends Classroom Energy Diet Challenge

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

Energy literacy and correcting public misperceptions were key topics at a July 16 educational event in Ottawa that brought together 15 teachers from all provinces and territories to talk and learn about Canada’s energy systems.

CNA Policy and Research Director John Stewart (back right in photo below) represented nuclear on a two-hour panel that also included representatives from petroleum, wind power and hydro producers.

The annual Classroom Energy Diet Challenge is sponsored by Shell Canada and organized by Canadian Geographic Magazine to raise awareness about energy literacy.

The panel members from the differing industries were collegial, and corrected misconceptions about their respective energy sources.

Also discussed was the importance of energy sources and the need to decarbonizes and make our energy systems greener.

ohn Stewart at the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge

The CNA’s John Stewart (back right) speaks up at the annual Classroom Energy Diet Challenge.

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Budget Remains the Same, but Now Governing Liberals will Ensure its Passage

By George Christidis
Director, Government Affairs
Canadian Nuclear Association

On July 14, 2014, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government retabled, as promised, its previous budget. This is the same budget that triggered the last Ontario election.

The government had indicated its intention to reintroduce the previous budget, which attracted the support of many labour and union groups.

The budget focuses on strategic investments to enable growth in the Ontario economy while at the same time seeks to review Crown assets as a means of maximizing provincial returns.

Key investments and initiatives include $130 billion in infrastructure investments over 10 years and a mandatory provincial pension plan that will build on the Canada Pension Plan.

The Minister of Finance, Charles Sousa, indicated that the government of Ontario is seeking to move forward with more than 80 per cent of Don Drummond’s recommendations for increasing efficiencies in the public sector.

The political context of the budget’s reintroduction has changed. The governing Liberals now have a majority that will ensure its passage.

However, since the election, some external factors have arisen that the government will be watching closely. This includes the recent credit rating warnings issued by Moody’s bond rating agency. The bond credit rating issues and upcoming labour negotiations will be very important factors in government’s planning moving forward.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Nuclear Policy Uncategorized

Speech from the Throne Reaffirms Key Elements of Pre-Election Budget

By George Christidis
Director, Government Affairs
Canadian Nuclear Association

On July 3, 2014, the recently re-elected Liberal government opened the 41st Ontario Parliamentary session with a new Speech From the Throne (SFT) titled ‘Building Ontario Up.’ Premier Wynne’s government outlined the priorities that will flow into the next provincial budget. The government has announced it will table this budget on July 14, 2014.

The key messages in the SFT reaffirm the key elements of the pre-election budget that triggered the last provincial election. Premier Wynne has publicly stated that the Ontario government will be re-tabling the previous budget which formed the basis of the provincial Liberal election platform. This included a commitment for strategic investment to create jobs and opportunities while eliminating the debt by 2018. External factors such as the provincial credit rating and public service union negotiations will be important factors to monitor in future government  initiatives and policies.

Key messages in the SFT included:

Education

  • The building of new university campuses to meet enrollment demands
  • The expansion of the Youth Jobs Strategy to help connect young people to jobs

Infrastructure

  • A 10-year $29 billion investment in transportation infrastructure, with $15 billion dedicated to the Greater Toronto – Hamilton region

Business Climate

  • A predictable, stable corporate tax rate
  • Participation in trade missions to create access and new markets for Ontario products and attract investment

Fiscal Outlook

  • The elimination of the deficit in three years
  • An increase in income taxes for the top 2% of income earners, and no increase in the HST or gas tax
  • No additional money for compensation
  • Actions to get returns from Crown assets

Natural Resource Development

  • The establishment of a Ring of Fire development corporation within 60 days and the commitment of $1 billion for infrastructure to support development, as well as a search for federal participation (outside the New Building Canada Fund)

Energy and the Environment

  • The appointment of the new Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to work on adaptation measures
  • The development of a Canadian Energy Strategy in conjunction with other provinces
  • The desire to export knowledge and products associated with renewables and energy innovation in order to take advantage of opportunities created by climate change initiatives in other provinces and other countries around the world

Social Policy

  • The introduction of a poverty reduction strategy
  • The introduction of legislation to increase minimum wages and link future increases to the rate of inflation

The House is adjourned until Monday, July 7, 2014.

On July 14, 2014, the budget that was originally tabled on May 1, 2014, will be re-introduced.

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Looking Forward to a Non-Destructive Future

By Heather Kleb
Vice President
Canadian Nuclear Association

Heather Kleb at

Heather Kleb giving one of the keynote speeches at the 5th International CANDU ISI Workshop & NDT in Canada 2014 Conference.

On 2014 June 18, I had the opportunity to provide one of the keynote speeches at the 5th International CANDU ISI Workshop & NDT in Canada 2014 Conference.

Conference organizer, the Canadian Institute for NDE (CINDE), is a not-for-profit organization with a mandate to promote awareness, and deliver education and certification testing in the area of non-destructive testing (NDT).

NDT, one of the least known but most widespread occupations, spans several industries, ranging from aerospace and automotive to petrochemical and nuclear.

NDT inspectors have played an essential role in assuring quality throughout the industrialized world since the early 1900s. They will continue to be relied upon during the implementation of major projects, such as the refurbishment of Ontario’s nuclear reactors. Refurbishing our reactors will involve opening them up right down to the core and inspecting, servicing, and replacing major components.

The NDT in Canada 2014 Conference provided the opportunity to share thoughts on these and other industry priorities. Over the past year, Canada’s nuclear leadership has re-examined its priorities in anticipation of major projects, such as refurbishment, decommissioning and waste management. As a result of this re-examination, a shared vision has evolved, which identifies both the opportunities and the challenges.

An NDT class in Hamilton, Ontario.

An NDT class in Hamilton, Ontario.

At the heart of the vision, is the desire to demonstrate excellent performance on major projects and to achieve supply chain success in supporting these projects. This of course cannot be achieved without a continuous supply of skilled technicians, engineers and scientists in NDT and other areas.

The vision is not without challenges, however. A challenge that resonated with everyone at the Conference was that the demand for skills is rising, but many of the skilled workers who built Ontario’s reactor fleet are retiring. This is a challenge with which NDT inspectors are already very familiar.

While there are many qualified inspectors, there simply aren’t enough of them to meet today’s demand. We are increasingly seeing industries with competing demands for inspectors jockey to hire from the same pool of skilled workers, pitting the aerospace industry against the petrochemical industry, and other industries.

The industry vision has the potential to bring significant opportunities to the workforce. A key element in that strategic vision will be the quantification of the demand for skilled workers.  This is the subject of study by Canadian Nuclear Association members, as well as key NDT stakeholders (the Quality Control Council of Canada, the NDT Management Association, the NDT Certification Body, and the CINDE).  There is a collective realization that taking the time to plan will result in immediate benefits, as well as pave the way for future demands.