Tag Archives: Clean Energy

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Climate Action, Clean Energy and the Case for Nuclear

By John Barrett
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

Originally published by Policy Magazine.

With more and more countries struggling to meet the emissions goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, it makes sense to consider all the low-carbon options at our disposal. Canadian Nuclear Association CEO John Barrett makes the case, ahead of the G7 in Charlevoix, for an approach that includes a renewed focus on nuclear energy. 

As world leaders gather in Charlevoix, Quebec, this June for the 2018 G7 Summit, the agenda will focus on concrete solutions to global challenges that extend far beyond the borders of these seven countries. Climate change and clean energy will be front and centre. What does Canada have to offer in leadership and real solutions?

Canada and France are leading the way in clean energy generation in the G7 and this is due in part to major investments in low-carbon, affordable nuclear power. In fact, according to a recent report by Natural Resources Canada, Canada’s electrical system is 80 per cent free of greenhouse gas emissions, second only to France out of all G7 nations. Furthermore, thanks to investments in clean energy, Canada’s overall GHG emissions profile went down by a few percentage points in recent years even as the economy grew. 

This is important because time to meet international climate change targets is running out. 

The International Energy Agency’s first Global Energy and CO2 Status Report found global carbon emissions hit a record high in 2017, after three years of being flat. In Canada, a joint audit, conducted by federal Environment Commissioner Julie Gelfand and auditors general in nine provinces, found Canada was not on track to meet its 2020 or 2030 greenhouse gas emission targets. 

Investments in clean and affordable energy aren’t just about reducing emissions, they are the foundation to ensuring access to jobs, health-care and education. Clean and cheap energy is necessary to lift communities out of poverty while ensuring environmental protection. Without proper electricity, countries suffer. As the World Bank reported, “one-quarter of the world population have no access to electricity. In the absence of vigorous new policies, 1.4 billion people will still lack electricity in 2030.” 

And, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), seven million people die every year from air pollution. The challenge is to produce policies and investments to transition to a lower-carbon economy. And to help other countries, where appropriate, to acquire the technology and materials for generating electricity from low-carbon sources. 

Some propose single solutions based on a preferred technology. Single answers to complex problems invite false hope for technologies that are today neither available nor proven effective when quantity, reliability and affordability are considered. This adds a considerable risk for huge costs as well as detrimental environmental impacts. 

For example, Germany’s Energiewende is a cautionary tale on why going green isn’t as easy as it sounds. Germany has shut down nuclear plants while making huge investments in wind and solar energy. However, its emissions have not declined. The new renewable energy has only offset the loss of nuclear—meaning that Germany has given up on meeting its 2020 emissions targets. Coal still represents 40 per cent of Germany’s electricity mix. At the same time, the cost of power over the last decade has escalated, rising by close to 50 per cent. 

This begs the question that, if we are really concerned about the impacts of climate change and if we really do need to ramp up energy production as a method of lifting people out of poverty and driving economic growth, why would we not include a low-carbon option such as nuclear power?

Instead of looking to Germany, look to Canada, especially the province of Ontario. Ontario is the real clean energy leader. 

Nuclear power is the main driver of Ontario’s almost zero-emission energy grid. The province is home to one of the largest investments in clean-energy nuclear on the planet. Nuclear provides the bulk of the electrical generation to the province; close to two-thirds of the energy supplied every day comes from the nuclear generating stations. 

Outside Ontario, New Brunswick has also demonstrated the benefits of nuclear to a clean and affordable electrical grid; displacing tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And thanks to the power of uranium from Saskatchewan, a pop-can sized amount of this rock is all the amount a person would need to power their lifetime; using a small amount of the Earth to create massive amounts of power.

The next generation in nuclear energy technology is already here. Natural Resources Canada is leading a mapping process under the Energy Innovation Program to explore the potential for on- and off-grid applications for small modular reactor (SMR) technology in Canada. Driven by interested provincial and territorial governments and energy utilities, the exercise will assess the characteristics of different SMR technologies and how they align with user requirements and Canadian priorities. The roadmap will be an important step for Canada to advance innovative, next-generation nuclear technologies and become a global leader in the emerging SMR market.

Meanwhile, the CANDU-reactor refurbishment program, supported by Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan, is underway and moving through the first phase at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station on time and on budget. This program will replace major components and refurbish 10 reactors in total over the next 12 years at Darlington NGS and at Bruce Power’s site in Kincardine.  

This $26 billion program is the single largest clean-energy investment by any jurisdiction in the western hemisphere and possibly beyond. Moreover, it has unleashed creative juices, as both Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power are encouraging innovation and advanced technology use at every step. Already there are important advances in robotics and control systems that will have application in other, non-power sectors of the Canadian economy.

Canada’s nuclear contributions to the G7 aren’t limited to energy. Nuclear science and technology has many proven benefits, meeting nine of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Nuclear reactors provide opportunities for water desalination to communities that experience water shortages. Desalinating water requires a tremendous amount of energy and nuclear can do it while releasing hardly any greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

Research and innovation in health care has helped to make Canada a world leader in the production of Cobalt-60, which is used in many areas of our health industry. Cobalt-60 is used in sterilization, diagnostics and treatments. This includes isotopes to help detect and treat diseases, new research into gamma therapy, and blasting tumor cells from the inside out and protecting healthy, surrounding tissues.

Canada’s nuclear reactor technology and uranium exports have, over the last 30 years, contributed globally to the avoidance of at least a billion tonnes of CO2 (in displacing fossil fuel sources)—a unique and ongoing contribution to global climate change mitigation which no other Canadian energy source can claim.

The next generation of nuclear technology will build on Canada’s track record of excellence, looking to recycle current spent fuel, developing reactors that can provide power and heat to communities and even hold the promise of carbon-free gasoline. 

Climate change and clean energy are two of the most pressing issues of our time. Canada has a real opportunity to continue to take centre stage on these issues. The facts still matter. If we are to achieve our climate targets, sustainably manage resources for future generations and provide the world with access to clean and cheap energy, then we need nuclear to be part of the mix. Recognizing this is an important step to bringing real solutions today, without waiting for technologies that are not here now. 

With time running out to meet greenhouse gas emission targets and to prevent climate change from increasing temperatures by two degrees Celsius—now is not the time to expect a silver bullet to appear or to rely on one technology over another. 

A more effective and realistic approach is to foster collaboration that makes the best use of all available solutions to create a low-carbon future, allowing the world to meet emission targets while avoiding the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change. 

Thanks to nuclear’s role in our electricity mix, Canada and Ontario can show how it can be done.

CNA Responds

CNA response to “Nuclear energy isn’t ‘clean'”

Re: Nuclear energy isn’t ‘clean’ (Winnipeg Free Press, April 25)

Dave Taylor’s opinion piece declaring nuclear neither clean nor the future ignores the reality of decarbonization at the national and global level.

In April of 2014, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommended tripling the amount of energy use from renewable energy and nuclear power to keep climate change within two degrees Celsius.

The International Energy Agency in their 2016 World Energy Outlook predicted a requirement for global nuclear generation to increase by almost two and a half times by 2040.

Canada’s nuclear reactor technology and uranium exports have, over the last 30 years, contributed globally to the avoidance of at least a billion tonnes of CO2 (in displacing fossil fuel sources) – a unique and ongoing contribution to global climate change mitigation which no other Canadian energy source can claim.

Globally, nuclear power is on the upswing. According to the World Nuclear Association, there are 60 nuclear reactors currently under construction worldwide, with another 157 on order or planned, and 351 that have been proposed.

Unlike some other sources of energy, nuclear does not release its waste into the atmosphere. Spent fuel is safely stored and relies on sound science and technology. Through the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, Canada has a plan for the safe, long-term management of used nuclear fuel that is fully funded by nuclear operators in Canada.

Finally, contrary to Taylor’s statement regarding the futility of Canada’s reactor sales, it should be noted that Canada has actually sold 12 CANDU reactors to China, India, Romania, Argentina and South Korea.

John Barrett
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

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ONTARIO’S NUCLEAR ADVANTAGE: LOW-COST ELECTRICITY, JOBS & GROWTH; HEALTH & CLEAN AIR

Ontario has a nuclear advantage. Yet many in the province don’t realize it or how much it benefits them and their everyday lives.
When we flick on the lights, turn on the computer, or charge electric vehicles, we give no thought to how our electricity is produced. We should take comfort in knowing that nuclear power is the backbone of Ontario’s electricity system.

Nuclear power provides families and businesses with a low-cost, safe, reliable source of electricity, and it makes our Energy Star appliances even cleaner when they run on low GHG-emitting Nuclear. For those who like solid facts: Ontario’s nuclear plants supply over 13,000 MW of clean power – or, about 60% of Ontarians’ needs every day of the week, every week of the year. What’s more, as Ontario’s electricity demand increases, with people turning to electric vehicles and the province growing in population and economic activity, nuclear power can expand to ensure our electricity stays clean.

When we think of the challenges of climate change, and the need for carbon-pricing, we do not automatically realize that nuclear power is virtually GHG-emissions-free. The clean electricity from nuclear generation is not impacted by cap-and-trade costs.

When we urge our governments to do something about the effects of climate change, we don’t always grasp that Ontario’s ability to end coal-fired generation was largely made possible by the return to service of two Bruce Power reactors, and the return to commercial operation of units 1 and 4 at Pickering.
The clean, smog-free air in parts of southern Ontario is a blessing to those with asthma or breathing problems. Today, Ontario has over 90% of its electricity powered by clean energy sources. Nuclear shoulders 2/3rds of that.

When we think of concerns about hydro bills, we often tend to lump all generation sources together. We assume they’re all equally to blame for producing expensive electricity. But that’s not the fact. Nuclear generation in Ontario is currently paid 6.6 cents/kWh compared to the average residential price of 11 cents/kWh, according to the Ontario Energy Board. And the power that’s bought by Ontarian consumers is reliable, not intermittent, and not dependent on the fluctuations of weather. Thankfully.

When we think of friends and family who have undergone treatment for cancer and when we assume that the medical equipment used around them is safely sterilized, we don’t say thank goodness for nuclear reactors. But we should. The reactors at Bruce Power and OPG’s Pickering plant produce 70% of the world’s Cobalt-60, used to attack cancer cells. Cobalt-60 is also used to sterilize gowns, gloves, implantable devices and syringes in hospitals in Ontario and around the world. What other energy sources treat cancer and save lives? Nuclear does.

When we think of high-tech, good-paying jobs for our families and children, we seldom look first to Ontario’s nuclear industry. But do Ontarians realize how many jobs are supported by the nuclear industry and how much communities benefit from having companies in the nuclear supply chain? The nuclear industry in Canada contributes over $6 billion annually to the economy and supports 60,000 direct and indirect jobs. Many of these are in Ontario, and they stay in Ontario because of the expertise and high-quality manufacturing and engineering skills required by the industry.

When it comes to innovation in advanced energy technologies, you only have to cite the potential of small modular reactors (SMRs) or the next generation of inherently safe reactors that recycle fuel to feel the excitement among the younger generation of scientists, engineers, environmentalists. They see increasingly what new innovations in nuclear can do to bring reliable, safe, emissions-free energy – in the quantities needed – to an energy-hungry world desperately wanting more. They will be the generation to deliver this extraordinary benefit to humanity.
Take all of these and add them up. What you get is Ontario’s incredible nuclear advantage. Time to recognize this and capitalize on it. Nuclear provides solutions to the pressing needs of today and tomorrow. Time to think afresh about nuclear and its contribution to growth, to the environment, to an innovative, clean energy future.

An opportunity for such thinking is the Ontario Government’s forthcoming Long-Term Energy Plan. This is where Ontario’s nuclear advantage is established, underpinned and presented imaginatively for the future.

For our part, the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) is proud to launch a new website that promotes fact-based awareness and understanding of Canada’s nuclear success story: www.ontariosnuclearadvantage.com Ontario’s world-class nuclear sector is something of which Ontarians and all Canadians should be proud.

Environment Guest Blog Nuclear Energy

Talking Climate Change at WiN Global

By Heather Kleb
President
WiN Canada

In late August 2015, I had the pleasure of joining more than 400 Women in Nuclear (WiN)–Global members, from over 60 countries, at our annual conference in Vienna, Austria. Hosted by WiN–IAEA at the offices of the United Nations, the conference featured sessions on: medical use of radiation, safeguards and non-proliferation, nuclear security, and energy, environment and climate change.

Agneta Rising
Agneta Rising

One of the highlights of the conference was a climate-change panel with representatives from six countries. Among them was the Director General of the World Nuclear Association, Agneta Rising. Ms. Rising reminded participants of how quickly nuclear ramped up in the 70’s and that only one country (Germany) is now phasing out nuclear. This important context needs to be included in any discussion of the future of nuclear, and its role in mitigating climate change.

Climate change was also the focus of discussions during the WiN–Global board and executive meetings, where board members agreed to call for member support of a “Declaration of Nuclear for Climate.” The Declaration, which builds on the May 2015 agreement signed by 39 nuclear associations and 50,000 scientists from 36 countries, supports Nuclear for Climate’s global initiative to recognize the contribution of nuclear as a solution to climate change.

The WiN–Global declaration further reinforced that any discussion of low-carbon solutions that excludes nuclear is incomplete. Members of WiN-Canada were among the signatories to the Declaration, which requested that the “UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Protocols recognize nuclear energy as a low-carbon energy option, and that it be included in its climate funding mechanisms, as is the case for all low-carbon energy sources.”

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UN Experts: Triple Nuclear Energy

UN

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

In discussing climate change, politicians and media often speak of the need to increase “renewable energy” sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Not to get bogged down in semantics, but it would be more accurate to say that we need more “clean energy” sources. Clean and renewable don’t mean the same thing. For instance, nuclear isn’t renewable – the Earth has finite but extensive uranium resources. But nuclear is unquestionably a source of low-carbon electricity, and offers real potential in slowing down the concentration of climate-changing carbon in the atmosphere.

For example, did you know that nuclear power has the approval of the United Nations’ climate change scientific advisory body?

In April of 2014, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommended tripling the amount of energy use from renewable energy and nuclear power in order to keep climate change within safe limits of two degrees Celsius.

The report recommends a massive transformation of energy policies, including calling for 80 per cent of electricity generation to come from low carbon sources, such as nuclear and renewable, by 2050.

“At the global level scenarios reaching 450 ppm (target for CO2 in the atmosphere) are also characterized by more rapid improvements in energy efficiency, a tripling to nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero- and low-carbon supply from renewables, nuclear energy AND fossil energy with carbon capture and storage (CCS) OR bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) by the year 2050,” the IPCC report states, as it clearly includes nuclear as part of the clean energy mix.

“Nuclear energy is a mature low-GHG emission source of baseload power, but its share of global electricity generation has been declining (since 1993). Nuclear energy could make an increasing contribution to low-carbon energy supply, but a variety of barriers and and risks exist,” the IPCC added.

The IPCC report is meant to offer guidance to policymakers.

Not surprisingly, nuclear is a part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s climate-change mitigation plan.

“The president continues to see nuclear energy as an important part of a diverse energy portfolio, and it’s part of his goal of doubling the national share of electricity from low-carbon energy sources by 2035,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a 2013 speech to the American Nuclear Society.

For what it’s worth, Ontario is already well down this road. Its Long-Term Energy Plan calls for more renewable power sources – while continuing the province’s strong reliance on nuclear energy.

Nuclear News

Top Ten Nuclear News Stories in 2014

By Romeo St-Martin
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Greater media coverage and government concern about climate change powered a steady supply of nuclear energy issues in the media in 2014.

As 2014 closed, Japan pressed ahead with plans to restart its nuclear reactors, Germany’s Energiewende continued to raise questions about whether renewables can replace fossil fuels, and more and more environmentalists came to support nuclear power.

Here, in no particular order, are 10 of the most-talked-about nuclear energy issues of 2014.

China

The nuclear industry’s Asian expansion continued, with China leading the way. Not only is the country’s economy expanding, lifting millions out of poverty, but its middle class is fed up with coal-driven pollution in major cities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama announced a surprise climate agreement in December that would see China’s CO2 emissions peak by 2030.

Not surprisingly, Chinese leaders have begun to rapidly develop nuclear power, as the negative impact of Japan’s nuclear crisis in 2011 wanes. Under the country’s National Energy Administration’s latest Five-Year Plan, China will invest $196 billion in 101 new reactors between 2015 and 2030.

Canada will play a role in this scale-up. Candu Energy Inc. announced in November that its Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR) earned a positive review from a Chinese scientific panel. The review will lead to further development and construction with significant benefits to the Canadian industry.

“It’s a big step toward our entry into the biggest nuclear market in the world,” Jerry Hopwood, vice-president of Candu Energy, told the Toronto Star.

Radiation in perspective

Stories that brought perspective to radiation exposure were popular in social media, catalyzed in part by a United Nations report that dispelled one of the most popular myths regarding the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) said in its April report that it did not expect “significant changes” in future cancer rates that could be attributed to radiation exposure from the reactor meltdowns.

Social media also took note of a study by a Scottish mountain climber and radiation-protection advisor who found climbers scaling Mt. Everest received a radiation dose five times more than the average annual exposure of a UK nuclear power worker.

Google’s Energiewende

google hqWind and solar energy’s continuing unpredictability gained widespread attention thanks to in part to a viral story about Google’s decision to scrap its renewable energy program, RE<C.

“Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach,” wrote Google’s Ross Koningstein and David Fork in a piece published in IEEE’s Spectrum.

“We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope—but that doesn’t mean the planet is doomed.”

Climate debate

Nuclear’s contribution to climate change mitigation gained further global recognition. The Economist published a chart that listed nuclear power as the third-biggest contributor to GHG reductions, trailing the Montreal Protocol (which reduced chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorocarbons) and hydroelectricity, but much further ahead of renewables.

To slash or to trim

Also the latest policy report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) included nuclear among the clean energy technologies whose total output must quadruple to help avert catastrophic climate effects.

Environmentalists continue to go nuclear

Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy
Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy

More environmentalists and scientists joined the likes of James Hansen and Mark Lynas as public advocates of nuclear energy.

Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, joined the advocacy group Nuclear Matters.

Browner said in a Forbes piece that she had been anti-nuclear, but changed her position because of nuclear’s beneficial role in offsetting climate change.

In December, 75 conservationist scientists wrote an open letter to environmentalists urging them to reconsider nuclear energy because it helps preserve biodiversity.

Here’s the quote from their letter:

“Although renewable energy sources like wind and solar will likely make increasing contributions to future energy production, these technology options face real-world problems of scalability, cost, material and land use, meaning that it is too risky to rely on them as the only alternatives to fossil fuels. Nuclear power—being by far the most compact and energy-dense of sources—could also make a major, and perhaps leading, contribution. As scientists, we declare that an evidence-based approach to future energy production is an essential component of securing biodiversity’s future and cannot be ignored. It is time that conservationists make their voices heard in this policy arena.”

Energiewende

Germany continued its nuclear phase-out in 2014, creating a need for more coal-fired electrical production. Enough said.

Ontario goes coal-free thanks to nuclear

Ontario became the first North American jurisdiction to end the use of coal in electricity generation. The event was even noted by former U.S. vice president Al Gore.

Nuclear power played a major role. Between 2000 and 2013, nuclear-powered electrical generation rose 20 percent, coinciding with a 27 percent drop in coal-fired electricity. During the same period, non-hydro renewables increased from one percent to 3.4 percent. This major transition to a cleaner Ontario could not have happened without nuclear.

DGR

Also in Ontario, OPG’s proposal to create a deep geologic repository for low- and intermediate-level waste remained in the headlines.  The CNA appeared for the second time before the joint review panel to voice our support for the initiative.

OPG, with the support of the surrounding community, has proposed a permanent management solution for these materials. This speaks to the proactive and responsible environmental management to which all members of the Canadian Nuclear Association are committed.

Fusion

One of the biggest news stories featured an announcement by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division that it had made a breakthrough in developing a fusion reactor and could have one small enough to fit on the back of a truck in 10 years. The announcement stunned nuclear-savvy observers who had thought such a development would take much longer than a decade.

Quebec imports

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard signed an agreement November 21st on electricity. Ontario will make 500 megawatts available to Quebec to manage its winter demand peak, while Quebec will reciprocate for Ontario’s summertime peak.

The capacity amounts are small, representing about 1.4 percent of Ontario’s installed generating capacity of 33,771 megawatts (MW), and less than four percent of Ontario’s nuclear generating capacity of 12,947 MW.

In announcing the Quebec agreement, Ontario’s Premier Wynne rejected suggestions that imported electricity could reduce Ontario’s reliance on nuclear power. “We’re not anywhere near having a conversation like that,” Wynne told reporters.