Tag Archives: Clean Energy

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.”

Uncategorized

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.

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Hill Times Ad Shows Nuclear is Clean Energy

Here is the half-page ad that appeared in the August 11 edition of The Hill Times. It is the last a series of three ads that were selected to run during  the paper’s policy briefing on Canada’s energy sector. 

Hill Times Ad - Renewables

Have a look at the first and second ads! 

Environment

Climate Change: Time to Act

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

According to a poll published last week by Canada 2020 and the University of Montreal, 71% of Canadians think climate change should be a top priority of the federal government.

And 84% believe the federal government should take primary responsibility for addressing global warming.

On climate change, the discussions on “whether or not” and “why” are over.  Now the discussion is about how to respond, and how quickly.  That’s going to involve everyone.

While there is a useful ongoing dialog on climate going on this week in Warsaw, it’s plain to most of us that the disease is progressing much more quickly than the cure.

Few players will merely wait until national governments lead us.

Companies, junior levels of government, and other organizations of all stripes – community to industry to international — are stepping up.  This reflects a wider pattern of smaller players driving some of the most progressive and imaginative policy movements.

The UN Global Compact has just released guidelines to help companies engage transparently and accountably in climate policy:

This week at the Canadian Nuclear Association, we launched two important and complementary initiatives:

  • First meeting of our GHG Working Group.  The Working Group will spend coming months developing an industry position on GHGs.
  • Kickoff of a major independent study of the life-cycle emissions from power generation.  The study, by the engineering group Hatch, will compare lifespan emissions from nuclear, natural gas, and wind.

Our purpose is to contribute sound, well-thought-out ideas to federal and provincial dialogs on controlling GHGs.

In a related initiative, we are also beginning to consult CNA members and environmental experts about a sustainability code of practice.

Momentum is building, not just in Warsaw, but around the world.

Not in decades has the world’s population faced a common struggle like this one.  The threat is against all of us.  Organizations big and small are engaging actively, and with strong public support.

CNA Responds Nuclear Energy

CNA Responds: Clearing the Air on Energy Exports

Today we responded to yet another opinion piece from the Clean Air Alliance’s Jack Gibbons. Our response submitted to the Toronto Star is below but here are a couple of extra points we’d like to make:

  • There is affordable, reliable clean air power in Ontario thanks to nuclear.
  • Without low-carbon nuclear power, we would be burning more polluting coal and natural gas.  Nuclear provides the reliable base load we need around the clock for cooling our homes, powering our freezers, etc.
  • The global adjustment (GA) is paid to all power producers – in proportion. Nuclear powers almost 60% of Ontario’s needs and receives only 45% of the provincial GA. That’s a good deal.
  • Many people may not realize that nuclear’s clean, base load power is enabling the province to be coal-free by 2014 and provides the stable base needed to bring more intermittent renewables onto the grid. Nuclear works when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Nuclear diverts millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions that would result from the same amount of electricity generated by fossil-based sources, like the natural gas Mr. Gibbons is advocating for.
  • According to a report from the OECD, Canadians pay the same or less for electricity from nuclear power compared to all other forms of electricity; and the overall cost to the consumer is similar to that of large-scale hydro, natural gas and coal, and much lower than wind and solar.  Readers might also be interested in the Ontario Auditor General’s examination of the cost of renewable energy initiatives.
  • Simply shelving the province’s Long-Term Energy Plan, as suggested by Mr. Gibbons, in favour of a less reliable, more financially and environmentally costly energy mix, is risking our ability to meet important emissions-reduction targets and the province’s future energy stability and economic competitiveness.

EDIT: The Toronto Star printed a couple of responses correcting Gibbons’ op-ed, including from Michael Ivanco, Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, Mississauga, and Francois Tardif, Trading Analyst, Market Operations, Ontario Power Generation, Woodbridge.

Read their comments here.

Photo credit: KEVIN FRAYER/CP (via thestar.com)

In response to: Why are we paying N.Y. to take our electricity? (Toronto Star, Aug 7)

Jack Gibbons’ argument contains many unsupported statements as well as many misunderstandings:  about the origins of Ontario’s power surplus, the difference between average and spot pricing, the safety and cost record of nuclear, the reliability of market forecasts, and the constraints of planning our long-term infrastructure.

The power surplus originated mainly in a change in the whole economic growth trajectory for North America, one that very few people foresaw.  The predictions (cited by Gibbons) that power demand will remain flat or falling for the next eight years may be no more reliable than the growth projections made in 2005-2007.  Most market projections more than a year or two out are extremely unreliable.

Meeting any large, long-term supply need is likely to involve arrangements that aren’t completely flexible.  These arrangements are usually entered into in order to obtain prices that are stable and low, close to long term average costs.  These are the kinds of prices that nuclear power has delivered to Ontario.  “Spot” market prices that look low are determined by hourly and daily market forces that can change dramatically.

Gibbons talks about wind and gas power that can be turned on and off instantly, but these sources have fixed installation costs.  Costs do not disappear at the moment that a source is disconnected from the grid.

Gibbons’ casual accusation that Pickering A is a “safety and financial hazard” is not supported, nor is his claim that “every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone dramatically over budget.”  Pickering, like other CANDU units in Ontario, has a terrific safety and performance record.  To learn about “financial hazards” to their energy bills, Ontarians could read the provincial Auditor General’s critique of the province’s renewable energy program.