Tag Archives: Climate Change

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A Carbon Tax Isn’t Enough — Canada Needs More Nuclear

By John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
Originally published in the National Post, December 18, 2018

Today, the big federal-provincial debate centres around Ottawa’s plan to introduce a carbon tax. Changes in provincial governments have brought premiers into office who are openly opposed to Ottawa’s plan. But, as a country, are we becoming too wrapped up in one specific policy to combat climate change?

Climate change mitigation cannot be successful through carbon pricing alone. By only focusing on this we are losing sight of the importance of ramping up our clean electricity capacity.

Global emissions continue to increase at a rapid pace and most G20 countries are not on track to meet their Paris commitments, according to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The sheer amount of clean electricity needed to meet future demand and help end energy poverty in the developing world will take all available generating sources.

Standing above all other options in sheer capacity to generate large quantities of clean electricity is nuclear energy. It is a solution that is proven and available now.

Greater progress required for a cleaner future

Canada’s nuclear reactor technology and uranium exports have contributed globally to the avoidance of millions of tonnes of CO2 over the last 30 years, by displacing fossil fuel sources.

Today, nuclear energy produces approximately 15 per cent of Canada’s electricity. In Ontario, it provides 60 per cent of the province’s electricity, and in New Brunswick, it provides 30 per cent.

Ontario is justly proud of phasing out coal generation. Contrary to what some people would have us believe, this was not due to variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar coming online, but rather the refurbishment and subsequent coming online of Bruce Power nuclear reactors that made the end of coal a reality.

Last year, Sweden generated a whopping 95 per cent of its total electricity from zero-carbon sources, with 42 and 41 per cent coming from nuclear and hydroelectric power, respectively. France generated 88 per cent of its electricity from zero-carbon sources, with 72 and 10 per cent coming from nuclear and hydro sources. In both countries, the establishment of a fleet of nuclear power reactors during the 1970s and 1980s effectively decarbonized their electricity supply.

A plan for Canada and the world

While the contributions of wind and solar continue to climb, they cannot solve the immediate need. As they produce energy intermittently, they can’t run 24/7 and require backup generation, usually through fossil fuel sources, which add to GHG emissions.

By contrast, there is growing consensus for the need to ramp up nuclear. In April of 2014, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommended tripling the amount of energy use from nuclear and renewable sources to keep climate change within two degrees Celsius.

Furthermore, Canada’s Mid-Century Long-Term Low-Greenhouse Gas Development Strategy, released at COP22, included nuclear in all the models it espoused for achieving drastic GHG emission reductions by 2050.

The nuclear industry has innovative new reactor technologies under development. They are distinguished by their smaller size, lower costs, and diverse applications, from powering off-grid communities to heavy industrial processes to hydrogen production. This is what we call the new nuclear – and it’s on its way.

By using today’s proven nuclear power and tomorrow’s new nuclear, we have a chance in Canada to actually meet our GHG reduction targets and claim real leadership in the transition to a low-carbon future.

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Hill Times ads promote the benefits of nuclear in Canada

Ad #1 published in the “Energy” brief on August 13, 2018.

Ad #2 published in the “Innovation” brief on October 1, 2018.

Ad #3 published in the “Energy” brief on December 3, 2018.

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Nuclear Science, Climate Change & Sustainable Development: An Idea Worth Sharing

The fury of the Atlantic was on full display in late summer and early fall as hurricanes lined up to batter the Atlantic coast. Harvey, Irma and Maria knocked out power to millions of people and left communities in ruins. The power of Irma destroyed or damaged almost all the buildings on Barbuda, forcing the entire island to be abandoned. Meanwhile the force of Maria was enough to knock out power to all of Puerto Rico and citizens could be in the dark for months.

The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recently reported that ocean warming, resulting from climate change could have direct impacts on future hurricanes.

“Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause tropical cyclones globally to be more intense on average (by 2 to 11% according to model projections for an IPCC A1B scenario). This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.”

It’s not just through hurricanes that we see the direct impacts of climate change on human life. Climate change plays a huge role in access to food, water, health and the environment. As such, it is one of the contributing factors affecting sustainable global development. There are other factors to be sure. Together however, they condemn large parts of the world to poverty, underdevelopment, poor health amid a deteriorating environment. So, what to do?

To make life better for both developed and developing countries, the United Nations, in partnership with the global community, set out seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. These goals focus on meeting our needs today without compromising our future.

Thanks to uranium atoms, we can provide the necessary power to help lift people out of energy poverty, provide clean drinking water and help protect the environment, thereby bettering the lives of billions of people around the world. Nuclear science meets NINE of the seventeen sustainable development goals.

2 Zero Hunger:  Using nuclear science to alter the DNA of plants is a proven effective method to make them more resilient to climate change and is in use by 100 countries.

3 Good Health And Well-Being: A nuclear by-product, Cobalt-60, plays an important role in nuclear medicine. Low-grade Cobalt-60 is used to sterilize medical equipment such as syringes and catheters. High-Speed Activity (HSA) or medical-grade Cobalt-60 is widely used to treat cancer patients. Over 70 million people have been treated thanks to nuclear science.

6 Clean Water And Sanitation: Nuclear science using electron beams (e-beams) can break apart chemical bonds. China, the world’s largest textile industry, recently opened-up an e-beam wastewater treatment facility to treat and reuse wastewater used in clothing manufacturing.

7 Affordable And Clean Energy: According to IAEA projections, energy demand will rise by 60-100% by 2030. To help lift people out of poverty and realize the climate goals set out in Paris, low-carbon, cheap energy is needed. According to the Ontario Energy Board, in 2016, nuclear cost just under 7 cents per kilowatt hour, making it one of the most cost-effective, clean sources of energy. (Solar costs 48 cents per kilowatt hour and hydro 6 cents.)

9 Industry, Innovation And Infrastructure: Innovation in nuclear technology includes Generation IV reactors, hydrogen fuels, small modular reactors (SMRs) and fusion energy.

13 Climate Action: Globally, nuclear power avoids 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions every year, equal to taking approximately half of all (520 million cars) off the world’s roads. Nuclear power is the largest non-hydro source of low-carbon, clean energy worldwide, providing almost 12% of global electricity production.

14 Life Below Water: Nuclear science techniques that use radioisotopes can diagnose the impacts of ocean acidification on the food chain, giving scientists a better understanding of how rising acidity impacts both ecosystems and marine life.

15 Life On Land: Isotopes are a valuable environmental risk assessment tool as they can identify various contaminants which can help to assist with environmental monitoring and remediation of land areas.

17 Partnerships For The Goals: The global nuclear community has a long list of partnerships including various UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), universities and thank tanks and Indigenous communities.

While violent hurricane seasons are nothing new, the warming of our ocean waters, brought about by climate change, raise the concern that more catastrophic hurricanes, like the ones this season, could be the new normal. It’s just one example that underlines the importance of investments in sustainable science and technology, like nuclear, in order to keep the Earth on course to meet sustainable development goals today, ensuring a successful tomorrow.

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Carr Supports Nuclear

The CNA’s ongoing dialogue and lobbying efforts with government are underpinned with the message that Canada’s nuclear sector is a strategic advantage for the nation in its capability to enable clean prosperity for all Canadians. Part of this message was reflected back from government in a recent Q&A with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr in the Hill Times.

Carr’s reference to nuclear was particularly notable given the fact that his comments were part of a special feature in the Hill Times on climate and renewable energy.

Q: While the government has set a target for the percentage of energy it hopes to draw from renewable sources, are there any source-specific targets? For example, how much energy will be drawn from solar or wind, etc.? Also, is nuclear included as a renewable source in those calculations? If so, what do you make of arguments that until solutions are found for the safe and proper disposal of nuclear waste, it is in fact not a ‘clean’ energy source?

A: “Today, 80 per cent of our electricity comes from non-greenhouse gas-emitting sources, including nuclear energy, and our government’s goal is to put Canada on the pathway to 90 per cent, by 2030, in large part by accelerating the phasing out of coal-powered electricity.

However, power generation falls under provincial jurisdiction and it is the responsibility of the provinces to decide the best ways to green their electricity grids.
“When it comes to producing nuclear energy, waste owners are required, under federal law to implement safe solutions for their waste in both the short and long term. Pursuant to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, all waste produced from nuclear power generation is currently safely managed at facilities licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

“As I told the Canadian Nuclear Association earlier this year, there is no reason why nuclear energy can’t be a part of the solution. In fact, Canada is one of only nine Mission Innovation countries to include nuclear energy as part of its clean-energy portfolio.

“Why? Because the use of nuclear power throughout the world makes an important contribution to cleaner air and the mitigation of climate change. Over 22 per cent of the uranium used to generate nuclear power around the world is mined in Canada. This displaces the equivalent of between 300 and 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year compared to electricity that otherwise would have been generated using fossil fuels.”

mvigliotti@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times – July 17, 2017

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Nuclear Science Meeting Sustainability

As the global population continues to swell and pressures on natural resources escalate, thanks in part to increased demand and climate change; governments, industry and academia are looking to science for solutions.

“Nuclear power can bring health and prosperity to the 1.1 billion people in the world who currently do not have access to electricity,” stated World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 60th Annual General Conference in Vienna, Austria.

Courtesy: Tanapakorntungmana/Shutterstock

In the fall of 2015, the global community met at the United Nations in New York and agreed to seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs).  The goals; ambitious and universal, seek to end poverty; provide access to affordable, clean energy; make communities more resilient and combat climate change. Investments in SDGs have the ability to make noticeable improvements to the health, environment and economics for both developing and developed countries.

The commitment to realize the achievement of SDGs by 2030 requires nuclear.  Nuclear science and technology meet nine of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, making investments in these sectors critical components to a prosperous tomorrow.

In Spain, where nuclear power supplies about 20 per cent of the grid, a combination of factors including premiums placed on renewable energy has resulted in sky-high electrical bills as prices rose by almost 60 percent in the six years from 2006-2012. The result of the increase is that millions of people, especially those on fixed incomes, have been left in the dark.  Reliability and economics are key to improving the living conditions of people all over the world and the United Nation’s goals will hope to close the gap between energy security and the economics of electricity.

At the same time, energy choices must not further damage the environment with high carbon emissions.

The sector responsible for the greatest amount of emissions is electricity and heat production.  The fast and effective decarbonizing of this sector will require heavy investments in all low-carbon technologies. The Union of Concerned Scientists, amongst many others, has voiced that “limiting the worst effects of climate change may also require other low or no-carbon energy sources, including nuclear power.”

As a low emitter, nuclear power produces virtually no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants and avoids an estimated 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide yearly. At the same time, nuclear power has the ability to meet the increasing energy demands of an expanding population in a sustainable, clean way.

Moving towards a successful 2030 may be challenging but one thing is clear, in order to get there nuclear power must be part of the solution.

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Low Carbon, Clean Energy: Making Communities Healthier

According to the U.S Energy Department’s latest International Energy Outlook 2016 (IEO), worldwide energy consumption will increase by almost 50 percent by 2040. Meeting global demand will require growing the renewable and nuclear power industries.

The IEA forecasts that worldwide nuclear power, which currently offsets an estimated 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions yearly, will slightly increase in its contribution to the global electricity grid. The forecasted 2 percent increase is not nearly enough. If countries like Canada are to meet COP21 targets and improve the health of our environment we need more nuclear.

Information confirmed in the latest IEO report found “even though non fossil fuels are expected to grow faster than fossil fuels (petroleum and other liquid fuels, natural gas and coal), fossil fuels will still account for more than three-quarters of world energy consumption through 2040.”

health2An extreme shift in weather patterns brought about by greenhouse gas emissions  has resulted in more heat and flooding, increasing the amount of ground-level ozone, carbon dioxide and particulates – all of which have negative health consequences

The climate change price tag for Canada’s healthcare industry is a hefty one. Data released by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) found that by 2031 air pollution related illnesses, including lost productivity and ER admissions could cost Canadian taxpayers close to $250 billion.

The projected ongoing use of fossil fuels is a concern both for meeting climate targets and for improving air quality which are critical components to improving overall health. In a 2014 news release, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported “in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.”

In Canada, the rates of Severe Asthma are rising, due in part to climate change. Over a quarter-million Canadians live with severe asthma.  Furthermore, allergies can be triggered by mold related to flooding and by increased pollen production from distressed plants.

“People with severe asthma may struggle to breathe even when they are taking their prescribed medication,” states Vanessa Foran, President and CEO of the Asthma Society of Canada.  “Environmental allergens are the primary triggers for 60-80 % of Canadians living with asthma,” she says.

Continuing to invest in low-carbon energy sources is an important step in improving air quality. The year 2000 saw a peak for coal-fired electricity generation in Ontario, with almost 50 million tons of GHG emissions being released into the environment. Fifteen years later, nuclear energy accounted for the majority of electricity generation – 66.5%, displacing over 90% of emissions, thereby cleaning the air and improving the health of Ontarians.

As Canada’s largest province moves forward in developing its next Long-Term Energy Plan, which has a key focus on clean, reliable energy, it is clear that nuclear must be at the forefront of discussions.

A safe and reliable energy source that contributes to climate commitments, nuclear power can help to improve the health of people around the world while meeting an increased global demand for energy.