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Guest Blog Nuclear Energy

Ontario Nuclear Performance in the Recent Heat Wave

The following is reblogged from Steve Aplin’s Canadian Energy Issues blog. Steve does a great job explaining the realities of power generation in a carbon-conscious world.

Nuclear power generation plays an important role in providing Canada with a safe and reliable source of low-carbon baseload electricity. Currently, nuclear energy provides 15% of the electricity produced in Canada, and almost 60% in Ontario alone. Nuclear power generation is the most affordable source of non-hydro power, low-carbon electricity in Canada, selling on average at around $.06 per kWh. Plus because nuclear power facilities produce large amounts of continuous power, they enable the use of complementary renewable energy sources that are intermittent (such as wind and solar).

The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station – Operated by Ontario Power Generation

Ontario nuclear performance in the recent heat wave
July 10, 2012
By Steve Aplin

Anybody who followed the output of Ontario’s electric generators during last week’s heat wave would have noticed the nuclear fleet’s stellar performance. During the entire week, the sixteen nuclear units—with a total electricity generating capacity of around 11,500 megawatts—ran at just over 96 percent. Through the week of July 1 to July 7, they generated over 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours of rock-steady cooling power to fight the heat wave.

By contrast, the performance of the much-vaunted wind turbine fleet was dismal. The fifteen provincial wind farms scattered all across southern Ontario contain nearly a thousand individual turbines, and have a collective (fleet) capacity of around 1,700 megawatts. Over the same July 1 to July 7 period their actual output represented less than 14 percent of that capacity. They collectively produced less than 38 million kWh—about one-fiftieth of the nuclear fleet’s output.

Put another way, the nuclear fleet, the capacity of which is only 6.7 times that of the wind fleet, produced nearly 50 times as much actual electricity.

That’s called clutch hitting. When Ontario needed cooling power to fight the heat wave, nuclear stepped up and delivered it.

It is also called bang for the buck. Those 1.8 billion kWhs of nuclear electricity each cost around 6 cents. Each of the less-than-38-million wind generated kWhs cost at least 11 cents.

That is to say, Ontario rate payers paid less money for nuclear power, which—as last week proved—is by far the more reliable power source.

Moreover, nuclear is the only reliable carbon-free power source. People think wind is carbon-free. It’s not. Because wind is so unreliable, it must be paired with a backup source that is capable of delivering power on demand. In Ontario, the preferred backup source is natural gas.

Well, natural gas is mostly methane (CH4). React CH4 with oxygen—i.e., burn it—and you create a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) to go with the heat. That CO2 gets dumped into our atmosphere, where it swirls around for centuries before dissolving in ocean water and turning that water more acidic.

From an environmental point of view, the sheer unreliability of wind power during last week’s heat wave should come as a sobering wake-up call. If Ontario’s wind fleet only produced power at 14 percent capacity during a period when every megawatt of capacity was needed, then what produced the other 86 percent? The answer: natural gas. Gas is a carbon-emitting fossil fuel.

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Happy Earth Day!

According to Earth Day Canada, Earth Day was first launched as an environmental awareness event in the U.S. in 1970. That’s still the purpose today as millions of Canadians join 1 billion people from countries all over the globe in holding events and supporting projects that raise awareness of local and global environmental issues.

One of the greatest environmental challenges the world is facing today is climate change. As Canada and the global community work to address the challenges of climate change, nuclear energy is an important part of Canada’s clean energy portfolio. Nuclear power generation doesn’t contribute to climate change or smog because there are virtually no greenhouse gas emissions from our nuclear power facilities. And because nuclear power facilities produce large amounts of continuous power (base load), they enable the use of complementary renewable energy sources, like wind and solar. Currently nuclear energy provides 15% of Canada’s electricity. If this 15% was replaced by fossil fuels, it would increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 12%, or about 90 million tonnes.

It’s an interesting time for nuclear as countries are starting up and expanding their nuclear energy programs (China, India, Vietnam), and others are shying away for the time being (Germany, Japan). We believe nuclear is a key part of a clean energy future, for Canada and the world. So this Earth Day, why not learn more about the contributions of nuclear technology – not only in power generation but also in medicine, food safety, new technologies, innovation, etc. Visiting NUnuclear.ca is a good place to start.

Happy Earth Day!

Check out what one of our members is doing to celebrate Earth Day – or rather, Earth Week, in their case!
Bruce Power supports Earth Week by assisting environmental programs along the shoreline

“Although we do an excellent job of protecting the environment through our day-to-day operations, we understand the importance of educating the greater community and youth of Bruce and Grey counties on the importance of being good environmental stewards. By supporting these important community initiatives, we are helping to foster an appreciation and understanding of the environment at a very young age.” — Duncan Hawthorne, Bruce Power President and CEO

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Nuclear in the Oil Sands: Building On Canada’s Strengths

Canada has high-quality uranium deposits and a highly developed base of nuclear technologies, including power generation, medicine, food safety, mining and processing, and materials science – in all of which Canadians have done well, as innovators and as businesses.

That Canadian power reactor designs have been sold in six other countries — against substantial US, Japanese and European competition — is a remarkable technological and commercial success story, especially considering that they were developed and marketed independently by a small country, and only for civilian uses.  Management of this business has passed to Candu Energy Inc., and Canadians will soon see what private industry can do with this opportunity given the current nuclear revival, which is being led by emerging economies.

There are diverse examples of nuclear energy being used for process heat applications such as smelting minerals and desalinating seawater.   And today there are various new nuclear reactor technologies available or on the horizon (Generation III and IV reactors, small modular reactors and others) that promise to make nuclear power options even safer than they currently are, as well as easier to finance.

The development of the oil sands has repeatedly faced difficult technical and economic challenges.  While private industry was the main driver and investor, public sector actors played a significant role.  Backed by industry consensus and assisted by economic policy through such measures as royalty and tax adjustments, these public sector champions enabled the development of the oil industry that Canada has today:  our largest export earner and a huge wealth generator for the private and public sectors.

Capturing more of the value of this resource within the Canadian economy is of interest to many in policy circles.  So would be extracting the bitumen in ways that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and conserve cleaner fossil fuels.  Among the options would be to apply nuclear power in place of natural gas to generate the heat needed for bitumen extraction.   While innovators in the oil sands industry are aware of the long-term possibilities of nuclear, for the most part they are currently occupied with closer-to-deployment technical advances.

Currently deployed reactor designs would not be easy to apply to bitumen extraction in the oil sands.  They require large, permanent installations with large support staffs.  Even with these challenges, however, nuclear appeared in a 2003 study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute  to be approximately competitive with natural gas in in-situ applications.

Newer reactor designs such as the Enhanced CANDU 6, the Advanced CANDU Reactor (ACR-1000), and other so-called Generation 3 and 4 reactors, some of which are close to deployment but have not yet established multi-year track records in operation, will further advance the safety of nuclear energy and could substantially improve its economics.  Also, several small modular reactor (SMR) designs are being promoted – in varying degrees of proximity to deployment – with promises of further reductions in the financing, building and maintenance costs of nuclear energy, improving its applicability to non-power uses.  These promised advances are mainly based on SMRs’ portability, modularity, steam characteristics, and maintenance needs.

Conversations with a number of industry experts in Alberta in mid-2011 elicited views like these:

“When they advance the technology, we might be interested.  It’s too far from deployment right now.”

“Coal and gas are abundant and cheap here, at least for now. Why should the province help nuclear, an outside industry, rather than coal or gas?”

“Nuclear will be the likely option because it’s the alternative with no greenhouse gases.  But it takes time to develop that option.”

“The oil industry is actually quite risk-averse.  They need to see a new technology demonstrated before they’ll invest in it.”

Those are anecdotal and attitudinal comments, but they reflect an industry state of mind:  there is an economic opportunity in nuclear that is not being seized.

The likely steps to realizing this opportunity could be:

  • First, some academic and/or think-thank studies to build awareness of the scope of the opportunity.
  • Second, a technical survey of the bitumen operations’ energy requirements, and of the available nuclear technologies, to shorten the list of technical options.
  • Third, a multi-stakeholder technology development process, aimed at narrowing the technology gaps to a point where cost ranges and time frames would be sufficiently defined that business models could be contemplated.

The opportunity in bringing nuclear to the oil sands should stand on its own merits, and we have a responsibility to future generations to evaluate it based on the facts.

But having a vision of what we want, and the imagination to get there, is indispensable to winning as a country.  The successes we have today in Canada’s nuclear and oil sands industries, the pioneers who foresaw them, and the roads we travelled to achieve them, tell us that.

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Canada’s Top Ten Weather Stories for 2011

Environment Canada has put together a year-end review of the top weather stories of 2011.

From floods to fire, melting Arctic seas, heat waves, blizzards, hurricanes and tornados – 2011 was a weather year to remember. Canadians from coast to coast to coast were affected by this year’s weather extremes and their insurance companies reported the second most expensive year for weather losses.

The 7th top weather story is this summer’s heat wave that struck the middle of Canada, from Saskatchewan to Quebec. We’re in Ontario where over half of our electricity comes from nuclear and were all glad to have that reliable baseload power to keep us cool.

More than the daily benefits of nuclear power generation, because there are virtually no greenhouse gas emissions from our nuclear power plants, our keeping cool with nuclear does not contribute to smog or climate change (climate change which many believe is the cause of the extreme weather we are experiencing in recent years).

Did you know:
Currently, nuclear energy provides 15% of the electricity produced in Canada, serving the needs of millions of people across Canada. Electricity currently generated by nuclear power plants in Canada saves the potential emission of about 90 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year that would result from the same amount of electricity generated by fossil-based sources. This makes up about 12% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Read all of Environment Canada’s Top Weather Stories of 2011.

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NuclearCool.com

What is NuclearCool.com?

NuclearCool.com is a website started by Paul Lavelle – “explorer, visionary and businessman believes everyone should do their best for the future of the planet.” It was in 1989 that he launched a campaign to persuade people to switch to ozone safe alternatives.

He launched the first ever hot air balloon flight from the North Pole to bring attention to the fact that the ozone was rapidly depleting.

You can see highlights of his successful campaign on his film.

If you succeed in using the nuclear-physical findings for peaceful purposes, it will open the way to a new paradise. – Einstein

Paul Lavelle is someone who cares very much for this planet and its future and believes nuclear is the only viable option to save it.

Be sure to check out the NuclearCool.com Carbon Calculator.

Read the truly excellent nuclear facts.

We’re with you, Paul. TalkNUclear believes that nuclear is an important part of Canada’s clean energy mix. It provides low-emission, stable base load power. It’s time to re-invest in nuclear and an environmentally sustainable energy future.

Do you have any favourite nuclear websites to share? Let us know in the comments.

 

CNA Responds Messages Nuclear Energy

Nuclear is an Important Part of Canada’s Clean Energy Portfolio

This editorial was recently submitted to the Toronto Star. Please read and share it, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Canada is a diverse country with diverse energy needs. Yet there remains one constant: When the light switch is flipped, all Canadians expect the lights to come on.

We have important decisions before us as a country. As provinces look to phase out their reliance on coal-fired plants in favour of cleaner, lower emitting sources, we have an opportunity to invest in new generation capacity to shoulder the needs of today and tomorrow.

Effective energy policy is not about choosing some energy sources and excluding others.  Energy policy is about choosing an appropriate balance. And nuclear is an essential element in that equation.

Today, nuclear generation provides fifteen percent of the electricity produced in Canada.

Nuclear energy is a safe, affordable, and reliable form of generation. What people often overlook is that it’s also an integral part of the clean energy portfolio. Nuclear power plants produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions, and do not contribute to either climate change or smog.

In fact, if we were to replace the electricity generated by nuclear power plants in Canada today with the same amount of electricity generated by fossil-based sources, it would add about 90 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions annually.

As we seek to reconcile our energy needs with a proactive and pragmatic approach to environmental stewardship, the benefits of nuclear power beckon.

While there is certainly a place for renewable sources such as wind and solar in the electricity supply mix, these sources are not at a point yet where they can replace more reliable, established forms of energy generation. As we all know, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. It would be irresponsible to rely upon intermittent generating capacity.

Our nation’s critical infrastructure relies on a consistent, predictable supply of electricity. Businesses and homes depend on cost certainty. Nuclear generating stations produce a constant, stable amount of energy. Canada’s rich supply of uranium provides security with respect to the availability and long-term price certainty of nuclear fuel.

It also provides security with respect to safety. Our stations use natural rather than enriched uranium, which is cooled with heavy water and, as a result, is much safer in the long run.

Canada’s nuclear power operations have a track record among the safest in the world. Safety is, and has always been, our number one priority. In more than 45 years of operation, not once have we experienced a significant incident, largely due to our reactors’ robust design, as well as the industry’s unwavering commitment to a “safety first” culture. As part of this commitment, we continue to look beyond our borders to experiences and lessons learned about safety around the world, in particular Japan following the Fukushima tragedy, and identify opportunities where we, as an industry, can improve.

It’s time we took a moment to consider Canada’s energy future. It’s time we make an investment in our future. It’s time to re-invest in nuclear.

Please visit www.CNA.ca and follow us on our Blog, Twitter, and Facebook to participate in our ‘TalkNUclear’ conversation.

Denise Carpenter
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association