Tag Archives: CO2

Uncategorized

When is the Best Time to Take a Nuclear Power Plant Offline?

By Erin Polka
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

What happens to greenhouse gas emissions when a nuclear power plant goes offline? Let’s look at the Bruce Power complex in Kincardine, Ontario. On April 15, Bruce Power shut down the four reactors in its B building to enable a vacuum building outage (VBO). The vacuum building, which is an essential safety feature, needs regular maintenance that should last about a month.

Shutting down Bruce B means some 3,268 MW of generating capacity needs to be replaced with some combination of hydro, gas and wind. Which combination is better for the environment?

Hydro capacity is highest in the spring, as winter snows melt and rivers run high. So it stands to reason that hydro power will make up for some of the shortage. (And, yes, the VBO was timed to match the availability of hydro.)

What about wind? Not as much help. Wind provides only four percent of Ontario’s electricity on average. Whether it could provide more would depend on whether the wind blows longer and stronger. Maybe it will, and maybe it won’t – hardly the reliability needed to replace the steady nuclear workhorse.

And then there’s gas. It can be fired up quickly and easily, it runs reliably, and it doesn’t cost all that much more than nuclear power – about twice as much.

In the best-case scenario, hydro would replace the power from the four Bruce B reactors. It’s the best case because hydro, like nuclear, generates no greenhouse gases. But there’s a problem. Hydro in Ontario is quite limited as a result of the province’s geography, and the province lacks sufficient transmission lines to import replacement power from Quebec. Also, even if the lines did exist, Quebec doesn’t have a spare hydro dam to match the output from the four reactors.

The next-best scenario would use all the available hydro power, keeping cost and emissions down, and use gas for the rest. Very likely, hydro could replace half the nuclear energy from Bruce B, and natural gas would replace the other half.

Is that a problem? After all, Ontario businesses and residents will still get steady, reliable electricity – just as they did with the Bruce reactors. But here’s the thing – natural gas emits greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, which is primarily responsible for climate change.

GiraffesReplacing half the nuclear output with gas means the province’s gas plants will emit an additional 295,095 tonnes of carbon dioxide. For perspective, that’s the weight equivalent of about 300,000 adult giraffes.

What else would produce 295,095 tonnes of CO2?

  • Driving a car 35,563 times around the Earth’s equator
  • Taking 82,394 round-trip flights from Toronto to Sydney

And that’s not all. Unlike nuclear and hydro, gas also emits nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), and particulate matter (PM) during operation. These “other” greenhouse gases cause lung and heart disease, and make these conditions worse. They can also harm plants and animals on land and in the sea. And they can even cause building materials to deteriorate and weaken.

Drive around the worldOf course, if hydro weren’t able to stand in for the offline nuclear plants, then Ontario would need to use gas alone. And that would mean the weight of another 300,000 giraffes in greenhouse gas emissions, or another 35,563 trips around the world (“Are we there yet?”), or another 82,394 round trips to Sydney.

So, timing is everything. Scheduling the VBO in spring, when hydro reaches its peak performance, was a wise decision. Just how much hydro will be available, and how much gas is actually used, remains to be seen.

You can track the results on the CNA website, if you like. Check our emissions tracking.

Uncategorized

Ontario Nuclear Sets Monthly Output Record

By Erin Polka
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Ontario nuclear set another monthly output record – 8.72 billion kWh for March, beating out January’s 8.46 billion kWh, and more than any other month since 2010.

 

Monthly Ontario nuclear output

 

Most likely, it’s the highest monthly output in Ontario’s history, however reliable data sources are hard to find.

According to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), nuclear’s output is usually highest in mid-winter and mid-summer. This is due to the increased electrical demand as a result of heating and cooling.

But March isn’t typically a high-demand month, which makes this record all the more impressive.

The more Ontario relies on nuclear energy, the fewer greenhouse gases the province releases into the atmosphere.

Over the entire lifecycle, including construction, transportation, operation and decommissioning, nuclear is one of the cleanest options available, emitting about 16 grams of CO2 per kWh. It compares favorably with hydro (4 grams), wind (12 grams) and solar (46 grams), and is a vast improvement over gas (469 grams).

This past March, gas only contributed 1.09 billion kWh, which is less than usual, and translates into less air pollution.

Uncategorized

Energy in Ontario – by the Numbers

By Erin Polka
Communications Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Curious how much nuclear power is being generated in Ontario on any given day? What about any given hour?

If so, you may want to check out the CNA’s new ‘Energy in Ontario’ web app, which shows daily and hourly energy generation by selected fuels – and related lifecycle pollution emissions.

Energy in Ontario - Table 1

Energy in Ontario - Table 2

You can see how much power was generated from nuclear, gas and wind, as well as how many tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), and kilograms of particulate matter (PM), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and oxides of sulfur (SOx) each source emitted.

A nifty feature also shows you what the environmental impact would have been had a combination of wind and gas replaced the power that nuclear generated. On average, carbon emissions would have been five to eight times higher than what they actually were.

What’s important to note about the CNA’s emission data, and is different from some of the other data out there, is that we’ve considered lifecycle factors, such as construction, transportation, operation and decommissioning. This is why nuclear, for example, appears to be generating emissions on a regular basis.

What’s next?

We’re working on adding all of Ontario’s current fuel types, including hydro, solar, and biofuel, as well as distinguishing between simple and rankine cycle gas.

We’re also developing a historical overview, showing yearly energy output and emissions, by fuel type, dating back to 2008.

All of this information is important in trying to show the effect that nuclear power has in curbing air pollution in Ontario. If not for the significant ramp-up in nuclear output, the province would be facing much more serious health and environmental problems.

Check out the live data on the CNA website, under ‘Resources,’ or click here.

CNA2015

Colorado Biologist Michael H. Fox on Nuclear

By John Stewart
Director, Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

More and more highly credible environmentalists are arguing the case for nuclear energy. The case was already strong, and  the flood of new high-profile advocates doesn’t in itself make it any stronger.

Where the flood of advocates does help us is in giving us more and more great writers and speakers to choose from. One of these, the renowned climate scientist James Hansen, will speak at the CNA Conference on February 26.

fox book coverAmid the crush of conference preparation, I made time to skim the work of another of these very strong new advocates. He is Colorado State University’s Michael H. Fox, whose book Why We Need Nuclear Power: The Environmental Case was recently published by Oxford University Press. If you want to strengthen your own knowledge with a compact, solid primer on a raft of timely topics – including atmospheric science, the climate controversy, fossil fuels, alternative energy sources, nuclear technology, radiation and energy safety – it’s for you.

Fox is genuine, honest, direct and comprehensive, and a very good writer, so I’ll excerpt a few of his own words to get you started.

The largest factor in global warming is CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels (75%)…A substantial part of the fossil fuel emissions comes from burning coal to produce electricity…Natural gas is not really the solution…it is clearly better than coal…but it will still be a major contributor…

Wind and solar have a place…but they do not solve the energy problem…They can contribute the most power in places where relatively few people live, requiring a huge and expensive new network of transmission lines…They are expensive…They have very large footprints, which restrict them in many places. They are not very long lived…And they do not reduce the need for fossil fuels…because of their intermittent nature…Wind and solar are not able to wean us from our addiction to coal and natural gas…

Michael H. Fox
Michael H. Fox

A nuclear reactor will outlast several alternative energy projects but will cost far more upfront…The market alone is unlikely to be able to support either renewable energy projects or nuclear power projects because they are very expensive. But nuclear power alone has the potential to substantially reduce the CO2 emissions, which neither solar nor wind can do…[In the USA from 1950-2010] nuclear power and renewable energy (mostly wind and solar) each accounted for 9% of the total [federal government] incentives…Most of the incentives for nuclear power were for R&D…while for renewable energy about one-third were for R&D…

[U.S.] States with regulated rates set by public utility commissions are far more likely to build more nuclear…the energy crisis in California in 2000-2001…was an object lesson in how not to deregulate markets. Regulated states [provide] a climate in which the long-term costs of nuclear power plants can be amortized, resulting in low, stable rates. Since new nuclear power plants are designed for a 60-year lifetime, they will provide cheap electricity in future years, just as current reactors that were built 20 or more years ago provide cheap electricity now. Investments in nuclear power are truly long-term infrastructure investments that will pay off over a long time.

I and other pro-nuclear environmentalists find ourselves in an interesting conundrum. Many of my fellow liberal environmental activists are opposed to nuclear power, while many conservatives who are staunch deniers of global warming are supportive…Suppose we liberal environmentalists are wrong about global warming being caused by human influences. Would it really be such a bad thing if we actually reduced emissions of carbon dioxide?…And to environmentalists, is nuclear power really as bad as coal? Choices must be made, and every choice entails some risk. If you continue to oppose nuclear power, coal will still be providing most of the world’s electricity 50 years from now. The choice is up to us.

Maybe we’ll see Fox at a future CNA Conference. In the meantime, buy his book; like nuclear technology, it’s a long term asset that’s worth every penny. And we’ll be very excited to hear from James Hansen on Thursday.

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.

Nuclear Education Nuclear Energy Nuclear Pride

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