Tag Archives: Energy Mix

Uncategorized

Nuclear Energy Delivers Clean Air for Ontario

Starting in the 1950s, coal made up a large part of Ontario’s power mix. Coal was inexpensive, and Ontario lacked sufficient alternatives such as hydroelectric power or natural gas. By the late 1990s, however, links between adverse health effects and air pollution were firmly established, and much of this could be traced to Ontario’s coal-powered plants.

In 2003, Ontario began to replace its coal-fired plants with nuclear energy, completing the switchover in 2014. Over that time, air quality improved significantly, reducing respiratory illnesses and deaths.

ONTARIO’S EVOLVING POWER CHOICES

Ontario’s first electrical power supply came from a hydroelectric generating station on the Ottawa River in 1892. Hydro expanded rapidly across the province in the early 20th century. But it could not expand indefinitely: not every river can be dammed at places that are economically feasible and environmentally sensible. So, in the 1950s, Ontario added six coal-fired power stations to meet rising demand. Practical, large-scale nuclear power was not introduced in Ontario until the 1970s.

Coal remained an important part of this mix until the end of the 20th century, when it made up about a quarter of electricity generation in the province. By that time, the health risks of coal were becoming increasingly apparent.

THE LEGACY OF COAL

As burners of carbon-based fossil fuels, Ontario’s coal-fired power plants were heavy emitters of greenhouse gases, which threaten to accelerate climate change. They also emitted pollutants that affect human health directly: mercury, several air-borne carcinogens, and sulphur dioxide, which can make asthma symptoms worse. Sulphur dioxide can also react with other substances to create particulate matter – small solids or liquid drops in the air that can damage lungs.

Burning coal also releases nitrogen oxide, which contributes ground-level ozone, a principal factor in smog, which has a devastating effect on public health.

In Toronto, airborne particulate matter commonly exceeded 20 μg/m3, the level at which adverse health effects can be demonstrated. It sometimes reached 75 μg/m3. Ground-level ozone often exceeded 80 parts per billion, far higher than the level of 31 ppb associated with increased hospitalization rates for asthma, lung disease, and respiratory infections.

The province attributed 1,800 premature deaths and 1,400 cardiac and respiratory hospital admissions each year to smog. Several studies and reports had also highlighted the connection between Ontario’s air quality and public health.

  • In 2004, Toronto’s health department estimated that 1,700 Toronto residents died prematurely and 6,000 Torontonians were admitted to hospitals because of air pollution each year.
  • A 2005 report by the Ontario Ministry of Energy concluded that coal contributed to 928 hospital admissions and 1,100 emergency-room visits each year.
  • In 2005, a report by the Ontario Medical Association identified several other costs of air pollution, including at least $150 million in additional healthcare costs, $128 million in lost productivity, and a total of $2.4 billion in economic damage.

Ontario's supply mix - 2000 vs. 2013 (2)CHANGING THE MIX

Pressure was building to improve air quality. In 1999, the Ontario Public Health Association called on the province to replace its coal-fired power plants with cleaner power sources. The Ontario Medical Association had already declared an air pollution crisis.

Phasing coal out

In 2007, the Government of Ontario adopted the Integrated Power System Plan, guiding the province’s energy choices over 20 years. The plan aimed to stabilize prices, double renewable energy, and increase conservation. Its central goal was to replace toxic coal with cleaner power.

Ontario closed four coal-fired plants in 2010, and the last one in 2014 – making Ontario the first jurisdiction in North America to shut down coal-fired generation.

Phasing nuclear in

Even with the conservation measures set out in the plan, Ontario would have to supply electricity to make up for the closures of the coal-fired plants. Hydro was not an option, as Ontario had reached nearly 75% of its hydro capacity. Renewables such as wind and solar showed promise – and the plan aimed to double their use – but represented only tiny fraction of Ontario’s power supply, and could not be scaled up easily. Furthermore, solar and wind do not produce steady power around the clock, which is necessary to prevent brownouts.

The Government of Ontario recognizes nuclear power as a reliable and safe supplier of electricity. Since 2003, investment in Ontario’s power infrastructure has modernized three reactors (Pickering A Unit 1 and Bruce Units 3 and 4) and returned them to service. Nuclear power, which made up 37% of Ontario’s power mix in 2000, stood at 62% in 2014.

AIR POLLUTION: HOW ONTARIO’S POWER MIX STACKS UP

Any change in the power mix has environmental consequences – which leads Ontarians to ask whether the transition from coal to nuclear power might simply involve changing types of air pollution.

To answer this question, it is important to look at a power plant’s emissions from cradle to grave – including its construction, its fuel source, its waste products, and its eventual shutdown and decommissioning.

Smog factors

All methods of power generation emit particulate matter and contribute to ground-level ozone. However, nuclear energy emits far less particulate matter per unit of electricity than any fossil fuel – and less than wind.

Greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gas emissions by nuclear power are surprisingly low, considering the amount of construction needed to build a nuclear power plant. But those plants operate for decades, and emit no greenhouse gases while generating electricity.

And because of the vast amount of power that can be extracted from a small amount of uranium (20,000 times that of coal, by weight), emissions from nuclear power compare favourably with renewable energy sources, and are well ahead of fossil fuels.

Carbon emissions per kWh

CLEANER AIR, TODAY AND TOMORROW

Today, Ontarians enjoy cleaner air. According to the provincial government, “Ontario’s air quality has improved steadily since 1988. We have good air quality approximately 90 per cent of the time.” With the exception of a spike in 2012, which included a serious drought, the number and duration of smog advisories across the province has dropped steadily since 2003.

Cleaner air means better health. In Toronto, premature deaths attributed to air pollution dropped from 1,700 to 1,300 between 2004 and 2014, while hospitalizations fell from 6,000 to 3,550.

Even with this progress, there is still much room for improvement – especially as Ontario’s population ages and more people are at higher risk of health effects from air pollution. And, as the economy grows, Ontario will need a reliable, clean-air power source that keeps prices stable and affordable. Nuclear power can meet this need, partly because Canadian-designed reactors can be refuelled without shutting down, and because they draw from a fuel source that is abundant in Canada.

Recognizing this value, the province also put primary focus on nuclear energy in its 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan. It decided to upgrade and replace key components at the Bruce Power and Darlington sites, so they can continue to provide clean power for decades.

CNA2014

Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver to Deliver Keynote Address at CNA2014

By Romeo St-Martin
Digital Media Officer
Canadian Nuclear Association

Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver entered politics with an impressive academic and investment banking resume.

He obtained both his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Civil Law at McGill University and later graduated with an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business.

He began his investment banking career at Merrill Lynch, and served in senior positions at other investment dealers and as Executive Director of the Ontario Securities Commission. He was then appointed President and CEO of the Investment Dealers Association of Canada and played a prominent role as Chair of the Advisory Committee of the International Council of Securities Associations and as Chair of the Consultative Committee of the International Association of Securities Commissions.

He ran in a Toronto-area riding in the 2008 federal election, but lost in a close race to the Liberal incumbent, Joe Volpe. In a subsequent election in 2011, he defeated Volpe to win the seat. On May 18, 2011, Oliver was sworn in as the Minister of Natural Resources.

While Oliver is one of the most high-profile cabinet ministers in the Conservative government due in large part to his advocacy for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, he still understands the importance of Canada’s nuclear sector.

“Nuclear continues to be a key part of Canada’s energy mix and a major contributor to our status as a world leader of clean energy,” he told last year’s CNA conference.

“We all take pride in Canadians’ roles in developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Canadians continue to play a leading role in demonstrating the safe and effective use of nuclear energy.

“Our commitment is to ensure Canada’s tradition of excellence and leadership in nuclear science and technology will continue in support of the needs of Canada and Canadian business and in respect for the Canadian taxpayer,” he said.

The Honourable Joe Oliver will be speaking at CNA2014 this month.

CNA Responds Nuclear Energy Nuclear Outreach Nuclear Pride

Nuclear Projects and Costs: Jobs and Affordability

In the article Rising electricity prices have little to do with renewable energy (May 5), Weis makes several omissions and extrapolations in the areas of transparency, cost and the role of nuclear energy projects in Ontario.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which is owned by the people of Ontario, produces about 60 per cent of the electricity used in Ontario and half of that comes from its 10 operating nuclear units. The price for this electricity is 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour, up from 5.5 cents two years ago.  This information is publicly available and is set by the Ontario Energy Board during a public process.

While “full costs associated with refurbishing existing units or building new ones has never been made public,” that’s because OPG and the government have yet to determine a projected cost, Similarly, OPG has yet to determine precise costs to refurbish the four units at Darlington. Both projects will be the result of competitive bidding processes. Setting a price before the bids are complete would not result in the best deal for consumers.

Building two new nuclear units will be a major undertaking. It will require thousands of skilled tradespeople, enormous quantities of cement, steel and other metals. It would require thousands of specifically fabricated components which will create numerous spin off jobs in the manufacturing sector.

According to a report released in July 2010 by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, refurbishing nuclear facilities at Bruce and Darlington will create 25,000 jobs in the next decade and inject $5 billion into the Ontario economy annually.

For example, the contractor workforce for the Bruce Power refurbishment wrapping up this year, at its peak, included over 3,000 skilled tradespersons. The project has been employing thousands of people since 2006. In addition to this direct employment, there is also a significant amount of indirect employment in those firms that supply services and materials to the refurbishment projects. Ontario has an ambitious clean energy development targets and nuclear energy – an integral part of the province’s clean energy portfolio – is crucial to achieving those targets. Many people may not realize that nuclear’s clean, base load power is enabling the province of Ontario to be coal-free by 2014 and provides the stable base that is needed to bring renewables onto the grid.

Reaching these clean energy goals does have associated costs and to better understand the costs of Ontario’s energy mix, plain and accessible information can be found in the provincial Auditor General’s latest report, which cites what the Ontario Energy Board itself said in 2010:

“In April 2010, the OEB completed an analysis predicting that a typical household’s annual electricity bill will increase by about $570, or 46%, from about $1,250 in 2009 to more than $1,820 by 2014. More than half of this increase would be because of renewable energy contracts” (page 95).

Nuclear energy provides over half of the province’s electricity. It’s clean, reliable and affordable. The CNA invites Canadians to read the Auditor General’s report and make an informed decision on energy costs.

We also invite you to join the conversation on our TalkNUclear blog, Facebook and Twitter and ask us about the topics that are important to you. Our NU microsite NUnuclear.ca is an excellent tool that illustrates the role nuclear technology plays in our daily lives beyond power generation. From life-saving nuclear medicine to enabling materials safety, we depend on nuclear for much more than just keeping the lights on.

CNA Responds Nuclear Energy Nuclear Outreach Nuclear Pride

Nuclear Main Source of Affordable Clean Electricity in Ontario

Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner, Shawn-Patrick Stensil, wrote a blog recently blaming nuclear energy for Ontario’s rising electricity rates. He referred to a small section (pp. 69-70) of a very complex and technical report by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) that investigates the sources of something called “Global Adjustment” — which is not the same as “recent increases in your electricity bill.”

To better understand the costs of Ontario’s energy mix, plain and accessible information can be found in the provincial Auditor General’s latest report, which tells us:

“Billions of dollars were committed to renewable energy without fully evaluating the impact, the trade-offs, and the alternatives through a compre­hensive business-case analysis” (page 97).

“In November 2010, the Ministry [of Energy] forecast that a typical residential electricity bill would rise about 7.9% annually over the next five years, with 56% of the increase due to investments in renewable energy” (page 89).

“In April 2010, the OEB completed an analysis predicting that a typical household’s annual electricity bill will increase by about $570, or 46%, from about $1,250 in 2009 to more than $1,820 by 2014. More than half of this increase would be because of renewable energy contracts” (page 95).

And this is despite the far larger and more reliable role that nuclear plays, relative to renewables, in our power supply. Nuclear energy is an integral part of Ontario’s clean energy portfolio. And because nuclear energy facilities produce large amounts of continuous power, they enable the use of complementary renewable energy sources, like wind and solar. Without nuclear energy, this base load power would need to be supplied by burning carbon-emitting coal or gas.

The AG’s report also clarifies what role Global Adjustment plays in your electricity bill (see graphs on page 94).  It recommends that the Province should “increase consumer awareness of the concept of the Global Adjustment and make more information available on the cost impact of its major components,” a step that the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) and our members would welcome.

In fact, according to 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. Here’s a link to that report as well.

There’s a reason anti-nuclear activists tend to criticize nuclear energy based on cost rather than on environmental arguments about the technology itself. Critics know there are virtually no greenhouse gas emissions from our nuclear facilities and that nuclear does not contribute to climate change or smog. Carbon-cutting is at the top of all of our agendas and is an area where nuclear makes a valuable contribution to Canada’s status as a clean energy superpower.  Nuclear energy 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. Many people may not realize that nuclear’s clean, base load power is enabling the province of Ontario to be coal-free by 2014 and provides the stable base needed to bring renewables onto the grid.

The CNA invites Canadians to read the Auditor General’s report and make an informed decision on energy costs. We also invite you to join the conversation on our TalkNUclear blog, Facebook and Twitter and ask us about the topics that are important to you. Our NU microsite NUnuclear.ca is an excellent tool that illustrates the role nuclear technology plays in our daily lives beyond power generation. From life-saving nuclear medicine to enabling materials safety, we depend on nuclear for much more than just keeping the lights on.

Thank you to Greenpeace for allowing us to address this issue and clarify the facts for Canadians.

Sincerely,

The Canadian Nuclear Association