Tag Archives: Nuclear Energy

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IEA report stresses need for maintaining nuclear

The world will have an almost impossible task of meeting climate targets if nuclear energy is not increased.

IEA Director Fatih Birol.

That’s the conclusion of a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that was released at the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver in May.

In its report, “Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System,” the IEA said if governments don’t change their current policies, advanced economies will be on track to lose two-thirds of their current nuclear fleet, risking a huge increase in CO2 emissions.

“Without action to provide more support for nuclear power, global efforts to transition to a cleaner energy system will become drastically harder and more costly,” IEA Director Fatih Birol said.

“Wind and solar energy need to play a much greater role in order for countries to meet sustainability goals, but it is extremely difficult to envisage them doing so without help from nuclear power.”

The report made eight policy recommendations to governments, including authorizing lifetime extensions if safe for current plants, supporting new build and supporting innovative designs, such as small modular reactors.

The IEA estimates that it would cost approximately $1.6 trillion between 2018 and 2040 in additional investment to replace existing nuclear with renewable energy, supporting technologies and infrastructure. That works out to $80 billion higher per year on average for advanced economies.

The study also notes the past contribution of nuclear energy to the climate.

“Globally, nuclear power output avoided 63 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) from 1971 to 2018,” the IEA noted. “Without nuclear power, emissions from electricity generation would have been almost 20% higher, and total energy-related emissions 6% higher, over that period. Without nuclear power, emissions from electricity generation would have been 25% higher in Japan, 45% higher in Korea and over 50% higher in Canada over the period 1971-2018.”

The IEA understands the best path to decarbonization, but currently, many people in the clean energy space believe in a single solution.

We need all available tools and technologies to reduce emissions. And they must complement each other and work together in an integrated clean energy system. That system should include nuclear.

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How to get millennials aboard the nuclear bandwagon

A recent poll by Abacus Data found Millennials are especially open to using nuclear to combat climate change once informed that it is a low-carbon energy source.

The poll found there is growing evidence that the millennial generation evaluates and supports innovative technologies more strongly when they are seen to bring real solutions to society’s challenges. First and foremost, among the solutions is whether it can significantly reduce GHG emissions and help decarbonize our energy supply.

To measure how familiar people are with the carbon impact of nuclear energy, Abacus asked whether certain energy sources had greater, equal or lesser impact than oil. The results revealed that only 38 per cent of Canadians were aware that nuclear is a lower carbon form of energy compared to oil.

When informed that nuclear power emissions are similar to solar, wind and hydro, and asked how they felt about the idea of using nuclear in situations where it could replace higher emitting fuels, a large majority (84 per cent) said they are supportive or open to this.

The findings were more pronounced for young people. Eighty-nine per cent of those 18-to-29 supported or were open to using nuclear in this scenario, compared to 83 per cent of the overall population. The poll also found that 86 per cent of those 18-to-29 supported or were open to small modular reactors (SMRs) as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Climate change seems to be driving young people looking for solutions to replace fossil fuels.

Young people were the most concerned about climate change. Sixty-two per cent of those 18-to-29 said they were extremely or very concerned about the issue, compared with 54 per cent overall.

Those 18-to-29 were also more likely to say a shift from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources was extremely or very important – 69 per cent, compared with 58 per cent for the general population.

“These results make clear that for many people, the issue of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions, means being open to potential new roles for nuclear technology,” explained Abacus Chair Bruce Anderson. “To date, many people are unaware of the carbon-reducing contribution that nuclear can offer, and the data indicate that when informed about the facts, there is broad interest in exploring potential trials in a regulated context.”

The survey was conducted online for the Canadian Nuclear Association with 2,500 Canadians aged 18 and over from February 8 to 12, 2019. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 1.9%, 19 times out of 20.

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New Brunswick environmentalist does a 180, now supports nuclear

Saint John, New Brunswick

The growing movement of environmentalists supporting nuclear came to Canada in March.

CBC News reported that New Brunswick environmentalist Gordon Dalzell has dropped his opposition to nuclear power and now sees its role in the fight against climate change.

“The world is really at a disastrous tipping point and we need to really seriously consider nuclear power as a viable option, because we know how serious it is,” said Dalzell, who CBC described as Saint John, New Brunswick’s “best known environmentalist.”

Dalzell told CBC News he no longer believes energy efficiency, wind and solar alone can contain the growth of emissions as developing countries rise out of energy poverty.

In other countries, a large number of prominent environmentalists have come over to the pro-nuclear side due to the urgency of tackling climate change. This includes people like former California gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger, author Gwyneth Cravens, Kirsty Gogan, executive director of Energy For Humanity, Ben Heard, director of Bright New World, and Carol Browner, former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy.

In Canada, fewer environmentalists have joined the pro-nuclear movement, which begs the question why?

Is it a refusal to recognize the benefits of nuclear energy, which includes a large amount of power with a small environmental footprint, safer new technologies and, most importantly, carbon-free electricity generation that addresses climate change?

Environmentalists have interpreted a recent United Nations report as suggesting that there is only a 12-year window for governments to take action and avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.

“We do not have much time,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May recently stated. “If we miss the goal of reducing emissions globally by 45 per cent in 12 years, that one last chance is lost. Forever.”

Assuming we only have 12 years left, then why can’t more people in the environmental movement have open minds about nuclear? They don’t have to necessarily be supportive, just be open to viewing it as one of the tools, along with all other clean energy technologies, available to tackle climate change.

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World nuclear output reached new high in 2018

The latest International Energy Agency (IEA) numbers are out and nuclear power continued to grow in 2018, despite concerns about reactor closures in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In its March “Global Energy & CO2 Status Report,” the IEA said overall global energy consumption grew by 2.3 per cent due to “a robust global economy as well as higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world.”

The increase in energy consumption meant CO2 emissions rose 1.7 per cent last year, a new record high.

Gas accounted for 47 per cent of the new energy growth and nuclear represented seven per cent of new growth.

The growth in nuclear was based largely on new capacity in China and the restart of four reactors in Japan, according to the IEA.

In related news, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that nuclear output reached a peak in 2018, surpassing the previous peak set in 2010.

This happened despite the fact that seven reactors have been taken out of service since 2010 and only one new reactor has been added to the grid. The increase was due to reactor upgrades that improved efficiency and reactors shortening the time they are out of operation for maintenance.The IEA has been more vocal in recent months about the importance of nuclear energy.

In February, the IEA held a workshop on the role of nuclear power in the clean energy system, which will lead to a report on the issue, and IEA Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol spoke on the margins of the Canadian Nuclear Association’s annual conference in Ottawa.

“Nuclear energy plays an important role in both energy security and sustainability in today’s energy mix,” Birol said at a recent IEA workshop.

“However, without appropriate policy attention, its contribution will shrink, creating challenges for meeting our energy policy goals in the future. As an all-fuels and all-technologies organization, the IEA monitors the development of nuclear energy and its potential role in the clean energy transitions.”

The IEA has an important role in making policymakers understand the scope of the challenge the world faces in providing clean and reliable electricity as transportation electrifies and more and more people in the developing world become electricity consumers.

Governments need to act pragmatically and, like the IEA, realize the role all technologies can play in the energy system of the future.

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Clean versus renewable energy: What’s the difference?

Since declaring climate change a national emergency on June 7, Canadian government leaders across parties are moving to develop their own policies on the issue to demonstrate they are poised for action.

Terms such as clean and renewable energy are being used in climate plans. But what do they really mean?

An article from earlier this year points out that the terms clean energy and renewable energy are sometimes used interchangeably, leading to confusion. Clearly defining what these terms mean and including them in climate change policies will be essential as Canada works to lower emissions and meet international commitments.

According to the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada 2019-2022 (FSDS) clean energy is defined as “Renewable and non-emitting (such as nuclear) energy sources, and carbon capture and storage technologies, as well as the reduction of energy usage through energy efficiency.”

The FSDS defines renewable energy as “Energy obtained from natural resources that can be naturally replenished or renewed within a human lifespan.” Both definitions appeared for the first time in the Strategy’s Glossary of Terms in 2016 – the year the Paris Agreement was signed.

Yet Generation Energy, a report released by Natural Resources Canada in June 2018, refers to clean energy as “electricity produced from renewable energy (hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, etc.), as well as energy efficiency solutions.” Nuclear energy, the second largest low-carbon power source in the world, is left out of the definition entirely.

The term non-emitting is included separately in the report’s glossary defining it as “electricity produced from sources that produce no carbon pollution, such as hydro, wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, and tidal.”

If these definitions continue to change from one policy document to the next, it could result in energy plans changing as well, which could slow progress.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently reported that global declines in nuclear power could result in severe strain on the energy grids of advanced economies. Renewables would have to ramp up at an unprecedented rate resulting in $1.6 trillion in investments. This could affect not only cost per kWh but delay our ability to lower emissions and establish energy security.

By following the example of the FSDS and designing national strategies that include non-emitting sources such as nuclear in the definition of clean energy, and including clean energy along with renewables as part of the clean energy mix, Canada will be more likely to lower emissions quickly and efficiently.

Consistent use of the terms clean energy and renewable energy in climate change policies is not just about preventing misunderstandings; it could represent the difference between meeting our climate targets and missing them.

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CNA response to CBC story on SMR’s in Saskatchewan

Re Viable alternative’ or ‘greenwashing?’: Sask. experts divided on nuclear power

In your May 24 story, Jim Harding says Saskatchewan’s electricity grid is small enough to be powered by wind and solar.

While Saskatchewan has some of the best wind and solar resources in the country, there are limitations as to when these technologies produce electricity as well as how much can be accommodated on any one electricity system (regardless of the size of the grid). As a result, the way to create more “space” for renewables is to pair them appropriately with power that’s available 24 / 7.

As a result, the real question should be—what is the best mix of electricity for Saskatchewan?

The Government of Saskatchewan is considering new nuclear—specifically Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)—because the province has some of the world’s best uranium resources.

They are considering it because they know it works reliably and cleanly, and it generates great jobs.

Lastly, while giving credit for nuclear not emitting carbon when producing electricity, Mr. Harding claims that nuclear energy’s life-cycle emissions detract from this.

The fact is, all forms of electricity production emit some amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, even if they don’t burn fossil fuels.

Though nuclear energy does have an intensive life-cycle, from mining of uranium ore to storage of spent fuel, it releases no carbon in its operations. When all of these steps are taken into account, nuclear power still compares favourably with renewable energy sources – and is well ahead of fossil fuels.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nuclear power sits alongside renewables such as wind and hydro as electricity sources with lifetime carbon emissions of under or about 20 grams per kilowatt-hour (g/kWh).

Saskatchewan is blessed with abundant solar, wind and uranium resources. The best mix of technologies to decarbonize its electricity system is abundantly clear.