Tag Archives: Abacus Data

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Nuclear energy is a vital part of solving the climate crisis

By John Gorman
Originally published in The Globe and Mail, October 24, 2019

I never thought I would become a passionate champion for nuclear energy. But after 20 years of advocating for renewable energy, I’ve overcome the misconceptions I had in the past and I am convinced by the evidence we can’t fight climate change without nuclear.

When I was the chief executive of the Canadian Solar Industries Association, I thought the “holy grail” was to make renewable energy cost-competitive so it could fulfill our energy needs. Today, wind and solar are among the cheapest forms of energy in many places around the world. The generous subsidies that fueled early growth are no longer at play, yet the growth of wind and solar continues.

Despite the strong growth, the percentage of emissions-free electricity in the world has not increased in 20 years. It’s stuck at 36 per cent, according to a recent IEA report. This is because global demand keeps increasing, renewables often need to be backed up by new fossil fuel sources and existing nuclear plants are being shut down prematurely. We must face a sobering reality: Renewable energy alone is simply not enough to address the climate crisis.

This is a difficult thing for me to admit. In 2014, I delivered a TEDx talk in which I was an unabashed champion for solar energy. I installed solar panels on the roof of my home and smart battery storage in my basement. I bought an electric vehicle. And I continue to be a supporter of wind and solar because we need every clean energy solution available. But I now realize I dedicated 20 years – very precious years from a climate-change perspective – promoting a partial solution.

An overly optimistic view of renewables has affected major decisions about other energy sources, particularly nuclear. Our global focus on renewables has caused existing nuclear plants to be retired early and has stalled investment in new projects. It’s given people a false sense of security that we don’t need nuclear any more when nothing could be further from the truth.

What’s worse, because wind and solar are variable (they produce electricity only when the wind blows or the sun shines), they must be paired with other energy sources to support demand, and these are almost always fossil fuels. In the absence of enough nuclear energy, renewables are effectively prolonging the life of coal and gas plants that can produce power around the clock.

Unfortunately, many Canadians wrongly believe our future energy demands can be met with renewables alone. A recent Abacus Data poll found that more than 40 per cent of Canadians believe a 100-per-cent renewable energy future is possible. This is simply not true. The deadline to save the planet is approaching and we are no closer to a real solution.

A critical issue is that nuclear is vastly misunderstood by policy makers and the general public. These well-intentioned people – and I used to be one of them – continue to believe fallacies, misconceptions and even fear-mongering about nuclear, including claims that it’s expensive, dangerous, and produces large quantities of radioactive waste.

The truth is that when you consider the entire power generation life cycle, nuclear energy is one of the least expensive energy sources. That’s because uranium is cheap and abundant, and nuclear reactors – though costly to build – last for several decades. Furthermore, it’s safe: Used nuclear fuel is small in quantity, properly stored, strictly regulated, and poses no threat to human health or the environment.

There’s a staggering lack of knowledge and understanding of nuclear. I was active in the energy business, and I’ve lived my whole life in a province – Ontario – where nuclear makes up a significant portion of the electricity supply, and I still didn’t know the facts about nuclear energy until very recently.

People fail to realize that nuclear is the only proven technology that has decarbonized the economies of entire countries, including France and Sweden. We can pair renewables with nuclear energy and start to meet our energy targets. But it will take a change in mentality and new investment in nuclear energy.

So this is why I’m now on a mission to help people discover and rediscover nuclear as the clean technology solution to decarbonize our electricity systems and solve the climate crisis. We need to extend the life of existing plants rather than close them prematurely. We need to invest in new modern technologies including small modular reactors, which can be deployed in off-grid settings such as remote communities and mining sites. And we need to use nuclear alongside renewables to power the grid. We must act before it’s too late. And we can’t afford to be distracted from real, practical solutions by a completely impossible dream of 100 per cent renewable energy. We don’t want to look back on this time and realize we made the wrong decisions. The time for nuclear is now.

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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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Millennials concerned about climate change, support new nuclear

By John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
Originally published in QP Briefing, February 26, 2019

This Wednesday, the Canadian Nuclear Association kicks off its 2019 Conference and Trade Show at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa.

The theme of CNA2019 is: “New Nuclear: Generating Solutions for Climate and Health.” Over 800 attendees will talk about the innovations in nuclear technology – and how that makes the future of nuclear energy so different from the past.

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 the technology can significantly reduce GHG emissions and help decarbonize our energy supply.

This is where new nuclear comes in. The nuclear industry is undergoing a renaissance in innovative solutions that hold the promise of lifting communities out of energy poverty or coal dependence, while enhancing public health through clean air and medical isotopes. Small, ultra-safe reactors could hold the key to significant reductions in GHG emissions, while providing copious amount of clean electricity to communities and industries alike.

In advance of CNA2019, the independent firm Abacus Data was commissioned to measure the views of young Canadians on climate change and the role that nuclear and small modular reactors (SMRs) may play in reducing emissions.

The findings of the online poll* will be presented by Abacus Data CEO David Coletto at a keynote address at the conference on February 28. But here in advance are some of the highlights.

  • Young people were the most concerned about climate change. Sixty-two per cent of those 18-to-29 in age said they were extremely or very concerned about the issue, compared with 54 per cent nationally.
  • 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.
  • While the 18-to-29 age group was most likely to believe that nuclear energy created more carbon pollution than oil, they were strongly in support of nuclear replacing higher emitting energy sources after being informed that nuclear was a low-carbon technology.
  • 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 SMRs as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Most importantly, the data shows that when young people, who are most concerned about climate change, are informed that nuclear and new nuclear are low-carbon sources, they quickly become strong supporters.

Canada is home to new nuclear. The innovation is happening throughout the nuclear industry.

It is happening in advanced reactor design, refurbishment of our CANDU fleet, development and use of robotics and 3D printing and artificial intelligence, development of alternative clean power sources such as hydrogen that can be generated through nuclear power.

Canada is emerging internationally as a leading country for the research, development and regulation of small modular reactors, which offer to small and remote communities the possibility, hitherto beyond reach, of unlimited, reliable clean electricity and heat on a 24/7 basis.

All this tells us that new nuclear is not a dream. It’s not around the corner. It’s here now. Come to CNA2019 and see for yourself!

*The survey was conducted online with 2,500 Canadians aged 18+ in February 2019. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample is +/- 1.96 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census to ensure sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, education, region.

CNA2019

David Coletto confirmed for CNA2019

Get perspective on new nuclear and the public with David Coletto at CNA2019.

February 28, 2019 – 12:00

Is the public still imprisoned within a distorted, cliché-ridden perception of nuclear technology – despite its clean energy bona fides, its reliability and affordability?

If climate change and urgently reducing GHG missions constitute the greatest challenge facing our societies, then why the continued opposition of certain sectors of the public and governments to nuclear technology?

Will millennials and following generations warm up to New Nuclear?

Join us for lunch on Thursday, February 28, for some perspective from CNA keynote speaker David Coletto.

David is one of the founding partners and CEO of Abacus Data. He has almost a decade of experience working in the marketing research industry and is an industry leader in online research methodologies, public affairs research, corporate and organizational reputation studies, and youth research.

For more information about CNA2019 visit https://cna.ca/cna2019/.