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Let’s be clear — It’s clean: Nuclear is critical to fighting climate change

Portrait of John Gorman
By John Gorman President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

If the world is serious about reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, electricity will have to play a much bigger role. That is only achievable with nuclear in the mix. But the world will not accept that until nuclear is clearly and consistently defined as the clean energy source that it is.

According to the International Energy Agency, despite the remarkable growth of solar and wind power, the overall share of clean energy sources in total electricity supply is roughly the same as it was 20 years ago. This can be explained in large part by the premature closure of nuclear power generation in western nations — a trend perpetuated by politics and public perceptions over science.

Germany is a stark example of this phenomenon. Antinuclear politics led to the premature closure of nuclear power plants, leaving Germany with limited options for replacing a significant source of clean electricity. The result: Germany is producing an additional 36 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, about a five per cent increase in emissions. Even worse, burning more coal led to increases in particle pollution and sulfur dioxide and is estimated to have killed an additional 1,100 people per year from respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses.

I am a long-time environmentalist. I am a former solar industry advocate. And I am a self-studied convert to nuclear.

Nuclear delivers carbon-free, reliable energy 24 hours a day and has historically been one of the largest contributors of carbon-free electricity globally.

Despite that, nuclear is not consistently and clearly being defined as the clean energy source that it is. That’s perpetuating misconceptions, shaping politics and hindering urgent environmental progress.

Nuclear energy is clean energy

To quote Bill Gates, “Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day.”

But nuclear is more than non-emitting. It’s the lowest land-use way to generate electricity. Per kilowatt hour, it consumes less materials and generates less waste than other clean energy sources.

A comparison of direct greenhouse gas emissions (red bars) and full-life-cycle emissions (blue bars) produced by different energy technologies. Marcus, GH. How green is nuclear energy? Physics World, April 2017. Available at http:// live.iop-pp01.agh.sleek.net/physicsworld/reader/#!edition/editions_Nuclear_2017/article/page-19316

Strata. The footprint of energy: land use of U.S. electricity production, June 2017. Available at: https://www.strata.org/pdf/2017/footprints-full.pdf

The world needs nuclear

Nuclear power has historically been one of the largest contributors of carbon-free electricity globally, providing about one-third of the world’s emissions-free electricity. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says nuclear has significant potential to contribute to power-sector decarbonization. A doubling in annual nuclear capacity is needed to be on track with the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario.

Energy experts agree that nuclear energy contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and more nuclear is needed to transition the world to clean energy.

“The use of nuclear power reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about two gigatonnes per year,” Acting International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Cornel Feruta said. “It is difficult to see how the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved without a significant increase in the use of nuclear power in the coming decades.”

Canada’s position

The federal government says nuclear energy is an important part of Canada’s current clean energy mix and will continue to play a key role in achieving Canada’s low-carbon future.

“I have not seen a credible plan for net zero without nuclear as part of the mix,” Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan said.

In December 2018, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance recommended that the Government of Canada develop and deliver a National Energy Strategy, which would consider all forms of low-carbon energy to help realize the goal of a clean environment and a strong economy through the deployment of new technologies, including nuclear power.

Nuclear must be included

Nuclear must be included in all clean energy definitions in all government programs across all departments. We need it to fight climate change. We need it to stimulate the economy post-COVID. We need it for the electrification of our systems.

Despite that, nuclear is often excluded, either explicitly or in practice, from formal definitions of clean or sustainable energy. The implications of this are not small. Misconceptions are perpetuated, clean businesses aren’t financially supported, and environmental progress is limited.

What could be holding governments and other prominent organizations back? The CNA recently conducted qualitative research with Canadian thought leaders in policy, climate change and energy to gauge their perceptions about nuclear. While 82 per cent of these high-profile respondents said they support nuclear, 65 per cent thought the public’s perception of nuclear was negative. These conflicting views put Canadian influencers in a difficult position, with more than half reporting that they feel uncomfortable openly supporting nuclear energy given public perception.

That needs to change.

We have a role to play in this. The nuclear industry needs to better address misconceptions about nuclear safety, spent fuel and byproducts. We need to do a better job of telling our story, so Canadians can see the connection between nuclear innovation and a cleaner climate, cancer detection and treatment, water desalination and so much more.

And we need educated and prominent citizens and governments to continue to stand strong and bold in their knowledge and understanding of the value of nuclear to the economy and the environment.

Naming nuclear what it is — clean — is what it will take to ensure our thinking is defined by evidence, not prejudice or misconception.

CNA2017

Social Values and Energy Policy Panel at CNA2017

Join Monica Gattinger, Jatin Nathwani and Alan Young at CNA2017 as they debate social values and energy policy on Thursday, February 23, at 2pm.

Monica Gattinger is the Director of the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Science, Society and Policy (ISSP). She is an internationally sought-after speaker, author and researcher with extensive expertise in interdisciplinary research and teaching, notably in the areas of energy, culture, policy and governance.

Jatin Nathwani is the founding Executive Director of the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE) and holds the prestigious Ontario Research Chair in Public Policy for Sustainable Energy at the University of Waterloo. He is also the Co-Director of the consortium “Affordable Energy for Humanity (AE4H): A Global Change Initiative” that comprises 130+ leading energy access researchers and practitioners from 30 institutions and 16 countries.

Alan Young is the Co-Director of the Materials Efficiency Research Group, which works with international governments, companies, First Nations and civil societies to develop effective strategies and strong governance. He is a facilitator, mediator, strategist and activist seeking to advance sustainable development concepts and initiatives.

For more information about CNA2017 visit cna.ca/2017-conference.

Nuclear Education Nuclear Energy

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.

 

Messages Nuclear News

Happening Now: 2011 Ontario Energy Association Annual Conference

The 9th annual conference of the Ontario Energy Association is happening right now, today and tomorrow, in Niagara Falls.

Among other topics, industry experts will discuss what is needed for companies to invest in Ontario and the risks and challenges faced in the ever-changing political environment.

Download the conference program here

Conference speakers include

  • Jeffrey Simpson – National Affairs Columnist, The Globe and Mail
  • Peter Buchanan – Senior Economist, CIBC World Markets
  • John Brace – President and Chief Executive Officer, Northland Power Inc.
  • Patrick Lamarre – Executive Vice‐President, Power SNC‐Lavalin Group Inc.
  • Benjamin Grunfeld – Managing Consultant, London Economics International LLC

Download the speaker profiles here

Get all the Conference details here

Ontario has diverse energy needs. As the province looks to phase out 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. It’s time to reinvest in nuclear.

Nuclear News

Darlington New Build Passes JRP Environmental Assessment

Yesterday the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) released a report by a federally-appointed Joint Review Panel (JRP) to evaluate the proposed new nuclear power plant at Darlington. We are proud of OPG’s extensive work and thorough studies undertaken as part of this environmental assessment (EA) process. We are especially pleased that the Panel came to the same conclusions as OPG: that Darlington New Nuclear Project will not result in any significant adverse environmental effects, given mitigation, to workers, the public or on the surrounding environment.

Public input, including the public hearings, is an integral part of the EA process. OPG’s public consultation process throughout the EA was extensive and inclusive.

The CNA was an intervener during the process and our message was clear:

  • This proposed project is a very important step in fulfilling Canada’s growing energy demands.
  • New nuclear units are an integral part of the electricity supply and consistent with the direction of the Government of Ontario’s commitment to maintaining nuclear power at 50 per cent of the province’s energy supply in the Long-Term Energy Plan.

It was great to see so much participation in the hearings by the communities, individuals and groups that took part in the public review process.

OPG has what it takes to do the job!
OPG has the necessary experience to move forward and manage a project of this magnitude. The Darlington site hosts a four-unit station that has provided safe, reliable and clean energy for 20 years with minimal environmental effect. OPG has experience successfully managing complex nuclear projects (i.e. Pickering A unit 1, Pickering units 2&3 safe storage, Pickering and Darlington Vacuum Building Outages). OPG will now thoroughly review the Panel’s report and work with our partners to implement the best solutions for the mitigation requirements set by the Panel as they await the final Government response.

Here is a link to the  Joint Review Panel summary report.

For more information about the JRP hearing, see the news release sent during the hearing about CNA’s involvement as an intervener.