McGuinty: Billions for nuclear energy – if needed
NIAGARA FALLS — Billions of dollars will be spent to build new nuclear plants in Ontario if a review of the province’s tight energy supply concludes they’re necessary, Premier Dalton McGuinty said today.
In providing his strongest indication yet that he might look to nuclear energy to meet Ontario’s long-term electricity supply concerns, McGuinty said he’s prepared to agree on construction of multibillion-dollar nuclear plants if that’s what it takes to quench the province’s increasing thirst for energy.
The premier said he’s awaiting a Dec. 1 report from the newly created Ontario Power Authority, which is reviewing what needs to be done to address concerns about the province’s energy supply.
“Should the OPA recommend nuclear as being an indispensable part of a diverse supply of electricity, then we will build new nuclear in this province,” McGuinty said.
McGuinty was speaking from Niagara Falls, where he attended a ground-breaking ceremony for Ontario Power Generation’s construction of a 10-kilometre tunnel. The tunnel will divert more hydroelectric power from the waters around Canada’s honeymoon capital to a power station further up the Niagara River.
The premier said it’s an example of how the government is addressing concerns about the energy supply in the short-term, especially in light of extreme heat in Ontario this summer.
But he said that over the longer term, larger projects will be needed, even if it means expanding the use of controversial nuclear energy.
Proponents of nuclear power say it’s the cleanest and safest way to add significant power to the province’s electricity system.
Critics say nuclear plants cost billions of dollars to construct, take 10 years or longer to build and raise environmental concerns about radioactive waste.
The Toronto Environmental Alliance said it was “appalled” to hear McGuinty open the door to more nuclear plants, which it warned would leave a huge financial and environmental debt.
“We’re very concerned because the (electricity) system is still very much in the hands of the people who built our last nuclear plants and got us into the mess we’re in today,” said alliance spokesman Keith Stewart.
“The McGuinty government should not be repeating the mistakes of the previous provincial government, which put us massively in debt and left us with nuclear plants that don’t work very well, and we’re all paying for right now.”
Greenpeace Canada also asked why Ontario would consider building more nuclear plants after such a bad — and expensive — experience with its current nuclear generators.
“Do the lessons of the past mean nothing to Premier McGuinty?” wondered Greenpeace spokesman Dave Martin.
“We know that nuclear power is extremely unreliable, it’s dirty, it produces waste that’s toxic for millions of years, and we know it’s astoundingly expensive.”
Even after the OPA report is completed, Energy Minister Dwight Duncan noted that months of review will be necessary before the province gives the go-ahead to any nuclear projects.
“There are going to be a series of other questions after (the report is released), starting with private versus public, starting with OPG’s role, and then doing all the calculations and arithmetic around what projects would and wouldn’t be feasible,” Duncan said.
The Conservatives and New Democrats said McGuinty is taking too long to make up his mind on an energy strategy two years into his mandate.
“They don’t seem to have a plan for replacing the generation that they’ve committed to shutting down,” Tory energy critic John Yakabuski said, referring to the premier’s promise to close coal-fired plants, which has been delayed.
Yakabuski said Ontario manufacturers won’t invest more in the province until they’re sure the energy supply is reliable.
NDP Leader Howard Hampton said the province should look to ways of encouraging better energy conservation.
Hampton estimated a new nuclear plant could cost as much as $10 billion to construct and noted that the Darlington nuclear plant cost nearly three times as much to build than originally anticipated.
“We can get further with energy efficiency . . . it will be cheaper than building $10-billion nuclear plants.”
At a speech to the Ontario Energy Association in Niagara Falls, McGuinty said he’s willing to take a political hit for building nuclear plants even if they prove unpopular. He accused previous governments of having delayed dealing with the nuclear issue.
“We won’t gamble away Ontario’s future prosperity because of what the next poll might or might not say,” he told industry officials.
Murray Elston, president of the Canadian Nuclear Association, said costs to build a nuclear plant can be kept under control as long as there’s a firm commitment to construct them, and no starts and stops.
“The one thing which is absolutely key for our industry is that once the decision is taken that we get on with putting the projects in the ground,” Elston said.
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Because there is simply no other energy source that will meet the upcoming requirements without combining unacceptable levels of pollution - 300,000 kids die in Europe alone every year from pollution - with unsustainable green house gas build up.
ALL technologies have risks - we use PVC products all the time yet dioxins are horrific with persistance for millions of years.
IF we reduced population by some 90% and applied all our clean technologies maybe there would be an alternative without significant nuclear.
France doesn't think there is. I don't either.
Maybe we get fusion 50 years or more out THEN the energy problem is solved.
We'll likely cook the planet's atmosphere before we get there if we don't cut back big time on carbon loading and nuclear is the ONLY technology capable of producing the energy required both for electricity and the switch to hydrogen transport fuels.
Nothing else will come even close to providing the energy levels required.
Just what DON"T you understand about 60% of the worlds coral reefs dying off IN ONE YEAR due to global warming.
Some of those dead reefs survived 10,000 years prior to 1997.
Population has yet to peak, more people want first world life styles which requires energy on a massive scale.
Where will it come from???
You can barely breathe in Toronto now -
This is a very good overview for France - a model I believe should be followed by Ontario with later generation reactors.
Hydro power - you MUST be joking. There is not even close to enough hydro power to make the slightest dent in the demand.
It will take ALL of the renewable technologies PLUS nuclear PLUS conservation to keep the planet habitable while 9 billion people try to get to what 1 billion now have.
An energy demand growth plotted recently and if one 1000 megawatt plant was opened every day for the next 20 years it STILL would not meet demand at current growth rates.
Why do you think McGuinty is panicking?? - the numbers are starting to sink in and with natural gas prices due to skyrocket Ontario's economy is really at risk.
Yes of course we use lots of energy and will continue to do so - are you prepared to go an Ethiopian energy use level???
I'm just being realistic about what is going to be necessary.
This avoidance of the crunch that's coming is complete folly.
In a small aspect it's already here in rolling blackouts and high gasoline prices and 40 smog days out of 60 early this summer.
It will require people to change AND governments to develop non carbon energy sources AND population growth slowdowns AND all the technology we can muster to keep the planet habitable while this peak passes.
50-60 years out the population will be falling rapidly and there may be some time to do it better but between now an then.........get used to nuclear.......or learn to live like the Ethiopians.
RENEWABLES in relation to BASE-LOAD ELECTRICITY DEMAND
Sun, wind, tides and waves cannot be controlled to provide directly either continuous base-load power, or peak-load power when it is needed.
In practical terms they are therefore limited to some 10-20% of the capacity of an electricity grid, and cannot directly be applied as economic substitutes for coal or nuclear power, however important they may become in particular areas with favourable conditions. Nevertheless, such technologies will to some extent contribute to the world's energy future, even if they are unsuitable for carrying the main burden of supply.
If there were some way that large amounts of electricity from intermittent producers such as solar and wind could be stored efficiently, the contribution of these technologies to supplying base-load energy demand would be much greater. Already in some places pumped storage is used to even out the daily generating load by pumping water to a high storage dam during off-peak hours and weekends, using the excess base-load capacity from coal or nuclear sources. During peak hours this water can be used for hydro-electric generation. Relatively few places have scope for pumped storage dams close to where the power is needed, and overall efficiency is low. Means of storing large amounts of electricity as such in giant batteries or by other means have not been developed.
There is some scope for reversing the whole way we look at power supply, in its 24-hour, 7-day cycle, using peak load equipment simply to meet the daily peaks. Today?s peak-load equipment could be used to some extent to provide infill capacity in a system relying heavily on renewables. The peak capacity would complement large-scale solar thermal and wind generation, providing power at short notice when they were unable to. This is essentially what happens with Denmark, whose wind capacity is complemented by a link to Norwegian hydro (as well as Sweden and the north German grid).
The problem is not the energy itself - there is lots of fossil fuel - the problem is the carbon loading of the atmosphere and only nuclear can address that and perhaps even provide the energy to sequester carbon.
It's coming down to that....very quickly.
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The Reality of Nuclear Power
Proponents claim that nuclear power is vital if the United States is to have energy independence and to combat global warming. Antinuclear activists claim that nuclear power plants are unacceptably risky and that nuclear waste is the wrong legacy for us to leave future generations.
This debate is what I call the politics of nuclear power. Three years of working inside the DC beltway have taught me one important lesson -- I don't want to work in politics, particularly the politics of nuclear power.
Instead, I try to focus on the reality of nuclear power. Setting aside whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, the fact remains that there are 104 nuclear power reactors licensed to operate in the United States today. None of these reactors is inherently safe. They are authorized to operate by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the assumption that conservative defense-in-depth features reduce their risk to an acceptably low level.
First, nuclear power plants are aging more rapidly than expected. In the past two years, the metal tubes inside the isolation condensers at Nine Mile Point Unit 1 had to be replaced and cracks in its metal core shroud had to be repaired not once but twice. This vital safety equipment was supposed to last for the plant's entire operating lifetime, but it did not. Second, nuclear plant owners and NRC inspectors are performing far fewer safety checks today than they did five and ten years ago. The NRC plans to perform 15 percent fewer inspections next year than it did this year. As humans get older, we go to doctors more often to make sure we maintain our health at optimum levels. As nuclear plants get older, fewer checkups are done.
The reason for the cutbacks is the third factor challenging safety margins -- electricity deregulation is forcing nuclear plant owners to become competitive. In the last decade, 11 nuclear power reactors have closed due to economics. More plants will close unless their operating costs are reduced. Plant owners cut costs by eliminating safety tests and inspections, by trimming staffing levels, and by putting off repairs.
or many years, the Maine Yankee nuclear plant had a reputation as a low-cost electricity producer. In 1996, the NRC peeked behind Maine Yankee's curtain and discovered that the owner acquired this reputation by simply not doing required maintenance. The backlog of such work, which averages a few hundred items at a typical nuclear plant, rose to several thousand items at Maine Yankee. In August 1997, Maine Yankee's owners decided to close the plant rather than spend the money needed to repair all the safety equipment.
The fourth factor challenging safety margins is complacency. Some nuclear plant owners and the NRC often point out that we haven't melted a reactor core down in over 20 years. That's true, but it's also true that bad procedures and human error are commonplace. In June 1998, UCS released a report titled, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." We examined the performance of ten nuclear power plants over a 14-month period using data supplied by the plant owners and the NRC. We discovered that 44 percent of the serious problems reported involved inadequate procedures, while 35 percent involved worker mistakes. These numbers are simply too high for a mature industry.
The reality of nuclear power is that plant safety margins are being eroded by equipment aging, by reductions in tests and inspections, by cost-cutting measures, and by complacency. The NRC is currently testing an oversight program that may be the best protection against safety margin erosion. The FitzPatrick nuclear plant is one of eight plant sites testing out the new program. If successful, this program will be extended nationwide next spring.
In May 1997, the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report on its investigation of NRC actions at the troubled Millstone, Salem, and Cooper nuclear power plants. The Salem plant was shut down for over two years. The NRC had a list of 43 items that had to be fixed before the Salem plant could be restarted. The GAO looked at that list and discovered that 38 of the problems had been known to the NRC before the plant was operating. At least one of the problems was around for about four years before the plant was shut down. The GAO asked how problems which were so serious that Salem could not be safely restarted could possibly be not so serious when the plant was running.
As the politics of nuclear power are debated, it is essential that the NRC aggressively guard against safety margin erosion from equipment aging, reductions in tests and inspections, cost-cutting measures, and complacency. If not, the debate over nuclear power may be decided by the reality of a very serious nuclear accident.