Thanks to the Power of Pickering Nuclear Plant We Replaced Coal

Pickering Nuclear plant went from a non-event to pre-event condition back in 2014. The not so “Clean Air Alliance” is trying to close down a perfectly good zero carbon energy source. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) would like to take credit for shutting down coal and now they think they can shut down Nuclear plants. Coal dominated a very large portion of Ontario’s energy mix for many years. The abundance of power was daunting. Nanticoke Coal plant at one time Generated 4000 MW of power. It was the largest coal plant in North America. In 1981 it consumed 35,000 tonnes of coal per day. In 2007 it emitted 17,887,649 tonnes of CO2. Thankfully Ontario’s abundant Nuclear Power and Hydro allowed it to replace all the coal plants (bigger than average) by 2014. Pickering and Ontario’s other nuclear plants are in the habit of reporting such non-events, in effect, practicing for reports of actual incidents with updates – should there ever be a serious incident.

The OCAA thinks the Pickering Plant poses a threat letting irrational fear win over. They support a foolish and potentially disruptive solution to go all renewable. New York State just made an important decision to keep it’s Nuclear Plants alive. How else can the States reach their emission content goals? Why should Ontario be any different. Try replacing 14% if Ontario’s power with renewable energy. It would be terribly expensive and wasteful.

These OCAA people resemble over 200 other green lobby and special interest groups who can’t even look at their shadow without fear.

The worse thing is that their ignorance of science is revealed by the fact that adapting their policies in a time of climate crisis can actually bring on the tipping point even faster.

They also claim they will close down natural gas which is laughable… no coal, no nuclear and now no natural gas. The renewables certainly cannot match that abundant supply of nuclear which runs at about 60% of Ontario’s energy.

What does OCAA claim as the saviour?

Apparently Quebec who has never offered to give Ontario any of their so-called abundant hydro power is supposed to have enough to share with Ontario when in fact they have shortages in winter as it is. The 1998 ice storm cause the worst blackout in Quebec’s history. That was due to lengthy power lines collapse from the weight of the ice caused by the ice storm. The same kind of expensive powerlines would be needed for transmission to Ontario. This hypothetical situation is not sustainable. See Steve Aplin article from 2011.

The hydropower-from-Quebec fantasy resurfaces in Ontario gas-industry propaganda

Steve Aplin:

“Unlike hydropower though, nuclear involves land use that is, by comparison, barely noticeable. For example, Ontario’s 18 nuclear reactors occupy a total of 23.4 square kilometers (Darlington occupies 480 hectares, or 4.8 square km; Bruce occupies 9.3 square km; and Pickering, also 9.3.) Their total installed capacity is 12,530 megawatts. So the Ontario nuclear land-use footprint works out to 0.186 hectares—about a fifth of an average size city block—per installed megawatt…”

“Quebec’s hydropower land use footprint is 177.8 hectares per megawatt (30,230 km2 is 3,023,000 hectares; divide that by 17,000 megawatts).”

“For every patch of land Ontario nuclear power requires, Quebec hydropower needs 952 times that. This, among other reasons, is why Parizeau favoured nuclear power.”

“I mention this because, every now and again, somebody floats the cockamamie idea that Ontario should start importing clean hydropower from Quebec. Some advocates of this fantasy are self-styled environmentalists who haven’t done their homework and crunched the easy numbers like I have done above. Because of an unexamined and comically off-base anti-nukery, they think that the Darlington nucelar station should be shut down and that its 25 billion annual kilowatt-hours of electrical energy output should come instead from the Belgium-sized man-made lake in northern Quebec.”

“Nor do they appear to have considered what it would take, engineering-wise, for the Quebec electric utility, Hydro Quebec, to wheel 25 billion annual kWh of energy into Ontario from that lake. Quebec already wheels huge amounts of that energy out-of-province: to the U.S. northeast. American customers are served with Quebec hydropower on long term contracts; that was why Quebec built the transmission lines to the U.S. in the first place. What about those customers?”

“None of the Ontario advocates of Quebec hydropower appears to have ever taken the matter up with… Hydro Quebec. I’m sure the utility might have interesting things to say.”

“No serious person believes Ontario will ever import such massive amounts of electric power from Quebec. So why the sudden spate of media articles taking it up?”

“Well, it’s all about money. Specifically, the money that can be made by the fossil fuel industry if Darlington, which is slated for refurbishment beginning in less than a year, is not refurbished.”

“The main cheerleader for Quebec-hydropower-to-Ontario is the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, a gas-industry lobby group. The OCAA’s aim is to replace Ontario zero-carbon nuclear plants with carbon-heavy gas-fired plants. Given that the current concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the global atmosphere is just about 400 parts per million (see Item A1, above), you’d wonder why an organization allegedly advocating for clean air would want to add to those 400 ppm.”

“The OCAA knows full well that the Quebec-hydropower-to-Ontario fantasy is just that—a fantasy. The OCAA is not actually advocating for Quebec hydropower to Ontario. What it really wants is business for its gas-industry clients. And those clients will get plenty of business if Darlington does not get refurbished. So it is striving mightily, with the cooperation of a mainstream media that today finds ad revenue increasingly scarce and gas-industry ad revenue increasingly valuable, to get us Ontarians to actually believe this Quebec-hydropower-to-Ontario nonsense. That way, they hope, we will be more amenable to letting Darlington, an enormously valuable clean-energy centre—and revenue generator for the people of this province—go idle. Yesterday the OCAA wanted us to believe that windmills and solar panels could do it. Today it’s Quebec hydropower. Tomorrow, who knows. Maybe a perpetual motion machine.”

“Jacques Parizeau got to see an example of nuclear’s vastly superior land-use footprint, right in his own province, and under his watch as PQ finance minister. During that tenure, Hydro Quebec built and commissioned Gentilly 2, a 635-MW CANDU 6 reactor. It was, until its premature shut-down in late 2012 (by another PQ government, sans Parizeau), Hydro Quebec’s biggest single generator.”

“The premature shutdown of G2 was undertaken by, as I said, a Parizeau-less PQ government. Parizeau disagreed with much of that government’s policies. I wonder if he disagreed with the G2 decision also.”


In a response letter to an article published in the Toronto Star by one of many antinuclear groups in Canada the President and CEO of Ontario Power Generation said this

“Re Too much trust in old nuclear plants, May 30”

“I read with interest the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) opinion piece about Pickering Nuclear. The only ‘fact’ in the article that I was able to verify is that ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was released by Led Zeppelin in 1971.”

“The six nuclear units at Pickering were built to very robust standards and are operating safely, to the highest performance standards. The electricity from the six operating units provides about 13 per cent of Ontario’s annual demand, is free of greenhouse gas emissions and comes at a cost lower than almost all other sources of energy. Continued operations will save Ontario customers $600 million and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eight million tonnes over the 2020-to-2024 period.”

“Both Pickering and Darlington nuclear stations enjoy strong community support, and a recent survey indicated 85 per cent of those polled supported the continued operations of the Pickering station.”

“Ontario relies on nuclear power to provide 60 per cent of its electricity generation. The plants at Darlington, Pickering and Bruce have excellent performance and safety records. Nuclear is Ontario’s best option for cost-effective, GHG emissions-free, reliable, base-load generation and have been a critical resource in ensuring clean air for Ontarians. We look forward to our nuclear fleet continuing to be part of the solution in the battle against climate change.”

Jeffrey Lyash, president and CEO Ontario Power Generation, Toronto”


On the same page is a comment by Don MacKinnon:

“Monday’s anti-Pickering Nuclear Station Extension editorial diatribe by the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) is typical of their ‘dreamweaver’-like campaigns — heavy with the spectre of environmental disaster and fast and loose with the facts.”

“The Pickering Nuclear Station is licensed and its operations, including emergency preparedness, are overseen by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), an independent regulator. The CNSC has 70 years of experience and is highly regarded internationally.”

“Additionally, the Pickering Nuclear Station, owned by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), a provincial Crown corporation, routinely provides information and consults with local communities about the plant’s operations.”

“When the province approved OPG’s plan to pursue the continued operation of Pickering beyond 2020 to 2024, it noted that final approval would be required from the CNSC. Pickering would continue to employ over 4,500 people in Durham region and 8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases would be avoided. Yes, extending the operation of the Pickering Station is about clean air.”

“The OCAA claims that cheap, low-carbon electricity imports from Quebec offer a superior option, but those claims have been disproven by a number of highly credible analyses, including Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator. Billions of dollars would need to be invested to build and improve the transmission interties and transmission lines in Ontario and Quebec. Ontario currently exports low-carbon nuclear power to help Quebec meet its winter peak and refill its reservoirs. Even if Quebec could supply, large-scale electricity imports would mean tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars flowing out of Ontario.”

“The only real alternative to base-load 24/7 nuclear in Ontario is fossil fuel generation, and we believe the OCAA knows that. Less nuclear generation in Ontario would mean dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution at a time when the entire world is transitioning to a lower carbon environment.”

Don MacKinnon, President of the Power Workers’ Union, Toronto”

I believe the OCAA has ulterior motives as both Steve Aplin and Don MacKinnon suggested. When you look at other Clean-Air NGOs such as the Clean Air Task Force they have a logical rational point of view when it comes to nuclear energy. Look at New York’s recent decision to go with keeping the Nuclear Plants in their state alive. All that emission-free energy is just too valuable to pass up.

Additional Reading on the subject:
http://www.environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2016/8/11/climate-scientists-urge-gov-jerry-brown-to-let-legislature-not-puc-decide-diablo-canyons-fate

7 thoughts on “Thanks to the Power of Pickering Nuclear Plant We Replaced Coal

    1. John G

      No, it doesn’t. Every reputable source I can find puts the median value for nulcear at roughly 20 g/kwh. Mind you, most of these reactors are old Gen-II types. The only sources, yours included, which support your claims are those made by people with an anti-nuclear agenda. Did you even bother looking into the author of that article?

      If you’re going to handicap nuclear by including the ancillary CO2 sources, then do the same to the others. How much CO2 do you think is emitted to mine, refine, fabricate, install and maintain a solar or wind farm spanning miles? What about the backup generation, which will almost certainly be fossil fueled, required to compensate for wind and solar’s intermittency? What do you think the CO2-equivalent emission of natural gas is from leaks in natural gas pipes and wells? (And believe me, they leak a lot, even well maintained lines in places like the USA and Canada.)

      You also need to take into account the inefficiencies in nuclear plants caused solely by regulation. About 93% of a fuel rod from a PWR is unburned Uranium. They could be recycled to remove the fission products and transuranics that inhibit efficient fission, like France does. The only reason this doesn’t happen is because scientifically illiterate, fear-mongering anti-nukes have successfully lobbied to prevent it. So our power plants have to sit on literally tons of nearly unburned fuel that will smolder for millennia.

      Let’s go a step further, to the thorium-fueled MSRs that, by all rights, should have become the backbone of commercial power starting in the late 60’s.
      -Uses far fewer resources to build
      -Can’t melt down
      -No need to mine for fuel since it’s a byproduct of existing mining operations
      -So impractical to use for weapons production that it might as well be impossible
      -Produces a small amount of waste, safe in only 300 years
      -Produces several incredibly valuable isotopes during normal operation
      -Runs hot enough to synthesize hydrocarbon fuels out of the air

      So, if you can find a report by the IPCC, the Department of Energy (or its equivalent in other nations), or another reputable source that supports your position, then by all means.

      Reply
      1. RickD Maltese Post author

        Don’t forget the creation of concrete bases and steel towers for the wind turbines that requires plenty of CO2.
        I did a calculation based on comparing how many deaths are caused by coal burning and estimated that before a windmill even goes into production 2 people die from the coal emissions used to create the turbine and concrete base.

        Reply
      2. Bas Gresnigt

        Let’s use common sense.
        Economic activities generate on average X grCO2eq/$ value they produce (in the end nearly everything is labor).

        Operational costs NPP’s vs PV-solar & Wind
        As NY state ZEC’s rules show, operating NPP’s cost >$50/MWh *).
        So that is 50X grCO2eq/MWh.

        Estimations for wind and solar vary but show a steep decrease. E.g. the new generation 8MW wind turbines require only one maintenance visit in two years while producing n times more per year (also higher CF).
        But let’s take the older figure of $5/MWh on av.. So that is 5X grCO2eq/MWh.
        A difference of a factor 10.
        That huge difference in marginal costs also explain why nuclear cannot compete against wind & PVsolar.

        Investment costs
        The investment costs of new nuclear in USA & EU are ~$10/nettoWatt (incl. CF correction). Add 30% for the high decommission and nuclear waste costs (mostly socialized).
        That translates to an emission of ((13/50)/24*365)*1000000 = 30X grCO2eq/MWh.

        Investment costs of wind & solar are now ~$1.50/W (Lazards). Wind now has 40% CF, Solar 15% CF. Assume 27.5% on av (more wind than solar). Add 10% for decommission. That implies $6/(corrected W) operating during 30years.
        Which translates to 20X grCO2eq/MWh.

        Conclusion: Total emissions.
        So all in all common sense delivers:
        ~ 80X grCO2eq/MWh for nuclear.
        ~ 25X grCO2eq/MWh for the av. of wind and solar.

        Note that:
        – older comparisons would have delivered similar emissions for nuclear and wind+solar as then wind+solar did cost ~3-6 times more.
        So results of older (than 2015) emission studies and comparisons are misleading.

        – in the future the comparison will become far worse for nuclear, mainly due to the continued price decrease of renewable, and the increasing costs to extract uranium (as the rich layers are getting depleted). In 2030 nuclear probably has >10 times higher GHG emissions than wind+solar.

        – this comparison doesn’t apply for fossil as fossil fuel itself generates also CO2.
        ___________
        *) Check e.g. at: http://atomicinsights.com/nuclear-plants-losing-money-astonishing-rate/

        Reply
      3. Bas Gresnigt

        thorium-fueled MSRs
        It’s nice to dream about new designs. But realize that even the huge Chinese MSR project seems to be at a stalemate.
        Due to a.o. the steel. The best steel, Hastelloy N, wears out too fast at the high temperatures with the hot salt and radiation flux. It may last only a few years.

        ORNL didn’t find a solution half a century ago. It seems that the Chinese also didn’t (yet? May be improvements in ceramics will??).
        The Chinese lowered the target operating temperature from 700°C towards 650°C and installed a big team to find a salt (fluoride) mix which make operating at the lower temperature feasible.
        Not clear whether the team found a suitable stable fluoride solution.
        With 700°C ORNL used the lowest feasible temperature with their fluoride salt solution.

        The sticky problem is that there were no steel improvements in past half century for these circumstances, and that ceramics developments also stalled.
        Remember the idea to use ceramic cylinders & pistons in (car) engines so burning temperatures could be increased making the engine smaller and improving its efficiency. Trials stalled a.o. because of fast wear.

        Reply
  1. GoGreen

    Nuclear doesn’t require back-up fossil fuel plants.
    Nuclear has a higher capacity factor than wind and solar.
    Wind and sun are not 24/7 realities.

    When wind power isn’t required, and it is being produced, we pay.
    We will even pay to export surplus power.
    If renewables were not guaranteed compensation then they wouldn’t be in Ontario.
    The cost of renewable power contracts puts the competition between nuclear and gas.

    When the wind isn’t blowing then the gas plants have to make up the difference. Renewables require back-up gas.
    The power grid cannot support replacement of fossil and nuclear with wind and solar.
    The choice is between nuclear power, with zero CO2 emissions, or fossil.

    Existing nuclear is continually improving and it is not an economic win to take thousands of MW off the grid. Irrational arguments are being made to abandon clean nuclear energy production.

    It is silly to use average CO2 produced from economic activities in these estimates when the labour being referred to is mainly high tech, i.e. engineering and science. It was a good attempt but is not common sense, sorry. There should be plenty of credible estimates that wouldn’t try to argue that nuclear produces more CO2 than gas power.

    Reply
    1. Bas

      Compared to wind & solar nuclear needs very expensive back-up in the form of “spinning reserve”: Spare capacity which is fully operational incl. high capacity power lines to take the production of the NPP in a few seconds. As a NPP’s can and do switch off in a second and then often stay weeks/months offline.
      Often those spinning reserves are fossil power plants, as other nuclear plants are usually far away and too expensive for that role.

      As Wind & solar is produced by many thousands small generators dispersed around, there is not chance for such sudden failure. Stronger production of wind & solar is accurately predicted using the weather forecast. So no need for spinning reserve. A gas plant is flexible enough. Gas turbines can allow to stay off until predictions show they are needed….

      So regarding backup / reserve, wind & solar win easily.

      Reply

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