Ontario’s Disastrous Nuclear Energy Policy

Doug Ford

Before he was elected Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford promised to fire Hydro One boss Mayo Schmidt. “You can take this to the bank. The CEO is gone and the board is gone,” Ford said on April 12. The PCs now say removing Schmidt is not a priority. – Andrew Francis Wallace,Toronto Star

Ontario has the highest electricity cost in North America.  Prices are about to skyrocket.

Prices for nuclear power have risen by 84-109% since 2002 and are now many times higher than the market price of electricity in the province.  If Ontario Power Generation’s rates are approved, in 2026 electricity will be almost triple (2.8 times greater) today’s price. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance reports, “According to OPG, the price increases are needed to finance the continued operation of its high-cost Pickering Nuclear Station and to rebuild the Darlington Nuclear Station.”

To justify Ontario’s outrageous hydro bills, Ford claims they are because the previous government had signed long-term renewable energy contracts. 

Nuclear boosters keep repeating the benefits of “safe, reliable and affordable nuclear energy”. All three claims are false.

The cost of electricity is not a focus for the bureaucrats at OPG. Cost is not in OPG’s mandate. OPG is a nuclear energy booster because it supposedly provides a stable base energy for the grid. Except when it doesn’t.

When nuclear is up and running, Ontario has a huge energy surplus – a surplus that it has to sell below cost or give away. 

Nuclear power plants have to shut down annually because of mandatory safety inspections or frequent safety concerns. It takes time to shut down a nuclear power plant; it takes time for the inspections; it takes time to get nuclear up and running again. Then Ontario is forced to import electricity at prices well above average market price. 

OPG’s policy, unlike any other viable business on earth, is essentially ‘buy high/sell low’.

After Chernobyl and Fukashima, some of the world’s largest economies have abandoned nuclear power while redoubling their efforts to fight climate change.

Ontario’s response was different. In a token PR gesture, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) ordered OPG to distribute free potassium iodide (KI) pills to reduce the risk of thyroid cancer in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster at the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations. The supply, enough for 1.5 million people, was clearly inadequate for the 4.5 million people in the ‘target area’. 

With 10 reactors in the GTA, the distribution area did not even include the entire Greater GTA  As a gas, radioactive iodine can travel quickly and is easily inhaled. It did not include Prince Edward County–vulnerable because of the prevailing westerly winds.

Apart from the horrendous cost of decommissioning Darlington and Pickering, there remains the problem of what to do with the nuclear waste. Sierra Club warns, “The International Atomic Energy Agency says “On-site disposal of decommissioning waste is not a recommended practice.” The present plans are to ship it for deep repository storage to either Ignace or Bruce/Huron. However, our “independent” nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), wants to allow on-site disposal of nuclear reactors — facilities that will remain radioactive for thousands of years after shut-down.”

Energy expert Amory Lovins concludes that building new reactors, or operating most existing ones, makes climate change worse compared with spending the same money on more-climate-effective ways to deliver the same energy services. WInd, solar, Air source heat pumps, geothermal and hydro—the very options that Ford is dismantling—are readily available sources of cheap,  low-cost renewable energy

Ford should immediately dismantle the Pickering Nuclear Station after it closes in December 2024.  Electricity users could save anywhere from $1.1 to $7.4 billion per year by avoiding expensive reactor rebuild plans. Instead, improve efficiency. Import low-cost water power from Quebec. It doesn’t make sense to pay 16.5 cents per kWh for nuclear power when Quebec water power is available for one-third the cost. 

Still in the conception stage, Ford has bet on the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to save his bacon. It will be ten years or more before we see proof of concept demonstrations. But we need immediate, drastic and unprecedented reductions of greenhouse gas now. 

The Canadian Environmental Law Association says that renewables – not small modular nuclear reactors – are the solution to climate change.

But Ford remains a nuclear booster.






Germany Will Close All of Its Nuclear Power Plants, but Needs to Put Its Nuclear Waste Somewhere

Image result for ecowatch: Germany Will Close All of Its Nuclear Power Plants, but Needs to Put Its Nuclear Waste SomewhereNuclear Power Plant Isar II in Bavaria, Germany seen from sky. brewbooks / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

All seven of Germany’s nuclear power plants are slated to close by 2022, but questions remain about where the European country can safely bury nearly 28,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste that will stay there for the next million years, as CNN reported.

The decision to close the country’s nuclear plants came after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in March 2011. Japan is still struggling to cool and to contain the nuclear waste from the plant, which is part of the reason that Germany is wrestling with the puzzle of where to offload nearly 2,000 containers of nuclear waste, which measures about six Big Bens.

The site that Germany chooses for the nuclear waste must be completely impervious to water and safe enough not to leak in the event of an earthquake, as CNN reported.

It needs to find a repository that “offers the best possible safety and security for a period of a million years,” said Germany’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, according to CNN.

Professor Miranda Schreurs, who is part of the team searching for a storage site, called the puzzle a “wicked problem,” and added that the storage site needs to be beyond rock solid. There are remarkable technological challenges in solving the issue, such as transporting the waste, finding a way to encase it, and even letting generations far off in the future know that it is there, according to CNN.

“We need to find a way to tell them ‘curiosity is not good here,'” said Schreurs to CNN. She added that the site must be “very, very stable. It can’t have earthquakes, it can’t have any signs of water flow, it can’t be very porous rock.”

Ideally, Germany would store the waste in granite, but the country does not have rich deposits of granite, according to India-based Republic World.

However, all those problems need to be solved in tandem with a communications challenge — how Germany will convince one of its communities to bury the nuclear waste in its backyard.

The challenges for a nuclear graveyard need to be solved by the government’s deadline of 2031 when a final repository for all the nuclear waste must be chosen. The project of transporting and securing the waste will then continue for generations. The storage facility is scheduled to be sealed somewhere between 2130 and 2170, according to CNN.

The scientists and policy makers have a short window for finding an appropriate site for the waste that is sure to rankle a voting bloc somewhere within the country. Germany has vowed not to export the waste, but it faces deep skepticism and mistrust at home after an ignominious history with storage sties, according to CNN.

Salt mines in eastern Germany that were used for low- and medium-level nuclear waste are failing to reach safety standards, which raises the concern over the prospect of storing high-level waste.

For decades, residents in the northeast part of Germany have fought to keep high-level nuclear waste out of its area, going so far as to block train lines that were carrying nuclear waste to a temporary facility, as CNN reported.

“If we did not build this big, strong and long-lasting resistance, I think the salt mine would already be used,” said Kerstin Rudek, 51, who has campaigned against a permanent nuclear repository in Lower Saxony for the last 35 years, to CNN. She plans to continue her fight, adding, “they haven’t canceled out Gorleben completely, so we are very suspicious it might still be chosen.” SOURCE

At Vancouver’s Clean Energy Summit, Nuclear Is Making a Play

“Proposed sites for the deep geological [nuclear] repository in Canada are almost all on traditional First Nations land, in a practice that has been termed nuclear colonialism.”

Note to ministers from 25 nations: Prepare to be dangerously greenwashed.

At this week’s Clean Energy Ministerial, a ‘high-level global forum’ to combat climate change, nuclear power will be on the table. Cooling towers of Dukovany nuclear power plant in Dukovany. Source: Wikimedia.

This week Vancouver is host to a summit of ministers from over 25 countries gathered “to accelerate progress toward a clean energy future.”

Created in 2010, the Clean Energy Ministerial describes itself as a “high-level global forum to promote policies that advance clean energy technology” and “to encourage the transition towards a global clean energy economy.”

As we face massive environmental challenges, a transition is clearly needed. The problem is that one significant focus of the CEM is to find ways of preserving the existing energy infrastructure while greenwashing it.

Case in point: the cleverly termed NICE Future, which stands for Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future, that was set up in 2018 by the CEM initiative. Its stated aim is “to initiate a dialogue on the role that clean and reliable nuclear energy can play in bolstering economic growth, energy security and access, and environmental stewardship.”

In the case of nuclear energy, the most difficult environmental legacy is the radioactive waste produced by all nuclear reactors. Radioactive waste is inextricably linked to nuclear energy production, because each nucleus of uranium or plutonium gives rise to radioactive fission products as they break apart. Other radioactive “transuranic elements” are produced when uranium-238 in the fuel absorbs a neutron, again an inevitable occurrence in nuclear reactors.

The problem is that it takes hundreds of thousands of years before the radioactive materials decay to levels that could be considered relatively safe. For those long periods of time, this waste will have to be kept away from human contact — an unprecedented challenge for which there is still no demonstrated solution. MORE


No Nukes News, May 29


Jeangagnon/Wikimedia Commons

On the anniversary of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, investigative journalist Paul McKay reveals that the trade in radioactive waste is becoming a lucrative opportunity for SNC-Lavalin and its U.S. partner.

If it is true that one person’s garbage can be another’s gold, then Montreal-based multinational SNC-Lavalin and its new U.S. partner, Holtec International, plan to be big global players in what promises to be a very lucrative, long-term business: handling highly radioactive nuclear wastes until permanent disposal methods and sites might be found, approved, and built.

That problem is pressing because the volume of spent reactor fuel is cresting in the U.S., Canada, Europe, China, India, Russia, and Japan. There are also hundreds of intensively contaminated reactors which must sooner or later be entombed, dismantled, chopped up by robots, then sent in special, sealed containers to interim storage sites somewhere.

But no country in the world has yet found a proven, permanent solution for the 250 million kilograms of spent fuel now in limbo in storage pools and canisters, let alone the atomic furnaces which created them. There are now about 413 operable civilian reactors in 31 countries, and another 50 under construction.

So it bears examining just who is taking charge of the most dangerous garbage on Earth. Enter SNC-Lavalin and Holtec International. MORE

Chernobyl’s legacy imperils many thousands

More than 30 years after it exploded, Chernobyl’s legacy still casts a baleful shadow over hundreds of thousands of lives.

In Pripyat, a town abandoned 3 kms from Chernobyl: “I love you Pripyat, forgive me.” Image: By IAEA Imagebank, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON, 25 February, 2019 − The risk of an accident with civil nuclear power may be small, but when an accident does happen the impact may be immense, as a new book on Chernobyl’s legacy makes clear.

The nuclear industry promotes its technology as a key way of battling climate change. A nuclear reactor can supply vast amounts of energy; compared with coal, oil or gas-fired power plants there are few or no emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

But nuclear energy does have considerable drawbacks. A nuclear power plant costs many billions of dollars to build– and is even more expensive to decommission at the end of its working life.

Nuclear power plants have been around for decades, yet the problem of how to deal with vast stockpiles of highly dangerous waste is still there – a poisonous legacy for future generations.

And then there is the safety factor. MORE