Thursday, August 30, 2007


The nuclear debate has hit Alberta like a...nah...that's too easy a simile to use.

Anyways, nuclear power is the hot topic with a proposed nuclear power plant being discussed to power the oilsands. As expected, politicians are distancing themselves from this proposal as if it were radioactive. (that one I couldn't resist)

I think the facts are fairly straightforward. Nuclear power is safe (so long as it's not run by communists or Homer Simpson) and, if we're serious about reducing GHG emissions, it's essential. When you look at the cost of nuclear versus the cost of wind or solar, it becomes obvious that we'll never be able to get off of fosil fuels without embracing nuclear power.



  • "it becomes obvious that we'll never be able to get off of fosil fuels without embracing nuclear power."

    Possibly. But, factor in the problem of the disposal of nuclear waste. And, the short operating life of nuclear plants.

    Don't forget that we still need to reduce the amount of energy we use.

    By Blogger JimTan, at 10:09 PM  

  • Actually, in the Stonecutters episode, it's revealed that Homer takes his dad's communist card, so you might even narrow it down to one ;)

    By Blogger Jarrett, at 12:13 AM  

  • Hear hear! I've been having this debate a bit over at my blog as New Brunswick is also looking to invest in new nuclear power generation.

    By Blogger nbpolitico, at 10:21 AM  

  • Jimtan -

    Most formsof energy production create some waste byproducts. Coal, oil and natural gas create smoke from combustion that pollutes the atmosphere. Hydro power floods land and can create potentially dangerous resevoirs. Wind power slaughters birds by the flock. Nuclear power produces a very small amount of radioactive waste. In fact the only source of energy Canada could use that I can think of that doesn't produce waste is solar power, and it is so inefficient that its not worth talking about.

    Since we know that waste will be a byproduct of energy generation, the question becomes which type is easiest to contain. Hydro is probably the best, and its the only power source that is 100% efficient, but there are only limited sources left to tap. Coal, oil and gas plants send smoke that can travel potentially hundreds of miles and is therefore difficult to contain. Nuclear on the other hand produces solid waste that can be buried or stored in a controlled manner. Also by utilizing breeder reactor technology (where the reactor creates more fuel) the planet has enough fissile material to provide energy for the world for slightly less than 4-billion years.

    So no we don't need to reduce the amount of energy we use, we just need more nuclear plants!

    By Blogger Andrew Smith, at 11:02 AM  

  • The solid waste of a nuclear power plant is about the size of a two level house every ten years. That's not too bad, all things considered. I heard (but did not verify myself) that nuclear power plants have to be essentially reconstructed every 25 years... that's a definite point against, if accurate.

    Every hour, enough solar energy hits the surface of the earth to power the whole world for a year. We need to build some of those enormous solar panels like were built in Spain to fully harness the six days of sun Alberta gets in a year. (grin)

    By Blogger Mickie, at 12:13 PM  

  • Wait, can we please actually look at those costs? Because nuclear is extremely expensive. Every plant built in Ontario has gone over budget, the last one by 270%. We're still paying down the debt. Plus, they were supposed to last for 40 years without billions of dollars more in refurbishments, but only lasted for 20. Not to mention all the hidden costs of government-subsidized insurance and waste disposal and management. Hardly an economically responsible strategy.

    Wind and small-scale hydro, on the other hand, sell for a market rate of about $0.08/kWh here in Ontario despite not receiving the generous government subsidization that nuclear does. The true cost of nuclear is much higher.

    By Blogger CT, at 12:45 PM  

  • ct - wind is not a practical solution. It is not windy everyday, and is far more subsidized per unit of energy than nuclear. For example the windmill in Toronto produces energy on less than half the days of the year.

    Also, I'm not sure where you get your information from, but nuclear power plants are not insurable in the ordinary sense. They are self-insured.

    And yes, the CANDU nuclear power plants are VERY EXPENSIVE, but the French fast breeder reactors are actually much cheaper and produce more fuel than they consume. American advanced PWR reactors are also a lot cheaper. The trade off is that is pretty much physically impossible for a modern CANDU to meltdown.

    Nuclear plants also produce stable energy, a major advantage over wind and solar.

    As for small scale hydro it is a great solution to power small to medium sized towns, and there are some large scale hydro projects left to develop, for example Hydro Quebec is preparing to divert the Rupert River to produce even more energy. If Ontario were willing to put up capital costs and ignore the Indians we to could probably develop hydro mega-projects in the north end of the province.

    By Blogger Andrew Smith, at 12:59 PM  

  • If we have nuclear power in Alberta, won't the terrorists come steal it?

    By Blogger Mickie, at 2:03 PM  

  • andrew smith said

    “So no we don't need to reduce the amount of energy we use, we just need more nuclear plants!”

    Why do we need to build nuclear plants? They’re expensive to build and maintain. Ontario found out the hard way. They have poor scalability, and are serious environmental, safety and security issues.

    We could so easily reduce energy use. I’m dropped my car mileage by 1/3 to 12,000 km/year. That means less congestion, and less need for expensive road building.

    I’m healthier because I walk and bike. I take public transit, and have a better appreciation of how the other half lives.

    You should be able to easily reduce energy consumption at home by a third. That’s more money in your pocket. Why build mega projects that will increase your taxes?

    By Blogger JimTan, at 6:27 PM  

  • The nuclear plant proposed for Alberta is a private venture, so there is no issue with costs, rebuilds, etc.

    Alberta does not have a provincial utility, so it is unique in that a private corporation will bear all the burden of risk for this project.

    If they think they can do, they should. there doesn't seem to be any lawful impediment to it.

    By Blogger Kyle G. Olsen, at 2:08 AM  

  • Let’s not kid ourselves. Any substitute will be less efficient and more expensive than oil. We will subsidize substitutes with surcharges on oil (consumer pays), and/or direct subsidies to substitutes (taxes increase).

    Let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, “What is the problem?”

    The problem isn’t that oil is running out, and we need substitutes. The problem isn’t that there are too many people. The problem isn’t that fossil fuels produce CO2. The problem is that rich nations are consuming too much energy per capita.

    Much of that consumption is wasteful, and the bad habits were created during a period (50 years) of artificially cheap fuel.

    What are the consequences if we continue such high consumption per capita?

    Eventually, we will depend on increasingly expensive substitutes. First, we will exhaust the economical substitutes. Then, we will work our way through the increasingly expensive and polluting substitutes.

    There will be a successor to the Kyoto Accord, and the target could be CO2 reduction 50% below 1990 (by 2020). We could easily reach this target if we reduce energy consumption per person by 30%. And, we can easily do this by voluntary efforts and better energy technology. The remaining 20% can be achieved through better emissions technology.

    An energy reduction of 50% would push the fossil fuel crisis back a long time. There would be less need for expensive and problematic substitutes. There would be less likelihood of conflict for scarce fuel supplies.

    What are the chief obstacles? We must overcome the mindset that conspicuous consumption is good. We must overcome the fear that change could be bad for us personally

    By Blogger JimTan, at 2:44 AM  

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