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[cdn-nucl-l] Debate provides chance to push nuclear option in Canada
Posted in the Globe and Mail on September 4, 2002 and at:
Good article - worth a read.
Debate provides chance to push nuclear option
By HUGH WINSOR
Wednesday, September 4, 2002 - Page A4
For the folks in Canada's nuclear power industry, it's an ill wind that
blows no good. So they are seizing on the controversy surrounding
ratification of the Kyoto accord on climate change as a way of getting
attention (and money) to promote a new generation of cheaper, more
efficient Candu reactors.
You just have to click on The Globe and Mail's Web site to get the gist.
The flashing advertisement declares "clean air is important to all of
us, nuclear energy is helping to make it happen."
The ad goes on to point out the importance of "clean" electricity and to
tout nuclear's clean advantages.
Indeed, nuclear power generation has the potential to displace most of
the 200 megatons of greenhouse-gas emissions required to meet Canada's
first targets under Kyoto, through displacing coal and oil used for
electricity generation or providing clean power to produce hydrogen,
which is the non-greenhouse-gas-producing fuel of future motor vehicles.
The 400 nuclear reactors around the world displace more than two billion
tonnes of carbon dioxide that would be emitted each year if the same
power were produced by burning fossil fuels. Robert van Adel, president
of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., says that without present-day nuclear
capacity, Canada's greenhouse-gas levels would be 15 to 20 per cent
higher -- that is more than has to be reduced to hit the Kyoto target.
It is only a question of cost and credibility.
The Canadian industry, especially the former Ontario Hydro that
dominates it, has had a problem on both scores.
That said, the Canadian Nuclear Association was understandably miffed
that the government's discussion paper on Canada's contribution to
addressing climate change (part of the public consultation process) did
not mention "nuclear" even once.
"Such an omission of an energy source that provides nearly 14 per cent
of Canada's electricity supply is clearly by design and not by
circumstance," the CNA responded. "This is only exacerbated when it is
recognized that nuclear energy is the only large-scale source of
zero-emission electricity that can be economically employed."
That is an indication of the bad odour that still clings to the nuclear
industry -- much of it in Canada can be blamed on Ontario Hydro's bad
management and lack of cost controls.
The Candu technology, arguably the safest in the world, has taken a bad
In 40 years of on-line power generation, there has not been one injury
due to radiation.
Elsewhere, nuclear power is enjoying a revival, especially in the United
States where Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham is a big fan.
The Americans have increased their power generation from existing
reactors by 22 per cent since 1990, by improving operating efficiencies
and skillful refurbishing.
Canada's Natural Resources Minister, Herb Dhaliwal, acknowledged that he
was surprised at the level of pro-nuclear sentiment around the table at
a Group of Eight energy ministers conference in Detroit a few months
There has been a turnaround in Europe and Japan (which is considering 13
new plants). Indeed, the nuclear power agency of the Organization for
Economic Co-operation and Development has complained that nuclear power
was excluded from the Kyoto emissions-trading protocol, to the detriment
of the planet.
AECL, the Crown corporation with a long and sometimes tangled history,
is trying to pierce this fog of indifference around the nuclear option,
and if Kyoto is useful, so be it. It is seeking $150-million in
additional funds from the government to complete the development of what
is known as the Advanced Candu Reactor, which it says could be cost
competitive with the best of gas-fired technology while producing zero
It would be 40 per cent less expensive than current Candus and take only
four years (compared with six or seven) to build. But it is still only
at an advanced stage on the drawing board. On first glance, it seems
like a magic bullet. But then there are those old bugbears about cost