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[cdn-nucl-l] Toronto Star Editorial
I presume the following piece was writeen by one of the editors. The
article is found at
Ontario must choose clean power
The mega-problem the Mike Harris government faced when it came to power -
nuclear power - was not of its own making. But the huge gamble the
government took to fix the nukes is the government's alone. It decided to
spend billions restoring the reactors - a bit of high rolling with the
public purse. And it turned to coal power - from its own and U.S. plants -
for stopgap power. The effect was a double whammy in health terms. Acid rain
is back full force, in lakes and lungs. Smog is killing 1,800 people a year
- 400 in Toronto.
Coal now provides a third of our power. Ontario Power Generation is the
province's biggest single smog maker. Its U.S. supplier - American Electric
Power - is sending more emissions across the border. Health damage - and
crop damage - can only worsen. A policy change is essential.
<snip>The Atomic Energy Control Board says Ontario Power is 2 1/2 years
behind schedule, and even now ``only between 30 and 40 per cent'' of
scheduled maintenance is being completed as planned. The May budget quietly
changed $9 billion in old Hydro debt into taxpayer ``equity.'' Ontario
Power boosted its reserve by $3 billion to decommission reactors. It's now
up to $19 billion. More may be needed for a nuclear waste disposal system -
if Ottawa approves - that may be the only way to attract U.S. and British
buyers for the nukes.
So this has become a system with two kings. One is coal. The other is
To escape both, Ontario Power should begin to convert its coal-fired boilers
to cleaner, cheaper, healthier natural gas. And if Ontario Power doesn't
want to do that, the government should tell it to. It should tell Ontario
Power, as well, to find a cleaner U.S. power provider.
Ontario Power, however, prefers accounting tricks that keep the books clean
but the air dirty. Next year, the utility will exceed its emission limits
by a third. But it wants the government to allow it to offset the dirtier
air with ``credits'' for cleaner air 10 years ago. It also wants to use
credits bought from a Connecticut company which captures methane from
Pollution credits are an untried and highly dubious idea. <snip> Harris
should tell Ontario Power to abandon accounting tricks and convert to
cleaner fuels - better for Ontarians' health now, better for Ontario Power's
market position in future.
Better, too, for the environmental reputation of a government whose
decisions so far have only served to take a problem it didn't create and
make it - not just worse - but lethal.
Comments (mine alone):
1) How can acid rain be back in full force when a lot of scrubbing systems
2) How is the figure of 1800 people per year killed by smog calculated? I'm
sure smog does cause premature deaths, but by far the majority of smog is
caused by things other than power plants. Cars, industry, airports,
commercial establishments, landfills, etc., come to mind, plus the
congestion of the cities themselves (i.e. a large concentration of
pollutants would surely increase the number of health effects than if the
pollutants were administered at lower levels over a larger area.)
3) Society should help preserve people's health and help give them long and
good lives (people have to look after themselves, too), but much of the
present high quality of life is due to abundant energy and resources.
Remember that in the past city smog was far worse, especially in terms of
particulates from coal-fired factories, trains, home fires.
4) Although it's not good that emission levels will exceed limits next year
(and this), the emission levels and limits have decreased substantially.
5) Don't be too caught up in the rush for natural gas. While the amount of
CO2 produced by nat'l gas is about 55% of that of coal, for the same amount
of useful product (e.g. electricity or hot water), methane (the primary
constituent of nat gas) itself is some 50 to 60 times more potent than CO2
as a greenhouse gas. And methane leaks from gas delivery systems. And
hydrogen sulphide leaks or is flared (i.e. partially burned) from many gas
wells. And I note in this weekend's Winnipeg Free Press that the price of
nat gas has risen due to increasing demand, and users may be facing a 10%
increase in cost.
6) I think pollution credits can be a workable partial solution to
decreasing the damage we do to the environment, provided there is a net
decrease in the damage done.
my thoughts alone