No Nukes News

Aug. 10, 2009


Quote of the Week:

“The province can order more renewables, import hydro power from Quebec, and find other ways of filling the void left as aging reactors begin to shut down.”

You might think this was a quote from Jack Gibbons, Chair of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, but no, it was Amir Shalaby, Vice-President of Ontario Power Authority, the agency responsible for long-term electricity planning. Kudos!

Democracy in Action

Based on public feedback, we’ve revised our leaflet, and we think you’ll love it! Check it out and let us know what you think:

Can you help us distribute them in central Toronto? We’re gearing up for a fall by-election in St. Paul’s riding and we need lots of bodies to help make nukes an election issue. Make democracy happen!

The two blows that killed the industry

Once-promising sector never lived up to its promise

No industry in history has held more promise, been more welcomed, received more favours and failed more spectacularly than the commercial nuclear power industry.

Is it time to press reset on nuclear?

Cost overruns, delays in building reactors are sapping a nuclear revival

In a throwback to its tumultuous past, nuclear power is teetering on the brink of renaissance or relapse, waffling between a return to its golden age and a slow demise…

Shortly after the announcement of the Darlington delay, Saskatchewan's Energy and Resources Minister Bill Boyd -- who is considering a proposal for a nuclear reactor in Northern Saskatchewan -- said Ontario's situation adds "additional questions about the whole area of nuclear power." …

Said Energy Probe's Lawrence Solomon: "Better late than never to bail out," he said. "This is a question of throwing more good money after bad."

Nuclear summer

The much-heralded nuclear "renaissance" appears to have stalled this summer, at least temporarily -- not because of unsettled questions over the disposal of radioactive waste, or fear of nuclear accidents, but because the costs of building new reactors is proving prohibitive.

That, at least, was Premier Dalton McGuinty's explanation for his government's recent decision not to proceed with two new reactors for Ontario's Darlington facility. They were expected to cost $6 billion; the final tally from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, the winning bidder, was rumoured to be closer to $26 billion…

A related problem for nuclear-power advocates is waning political and public support for AECL, flagship of Canada's state-supported nuclear industry. After its costly failures at Chalk River, the ongoing isotope crisis, and its difficulty finding buyers abroad for its advanced CANDU, the Harper government is contemplating breaking up AECL and selling off any marketable assets.

If Ontario decides not to buy an AECL reactor, the crown corporation's prospects in other countries -- and Canada's foothold in the global industry -- would be further imperiled. Aware of this, McGuinty is pressing Ottawa to subsidize AECL's bid, in effect, asking Canadian taxpayers to pay for Ontario's nuclear future. It doesn't seem likely, given Harper's disdain for an agency regarded in Tory circles as "a sinkhole."

Uncertainty over AECL's future could also threaten development of a proposed second reactor at New Brunswick's Point Lepreau, the province's energy minister, Jack Keir, said recently.

Elsewhere, while European governments move to embrace nuclear power and memories of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl fade, the nuclear revival is also running into practical roadblocks. Finland's attempt to create a new reactor is three years behind schedule and 50 per cent over budget. Plans to build two reactors in Texas have been postponed. An accident at a German reactor days (ago) has revived apprehensions…

Meanwhile, there is a window opening for renewables and less controversial alternatives -- especially if some of the millions invested in nuclear power were to be re-directed to green options, energy efficiency and conservation…

But Amir Shalaby, vice-president of Ontario Power Authority, a provincial oversight agency, doesn't sound pessimistic. In a recent interview, he said the province can order more renewables, import hydro power from Quebec, and find other ways of filling the void left as aging reactors begin to shut down.

Years of fitful efforts at promoting conservation and efficiency might also be paying off -- finally.

Ontario 'scratching its head' over nuclear plan

One high-profile project on hold, another scrapped

The fate of nuclear energy in Ontario, once assured, appears more ambiguous than ever after one high-profile project was recently put on hold and another scrapped altogether…

According to the Ontario Power Authority's 2007 Integrated Power System Plan, a 20-year blueprint currently under review, 8% of the 2025 grid is slated for green energy -- not including hydro -- while nuclear generation will grow to 14,000 megawatts from its current level of roughly 12,000.

For this to occur, all of the province's 16 reactors will have to be refurbished or replaced, beginning with the oldest reactor at Pickering-B before its slated retirement in 2014…

Last fall, Mr. Smitherman asked the OPA to revisit its plan with a "view to establishing new targets" and "further enhancing its current emphasis" on areas including the amount of renewable energy sources in the supply mix…

Rosemary Yeremian, president of Strategic Insights, a market-research firm that specializes in Canada's nuclear industry, said she has no choice but to advise her energy-sector clients to consider opportunities outside Ontario.

Canada's nuclear know-how in accelerated decay, scientists fear

Some believe the nuclear experts brought it on themselves. AECL built two small Maple reactors on the Chalk River site that were supposed to be capable of providing the world's entire supply of medical isotopes.

After spending eight years and more than $600-million trying to get them to work properly, AECL shuttered the Maples last year.

"The Canadian nuclear industry brought about its own end," said the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility's Mr. Edwards. "If they can't build a small reactor, why should we give them another chance? Maybe they should give it a rest."

The federal government apparently agrees. Two months ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief spokesman referred to AECL as "dysfunctional" and as a $30-billion "sinkhole."

Mr. Edwards suggests nuclear engineers pursue another line of work. "There are over 100 plants around the world that need to be decommissioned," he said. "And there is no established process for doing it. Nobody wants to think of themselves as a garbage man, but why not invest in the assured future of nuclear cleanup rather than speculative future of nuclear energy?"

Race on in the Prairies to solve isotope shortage

The modest Manitoba initiative pales compared to Saskatchewan's plans to build a whole new reactor, but the smaller operation could be up and running inside three years, with little regulatory hassle, and for the bargain-basement price of $35-million.

Nuclear suicide

Our best science now predicts that nuclear arsenals are fundamentally incompatible with continued human existence.

Uranium travels nerves from nose to brain

Radioactive uranium that is inhaled by soldiers on the battlefield and by workers in factories may bypass the brain's protective barrier by following nerves from the nose directly to the brain.

Is Nuclear Power Renewable?

International Renewable Energy Agency Rejects 'Renewable Nuclear' Category

"Many environmental groups are fundamentally opposed to the notion that nuclear power is a renewable form of energy -- on the grounds that it produces harmful waste byproducts and relies on extractive industries to procure fuel like uranium.

Even so, the nuclear industry and pro-nuclear officials from countries including France have been trying to brand the technology as renewable, on the grounds that it produces little or no greenhouse gases. Branding nuclear as renewable could also enable nuclear operators to benefit from some of the same subsidies and friendly policies offered to clean energies like wind, solar and biomass.

So far, however, efforts to categorize nuclear as a renewable source of power are making little headway.