March 5, 2010
I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait 'til oil and coal run out before we tackle that. - Thomas Edison (1847–1931)
Independent researchers have calculated that, in terms of carbon emissions avoided per dollar spent, nuclear is among the most expensive options, taking lifetime costs into account, not the cheapest. And of course the nuclear waste issue has not yet been resolved. - Trevor Findlay, author of The Future of Nuclear Energy to 2030 and its Implications for Safety, Security and Non-Proliferation
The deficit-ridden federal government has plowed an additional $182-million into Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to cover cost overruns in refurbishment projects and repairs to its isotope-producing research reactor at Chalk River. As a result, Ottawa allocated $824-million in the current fiscal year to the problem-plagued nuclear flagship as the government prepares to restructure it and sell its commercial division, according to supplemental estimates released late yesterday. That's a 50-per-cent increase from federal spending on AECL in the prior fiscal year.
The environment, the arts, poverty and international initiatives are among the files that get short shrift in this year's budget. In the case of the environment, Equiterre's Stephen Guilbeault is crying false advertising. "Climate change is mentioned three times in the throne speech," said Guilbeault. "Nowhere is that commitment mentioned in the budget."
AECL, despite reviews and promises, has lost money every year since 1952
Even if the federal government were to commit Canadian taxpayers to bring AECL’s bid price down to some reasonable level, there are serious questions about whether AECL’s flagship Candu technology, which is based on exotic and super-costly heavy water, would be in Ontario’s best interests. The prospects AECL once claimed for near-term reactor sales of its new design in China, the U.K. and the U.S., have all dried up. Those countries are now all concentrating on light water technology which is cheaper to build, is cheaper to operate, is more productive and benefits from a wider pool of technology partners.
Contrary to Moore's reading, the report does pour cold water on the notion of a global nuclear energy revival. The major barrier is economics. These are profoundly unfavourable to nuclear energy and getting worse, compared to coal, natural gas and alternative clean energy sources, as the government of Ontario has discovered.
"Just in case there's any doubt at all, I want to assure you we're still very committed to building two new nuclear units in Darlington," said Energy and Infrastructure Minister Mr. Brad Duguid.
The cheapest megawatt is the one that's never used. "Industrial energy efficiency is usually overlooked because it's so unexciting, but it's one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions," Stewart said.
Two excellent tv ads are being aired in South Carolina and Georgia. The first ad, titled "Family", lists past nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and finishes with a close up on a child and the voice over "How would you feel about exposing your family to a potential radiation accident?" The second ad, "Risk," tied last year's financial hullabaloo to the potential for another nuclear bailout, similar to the nightmare scenario Mariah Blake describes in Mother Jones. "With cheaper, safer alternatives," the ad concludes, "why should taxpayers foot the bill for a new nuclear bailout?"
The Five Corporate Risks
There are five substantial areas of risk faced by developers of new nuclear power stations. Three of those risk areas are so big and significant that if they go wrong, the developer (even the biggest utilities) could be financially damaged beyond repair. These risks can be classed as Corporate Killers.
But now, as the industry receives unprecedented levels of government support, it's facing an all-out talent drought.
A new approach for easing the cost of new multibillion-dollar reactors, which can take years to complete, has provoked a backlash from big-business customers unwilling to go along.
Over 10 years, the industry has spent $1 million per every U.S. Senator and Representative, plus another $100 million for the White House, courts and media. Nothing about atomic energy has really changed. Except this: $645 million for lobbying Congress and the White House over the past 10 years.
The idea is that these new reactors will close the loop for fuel and waste; that is, reprocess the spent rods into new fuel that can be reused. However, much like carbon capture and sequestration, this has yet to be done, despite over 60 years and billions of dollars in research. While some countries, like France and Japan, do reprocess fuel in a limited way, it still produces hundreds of tons of toxic waste, which could potentially be used in nuclear weapons. One French plant dumps 100 million gallons of liquid radioactive wastes into the English Channel every year, and the French government found the costs of reprocessing waste to cost $25 billion more than storing it. There is no truly closed-loop cycle; we will still have to mine uranium, a toxic process, and to contend with the spent nuclear waste, which still does not have a home despite years of wrangling on Yucca Mountain.
A Network of organizations concerned about high level radioactive waste and nuclear power in Canada
Position Statement and Background to nuclear waste storage in Canada
The increase is equivalent to about half of the power generated by the country's nuclear reactors in 2009.
The principal reason for opposing coal plants is that they are changing the earth's climate. There is also the effect of mercury emissions on health and the 23,600 U.S. deaths each year from power plant air pollution.
What began as a few local ripples of resistance to coal-fired power quickly evolved into a national tidal wave of grassroots opposition from environmental, health, farm, and community organisations. Despite a heavily funded ad campaign to promote so-called clean coal (one reminiscent of the tobacco industry's earlier efforts to convince people that cigarettes were not unhealthy), the U.S. public is turning against coal.
The bottom line is that the United States now has, in effect, a de facto moratorium on the building of new coal-fired power plants. This has led the Sierra Club, the national leader on this issue, to expand its campaign to reduce carbon emissions to include the closing of existing plants.
If the efficiency level of the other 49 states were raised to that of New York, the most energy-efficient state, the energy saved would be sufficient to close 80 percent of the country's coal-fired power plants. The few remaining plants could be shut down by turning to renewable energy - wind farms, solar thermal power plants, solar cell rooftop arrays, and geothermal power and heat.
The handwriting is on the wall.
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In recognition of International Women's Day, CBC’s Sunday Edition with Michael Enright will feature a 25 minute segment on the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.
Sunday, March 7, 2010. Time: 9a.m. - 12 noon (likely earlier in the morning, maybe even at 9 a.m.)
And on Mon. Mar. 8 at 7:30 p.m., at the Friends House, Toronto, join the Voice of Women for a coffeehouse and open mic night in celebration of IWD – sharing songs and poems for peace and justice.
For more info: http://vowpeace.org/cms/Misc/Event/10-02-23/International_Woman_s_Day_Coffeehouse_and_Open_Mic_Night.aspx