The nuclear renaissance – a long time coming

This is the main message of the “The Future of Nuclear Energy to 2030 and Its Implications for Safety, Security and Non-proliferation: Overview” of the CIGI Nuclear Energy Futures Project by Trevor Findlay.

I introduced CIGI in a previous post “Nuclear Policy and the Phoenix Coyotes”. This project has taken some three to four years and as a minor participant I can testify to the project’s objectivity and thoroughness. CIGI is by no means antinuclear and in my opinion the report accurately reflects the true state of nuclear energy today.  

In addition to a variety of useful data collected by the project, the report contains an objective assessment of the barriers facing the expansion of nuclear power. The resulting conclusion is that few additional nuclear plants will be built before 2030.

This, the overview of the Nuclear Energy Futures Project final reports, should be required reading for all those interested in nuclear energy. Clearly, the Canadian media have taken it seriously. Even more important for the future of Canada’s nuclear industry is that this report will influence the politicians and officials dealing with the domestic nuclear file.

I would suggest Trevor Findlay be invited to present his findings at the Canadian Nuclear Society Annual Conference in Montreal this June. I would also like to see him address the Canadian Nuclear Association seminar in Ottawa later this month but that’s unlikely since only “preaching to the choir” is allowed at the seminars.

If we don’t understand the problems, we won’t be able to develop the solutions  

Posted in Policy. 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “The nuclear renaissance – a long time coming”

  1. Steve Aplin Says:

    In the list of constraints to nuclear energy on page 14, the report lists “Unfavourable ‘carbon cost’ comparisons with alternative energy sources: conservation, efficiency and renewables.”

    I am amazed to see this claim in a supposedly objective report. Nuclear offsets the emissions from the only other non-hydro baseload sources, gas and coal, to the tune of millions of tonnes per year. Renewable sources require massive backup from gas-fired generators (which come with 550 grams of CO2 for every kWh they generate). How the heck can they have superior carbon economics??

    Moreover, the report points to successful conservation and efficiency efforts by pointing to the examples of California and Ontario (!!). Ontario’s baseload demand dropped in 2009 because of the convergence of (1) a deep recession, which hurt major power users like the nickel producers in Sudbury; and especially (2) a mild spring and summer! The author then goes on to assume (page 17) that Moore’s Law automatically applies to wind and solar generation; therefore their costs will fall.

    Very disappointing to see these kinds of sloppy and unsubstantiated assertions in a supposedly credible report.

    I heard an American nuclear industry guy say that a government doesn’t have to be anti-nuclear to kill a new build project. It just has to not support it. When the “experts” say things like the above, is it any surprise the federal and provincial governments feel no pressure to proceed with the Darlington project? This is the kind of thinking that produced the Samsung wind deal.

    The issue of renewables’ place in a modern grid is absolutely central to the debate over how to proceed with investments in power generation. Renewables don’t just require problematic transmission redesigns, price subsidies, and pride of place on the grid. They also require parallel fleets of gas-fired generators. That is neither cheaper nor environmentally more benign than a combination of nuclear and coal.

    I hope you are wrong: I hope policy makers do not take this report seriously. But you are probably right, they will take it seriously. And that is unfortunate.

  2. crf Says:

    Not being a professional energy-person, merely an interested observer, I knew, from reading around the internet, that the use of Amory Lovins as a source in this report would (quite properly) serve as a red flag for at least the need of a careful look-over. I’m just worried that this will serve as a reason to dismiss the report in its entirety, which may be unfair.

    On the whole, I thought the report was useful. It asked the right questions: it just didn’t go about answering them the right way. So the report is not “not even wrong”. It is at least criticisable and could be improved upon.

    I get the impression that in Canada things like this report are emblematic of the material we have to move forward an intelligent energy/industrial policy. Scary: but that problem is not CIGI’s fault: it is the fault of decades of indifference by Canadian provincial and federal governments, and no focus on the issue from either private industry or academics.

    Am I wrong that there is a paucity of policy-relevant material on energy being prepared by distinguished organisations? (I am just a layperson, I could well be wrong. Enlighten me.)

  3. Steve Aplin Says:

    Holy Mackerel. I guess that says it all. If they’re going to quote research done by Amory Lovins, that pretty much betrays the bias, and brings this report dangerously close to the comic book category. Why didn’t they just go all the way, and quote Helen Caldicott or Storm van Leeuwen. I thought I recognized that renewables/efficiency pap.

    Maybe there’s hope yet, at least as far as the federal government is concerned. Ideologically, they would give Lovins as much time as they would give David Suzuki or anybody from the Pembina Institute—i.e., none, which is as much as they deserve.

    crf, you are right. There is a paucity of energy related material prepared by distinguished organizations. There is however tons of material prepared by groups like Greenpeace, Suzuki, and Pembina.

  4. Dr Singh Says:

    The “problem”.

    Some folks, who need not be mentioned, praise and glorify anything and everything “green”, naturally ignoring any and all criticism. Wind mills are perfect – its free energy.

    Spinning of wind turbines has no effect on CO2 levels. Ofcourse there are no radioactive byproducts. In all the PR, they are blended with backround trees as if they were organic. And, they are white and prestine like angels.

    But they are not “perfect”. They are manmade. Their production does require hydrocarbons. Their component (steel/concrete) material costs per MW are amongst the highest – higher than coal, gas, nuclear etc. Many farmers and tourist areas dont want them – either due to wooshing or because a visual distraction. They require maintanance, as does transmission infrastructure, so although there is no fuel, there IS an operating cost.

    And they are only as useful as the wind patterns. And the biggest fallacy is that they work in any wind – whereas they only operate between a min (breezy) and max speed (not in storms).

    But perhaps the bigger lie is that wind power isn’t given a chance – despite tens of thousands built. Nobody wants to acknowledge the cost of (CO2 producting) replacement power. And the rebuke of some future energy storage system is like waiting 50 years for fussion.

    And if an “environmentalist” nods in approval of nuclear, but on the condition of waste storage, perhaps reply:

    “Have you set up a decomissioning fund to tear down those towers and recycle those blades and motors when they’re worn out?”
    Because nuclear industry has.

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