Nuclear Power Plants and Climate Change

The Toronto Star and Car Advertiser published a story in the Sunday paper suggesting Ontario might need to build more nuclear power plants to meet the province’s energy needs. The matter is coming to a head with the province’s stated intention to close its coal power generating stations.

The McGuinty government is determined to close all coal plants in the province, including the massive Nanticoke Generating Station that employs 600 workers in the area. Surrounding communities, fearful of more job loss, are cautiously exploring their options as a 2014 shutdown deadline approaches.

Desperate, they keep coming back to one controversial word: nuclear.

The debate that followed on the letters page concerned whether this is an appropriate response, not only to possible job losses, but to the climate change dilemma.

We guess you know how the ALLDERBLOB sees this. After all, if the ongoing buildup in carbon dioxide gas is leading our planet to a venus-like future, and it’s electricity that powers the ALLDERBLOB computer (and the computers of our readers), it’s essential that the technology of how we produce electricity change to one that produces less carbon dioxide.

What’s essential is that access to the ALLDERBLOB not fade away.

We’d be hypocrites to support nuclear power, with all its problems, after griping about the hydro corridor the current Ontario Power Authority is threatening, like a meat axe, to chop through Case Ootes‘s ward 29. After all, if it’s the hydro corridor we object to, what difference does it make if it’s carrying power generated by coal, natural gas, nuclear or wind power.

But there are differences between these power sources, let us not kid ourselves. Not least among these differences are the costs associated with them. And nuclear power is just about the most expensive way we know to generate electricity.

The cheapest source of energy “generation” is still conservation.
This chart demonstrates that the cost of building new nuclear power plants is up to three times higher per kilowatt-hour generated than the cost of saving a kilowatt-hour of energy through conservation measures.

It shows generating power through wind turbines to be half the cost of nuclear power, and the cost of “solar thermal” electricity generation to be two-thirds the cost of nuclear power.

All these measures, of course, do not take into account the “cost” associated with the safe storage of deadly used fission material–a direct by-product of nuclear energy generation. They do not include the “cost” associated with simple accidents that can happen: if a wind turbine falls over, someone could be killed. How many are killed if a nuclear plant melts down?

this is what the chernobyl meltdown looked like

Nuclear power is currently one of the most expensive forms of electricity:

Source of energy

Cost per kilowatt-hour

Energy Efficiency

0-5 cents

Hydroelectric

2-8 cents

Coal

5-6 cents

Wind

5-8 cents

Oil

6-8 cents

Solar Thermal

9 cents

Nuclear

10-12 cents

Solar Photovoltaic

15-20 cents

The Star and Car Advertiser story on new nuclear power stations for Ontario makes it clear that someone’s selling something. This isn’t being offered as a gift to the province from an altruistic non-profit corporation. The big lie is that just “600 jobs” are on the line with the closing of Nanticoke. Jobs? What good are jobs on a planet with the climate of venus?

Fact is, as Ontario’s Energy Minister Dwight Duncan stated in a 2004 speech, energy conservation is a job creator:

I’d like to close by saying there can be no doubt that Ontario faces a real challenge in meeting its energy needs, but the McGuinty government is seizing the opportunity to promote a genuine conservation culture — in communities, businesses and homes.

The benefits of conservation go far beyond what people will see on their monthly bills.

A culture of conservation will help Ontario build a high-skills, high-tech, high-performance economy by rewarding and encouraging innovation.

This, in turn, will help stimulate investment, create jobs and build a stronger, more sustainable economy.

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