Encouraging news!

It’s always good to add a little good news to one’s day!

The World Bank and United Nations on Wednesday appealed for billions of dollars to provide electricity for the poorest nations but said there would be no investment in nuclear power.

“We don’t do ,” said World Bank president Jim Yong Kim as he and UN leader Ban Ki-moon outlined efforts to make sure all people have access to electricity by 2030.

 

And, in case I missed this one, I’ll add it now, too!

Nuclear reactors are not a viable source of new power in the West, Morningstar analysts conclude in a report this month to institutional investors.

Nuclear’s “enormous costs, political and popular opposition, and regulatory uncertainty” render new reactors infeasible even in regions where they make economic sense, according to Morningstar’s Utilities Observer report for November.

“Aside from the two new nuclear projects in the U.S., one in France, and a possible one in the U.K., we think new-build nuclear in the West is dead,” Morningstar analysts Mark Barnett and Travis Miller say in the report.

This view puts Morningstar on the same page as former Exelon CEO John Rowe, who said in early 2012 that new nuclear plants “don’t make any sense right now” and won’t become economically viable for the forseeable future.

 

Real reasons to hope for an end to nuclear energy.

Too little of late, and now Japan: a roundup

P’n’P’s been ignoring you all. Sorry ’bout that. I’m back for a bit, anyway.

To start, here’s a rundown of good links for those who want to know.

Here‘s what the Japanese government has said.

The Sunday update from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a representative of which appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show.

Green activists in Japan have a voice in this as well.

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service is providing regular updates as well.

And, well, of course, the nukers themselves want us all to believe it’s all hunky-dory.

To end, for now, does anyone know where Japan gets its uranium?

UPDATE: Had to add a couple of bloggers: Arms Control Wonk and your heart’s on the left

Words of Caution to SK Taxpayers

Again, a little something from the Inbox for you, dear Reader.  What I can’t figure out is why the Canadian Tax Payers Federation isn’t in a big huff about all this!

Tax-payers are already paying, or will pay for:
- the research and other costs of developing the tar sands (roads,
infrastructure, etc.)
– the water reservoirs (dams) needed for the nuclear reactors (billions of dollars)
– most of the costs of a nuclear reactor (billions of dollars)
– all the costs of the power transmission lines (billions of dollars)
– radioactive waste disposal costs (billions of dollars for eternity) and
– we are paying for lobbyists in Washington.

Taxpayers should be aware of how much money we are, or will be, contributing to the nuclear and to the tar sands companies – – unless we take a stand. The best place to take a stand is on whether or not we want nuclear reactors here. It is not us that needs them as an energy source. If we don’t want nuclear reactors and we stop them, the huge energy source needed for tar sands development does not exist – – unless the Government is willing to use up natural gas supplies for tar sands processing. That would mean running us out of a relatively clean energy source to develop a very dirty energy source, and notwithstanding the fact that most of the infrastructure for heating our homes is for natural gas. The reactors have to have access to large volumes of water. We stopped (at least temporarily) the construction of the HighGate Dam on the North Saskatchewan River near the Battlefords. We would have paid billions of dollars for the HighGate Dam or “reservoirs” as the Government likes to call them.

The assumption of the Government is that these projects are going to proceed:

Wall Heads to Washington

Tuesday, 03 March 2009

The province will have some representation at an Energy Council in the US this week.

Premier Brad Wall will be giving a major speech at the council, which goes from tomorrow until Saturday. Wall plans to talk about carbon capture and clean investments in the province, as well as nuclear opportunities.

March 8, 2009 FINANCIAL POST

http://www.canada.com/Sask+premier+pushes+clean+energy+technology/1366452/story.html

… Wall spent part of his trip to Washington scouting D.C. lobby firms, with the intention of hiring one to protect the province’s interests on Capitol Hill.

“We hope to get a firm that’s not just got some ability to open some political doors. We need to continue to open financial doors and attract capital to the province,” he said.

“They would be boots on the ground in the Capitol.”

During meetings with several prominent U.S. lawmakers – including senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham – Wall also discussed Saskatchewan’s interest in developing small nuclear reactor technology as a way to replace the burning of natural gas in the production of oilsands oil.

“There are challenges and risk to these technologies, but we will cause ourselves innumerable more problems if our default position is to do nothing,” Wall said.

Of course, certain risks come with having a higher profile in Washington – especially regarding energy and the environment.

Alberta had early success promoting itself as a safe and secure source of foreign oil, but is now struggling to combat anti-oilsands sentiment among U.S. lawmakers under pressure from the environmental lobby.”

Bruce Power feasibility report viewed with skepticism

This landed in my Inbox and so I duplicate it here for the benefit of PnP’s readers, whomever you may be.

Bruce Power feasibility report viewed with skepticism.

By C. Pike

Pike writes from Waseca, Sask.

Western Reporter, March 5, 2009

Nearly every newspaper I picked up in mid-January had tucked inside A Report on Bruce Powers Feasibility Study.

Feasibility study, my left foot. It was practically a motherhood and Saskatoon pie manual put together by an Ontario company wanting to make a lot of money while pretending to be the fairy godmother to the people of Saskatchewan, with a nuclear gift. Pandora’s box, more likely.

The report contains pictures of spacious prairie land; a little girl watching the combines, a farmer in a field of canola, a grain elevator – which-has likely been torn down.

I expect the pictures were chosen by the public relations people. I could not help but yield to a childish impulse while I made a sketch (not to scale) of a nuclear power plant on those pictured food growing acres.

Isn’t it interesting that a company from Ontario, now a have-not province – and we shouldn’t gloat – flees the sinking ship to scurry to the have province? Isn’t it interesting that a project, more or less on the back burner for some time, is presented during a recession, with a glowing offer of jobs, jobs, jobs? Hmmm. Glowing. Isn’t that a radioactive thing?

The manual tells us that it has “community officials excited.” Well, it has developers excited, developers who don’t live here, excited about making money.

We are told that the majority favors nuclear. Was that poll in the areas where the nuclear power plant might be built? No one around here, near the North Saskatchewan River, has come forward to say they were polled.

According to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, the majority appears to be 52 percent. And did those 52 percent indicate they understood anything about nuclear power plants?

Bruce Power claims on page 13 that they will “examine the possibility of establishing a clean energy hub to generate electricity and hydrogen through wind and solar. People in Saskatchewan overwhelmingly support the use of wind (94 percent) and solar (95 percent).”

I’m no mathematician but doesn’t 94 percent and 95 percent eclipse 54 percent? Therefore, why can’t our politicians get cracking on wind and solar power using some of the money in the coffers of our have province, and not leave it to Bruce Power to throw it in as a come along.

Solar in particular is becoming more and more efficient and amazing. The Scandinavians are doing wonderful things with this renewable resource; renewable and not liable to blow us up or come back to haunt future generations with deadly waste from uranium.

Bruce Power offers to help drive economic growth in Saskatchewan. I wish it could always be realized that growing food has and should be said to do the same.

It is claimed that there will be 2,000 workers to build a nuclear power plant, and 1,000 permanent workers.

And so I quote again from the manual, page 16: “A new nuclear facility of just over 1,000 MW would have the same reduction on greenhouse gases as taking half of Saskatchewan’s vehicles off the roads today.”

That’s nice. But what will all those thousands of workers and suppliers be driving? Bicycles?

Page 15 informs us that the plant will operate for 60 years. Sixty years and then what? Oh well, I won’t have to worry. Let people yet unborn decide what to do with a giant pile of concrete and a heap of nuclear waste. The manual tells us nothing about that.

Has Bruce Power been meeting with aboriginal chiefs and councils to offer them large sums of money if they will take the nuclear waste? The 21st century version of blankets, beads, and smallpox.

Bruce Power claims to look forward to “consult with impacted communities and aboriginal peoples.” Aren’t we one and the same?

And I can’t resist being vulgar over that word “impacted.” In the cattle-raising community, an impacted cow is one that has been constipated, a cow which just might have been fed the wrong diet.

I see that on the last page of the manual there is an outline of what an environmental assessment does and there is the word “radioactivity” and there are the words “human health.”

Why should I, or anyone else, those of us whom a certain politician has called people of “ignorance and scare-mongering,” welcome someone from away without asking questions? Questions like, is this plant being built in Saskatchewan to send power to Fort McMurray?

We should try to educate ourselves and so should politicians. There is a lot of information out there besides the Scouts honor kind put out by Bruce Power.

.

A fact-finding group has been accused by local media of not inviting them to their initial planning meetings. I’ll bet you Bruce Power never invited the media to their planning meetings.

There will indeed be public meetings, grassroots meetings which anyone can attend. Will you?

Someone years ago wrote, “the shepherd tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same.”

And I have added to that, “and so does the wolf.”

Nukers lobbied to have Keen fired?

Remember the Chalk River Scandal?  Remember how we got a taste of just how much Harper hates “uppity women”?  Remember how he treated Linda Keen, how he and his cronies fired her for no real reason?

Well, thanks to intrepid reporter, Greg Weston, of Sun Media, P’n’P has learned that

industry insiders say lobbyists had long been trying to get rid of Keen for reasons that had nothing to do with medicine. Their clients were companies that stand to make huge money from the next generation of Canadian nuclear power reactors called the Advanced Candu, or ACR-1000. Rightly or wrongly, it seems, the iron-fisted Keen was getting in the way.

Keen would not agree to conduct a special review of AECL’s new toy design.  But, exit Keen and enter Binder and everything changed!

Almost immediately after Binder took over from Keen, the supposedly independent, quasi-judicial safety commission reversed itself and agreed to conduct a pre-project review of Atomic Energy’s new ACR-1000 reactor design.

Seven months later, the commission concluded its review, finding the new Candu complies with “regulatory requirements and meets the expectations for new nuclear power plants in Canada.”

It’s  like, well, it’s like MAGIC! Or something, eh?

Thanks to BCer in Toronto for pointing me to the article!

Canadian Cancer Society Manager Says No to Nukers!

This is significant!  The new manager at the Canadian Cancer Society in Lloydminster is taking a stand against a nuke reactor!  There’s a meeting in Lloydminster on March 19 at the Wayside Inn.

New manager and new fights for Cancer Society

Posted By Allison Wall

The Lloydminster Canadian Cancer Society is taking an unprecedented stand against a possible nuclear power facility near Paradise Hill.

Although the Saskatchewan government recently issued a release encouraging Bruce Power to continue laying groundwork for a possible facility in northwest Saskatchewan, the Canadian Cancer Society Lloydminster unit has developed a policy to educate the public about the health risks associated with nuclear facilities.

“The start is to educate people about it before they can make a decision on it … and people can voice their opinions,” said Wendy Clague, new manager of the Society’s Lloydminster unit.

The policy is the first of its kind for the Cancer Society in Canada.

“I spoke today with the division in regards to this policy,” she said. “At this point, the national Canadian Cancer Society doesn’t have policy right now on this issue. However, with a unit such as Lloydminster to bring it up to the division, the division will have to go forward to the national level.”

Increased cancer risk has been associated with nuclear power facilities in some studies – a fact that made some at the meeting uneasy.

“We know there are many benefits to nuclear power, but we also know that nuclear facilities create many situations that affect the human health, plant life and the earth itself,” said Don Retzlaff, a guest at the Canadian Cancer Society Lloydminster unit annual general meeting. “There has been a considerable amount of research in the United States and Europe that indicated that nuclear power plants can create serious health problems.”

Retzlaff said statistics in United States and Europe have indicated a sharp increase in breast cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer, particularly in women and children.

“In Germany and Ireland, women and children living within 50 kilometres of a nuclear facility have a one in six chance of developing leukemia,” said Retzlaff.

In October, a group of six city officials from Lloydminster, along with representatives from North Battleford and Prince Albert, toured a Bruce Power facility in Ontario.

“I think we have the responsibility as council, to be able to have all the information that we can get and get it compiled to the community knows what’s going on,” said Mayor Ken Baker.


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Article ID# 1473262

No Nukes Organizing in Paradise (Hill)!

>
> http://www.meridianbooster.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1473272
>
> Nuclear reaction
>
> Meeting draws hundreds in nuclear debate
>
> Posted By Graham Mason
>
> More than 400 people crowded into the Kinsmen Hall in Paradise Hill Monday night to hear what former University of Regina professor Jim Harding had to say about the dangers of nuclear power.
>
> The meeting was organized by a group called Save Our Saskatchewan, which was formed last month by residents concerned about the prospect of a Bruce Power nuclear plant being stationed somewhere in the region along the North Saskatchewan River.
>
> Harding criticized the company for downplaying the environmental cost of building and fueling the plant while grouping it with wind and solar energy.
>
> “When you say something is green, it doesn’t make it green,” Harding told the crowd. “It’s true that a nuclear power plant doesn’t emit carbon, but everything else does along the nuclear fuel chain.”
>
> “The promotions are one-sided, they dis-inform by omitting.”
>
> He accused the company and provincial government of deception in selling nuclear power to the public.
>
> “Unfortunately, some of us aren’t people of our word, words are manipulated so much. There’s so much spin going on here that we all have to start taking a deep breath and wonder whether we’re hearing anything at all,” said Harding. “They’re just asking each other to come to each other’s events to animate support to make it look like public opinion supports this.”
>
> No representatives from Bruce Power attended the meeting, but in a telephone interview with the Booster, company spokesperson Steve Cannon responded to the criticism.
>
> “At this point it’s too early for anybody to be making a decision of any kind,” said Cannon. “What we’re asking is that people in Saskatchewan take a step back from some of the rhetoric and just look at the facts of it.
>
> “If, at the end of the day, you have good facts, good information, and you still don’t support the technology – we respect that, we understand that.”
>
> Cannon said Bruce Power would continue talking to landowners before making any decision on a final site for an environmental assessment, reiterating no specific site has yet been chosen.
>
> ”I know some people have tried to draw that inference because we’ve been speaking to landowners but that’s just not the case,” he said.
>
> Daron Priest farms in an area near one of the landowners contacted by the company.
>
> “One of the proposed sites is very close to our farm, and I’ve got some real concerns and even more so tonight after listening to the speakers,” said Priest. “There are a lot of concerned people I think.”
>
> Meggan Hougham, secretary of SOS, was pleased with the turnout in Paradise Hill.
>
> “There was a good discussion and lots of good questions and we couldn’t have been happier,” said Hougham. “(The group is just) local people in response to hearing a power plant was proposed for the area just concerned and they wanted to do something about it.
>
> Harding told the audience the only truly green option was renewable energy such as wind and solar, which don’t require toxic metals as fuel or water as a coolant.
>
> “(Bruce Power’s) own polls show overwhelming support for going the renewable route,” said Harding. “When did you ever get an energy source that could be a health policy, a water policy, as well as an energy policy?”
>
> Cannon said the environmental cost of nuclear is diminished by its long lifecycle.
>
> “Where does a wind turbine come from, where does the steal come from, the process to build solar panels, to build windmills, the material is all mined, it’s all refined, it’s the same type of thing,” he said.
>
> According to the company, construction of the plant would create 20,000 direct and indirect jobs, and when complete, the plant will provide 1,000 full-time jobs and 900 indirect jobs over 60 years.
>
> Even though this would be Bruce Power’s first reactor built from the ground up, Cannon said the company is up to the task.
>
> “We’re well versed in what this would require,” he said. “We’ve already restarted two reactors and we’ve got another project underway now to restart two more and in a way that’s even more challenging and complex than if we built right from scratch.”
>
> He admitted that the power output of the proposed plant was more than enough to meet the province’s domestic needs, but pointed out that there was a demand in neighbouring jurisdictions. He also dismissed Harding’s claim that nuclear power spelled a major health risk.
>
> “It does a disservice to the highly educated people who work in the industry and live near the facilities to believe that we would ever choose to live here and work in an industry that poses a cancer risk for us, it’s just not the case,” said Cannon. “It’s a scare tactic to be quite frank, but it’s a question that people have and we understand it.”
>
> “I think people just have to do research on that and find out the true facts for themselves,” he said.
>
> A public meeting on nuclear power will be held in Lloydminster March 19 at the Wayside Inn.

Saskatoon newspaper pulls in a ringer to smooth it over

Apparently, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix has experienced a bit of grief over their nasty editorial of May 8. They’ve pulled in a ringer, Murray Mandryk, from their sister paper, the Regina Leader-Post, to quell the fires. Here’s his piece, reproduced in its entirety here because it is a voice of reason. That said, his focus is too narrow. We need an open, honest and thorough debate about Saskatchewan’s energy policy, not just about nukes.

Neither party fit to oversee reactor
Murray Mandryk, Saskatchewan News Network; Regina Leader-Post
Published: Friday, May 09, 2008

If ever an issue in Saskatchewan needed open, honest and thorough debate, it’s the building of a nuclear reactor.

That neither side in the legislative assembly has been willing to provide us with the even the most basic information about the reactor — information already compiled at the taxpayers’ expense — is more disconcerting than talk of a reactor, itself.

This issue is all about trust. It’s about answering basic questions such as: Where will it be built? Who will build it? How much will it cost taxpayers? What are the potential environmental impacts? What are the benefits? What are the potential risks, especially to the water supply?

Instead, what we have had is duplicity and deception from the NDP and Saskatchewan Party both.

Let’s review what neither side wanted us to know:

The NDP government received in February 2007 a rudimentary study that determined the preferred location for a nuclear power plant is the east side of Diefenbaker Lake, near Elbow. The negatives are its proximity to populated areas and fact that the lake provides the water used by 40 per cent of Saskatchewan households.

But what’s alarming about this 53-page, $60,000 study is that, until a copy of the report was leaked to the CBC, the former New Democratic government didn’t think we needed to know about it. In fact, it wouldn’t even confirm in its last eight months in office that such a study existed.

According to former premier Lorne Calvert, there was no need to do so because his government was focused on wind power and had no intention of building a reactor. Yet deputy NDP leader and former Crown corporations minister Pat Atkinson, who admitted Wednesday she hadn’t even read the study, said her government actually never had ruled out building a nuclear power plant.

As farfetched as her response seems, it is consistent with the words of former deputy premier Clay Serby, who said in October 2005:

“We should never say never about anything.”

But lest anyone is left with the impression that secrecy and duplicity begin and end with the New Democrats, let’s check the Saskatchewan Party’s equally unimpressive handling of the nuclear file to date.

Despite an initial commitment from Premier Brad Wall that any previous studies on nuclear power generation would be made public, the government no longer sees it as a priority to tell us that the preferred site to build a nuclear plant is one that provides water for 40 per cent of province’s population. Far more important, we’re told, are the confidentiality agreements signed by the NDP government to keep this report secret in the first place.

However, the confidentiality provision didn’t apply to Saskatchewan Party ministers such as Lyle Stewart (Enterprise and Innovation), Nancy Heppner (Environment) and Bill Boyd (Energy), all of whom had access to this document for the past six months.

Unfortunately, like Atkinson, they never read it, either. Heppner even claimed she couldn’t find a copy. Let’s be thankful someone found one for the CBC.

Through the magic of this newfangled Internet, the report now can be shared with Atkinson, Heppner, Boyd and even the rest of us among the uninformed masses.

Of course, his complete lack of basic information about a site for nuclear power generation was not the kind of impediment that would prevent Boyd from meeting in Alberta with officials from Bruce Power to make a case that Saskatchewan is a better home for a 4,000-megawatt nuclear plant than is Alberta’s Peace River region.

Boyd tells us not to be alarmed because these discussions are exceedingly preliminary. But Crowns Minister Ken Cheveldayoff then tells us Thursday there isn’t time to hold a referendum on nuclear power because his government will have to make a decision before the next election, slated for 2011.

Through all of this, we’re still supposed to trust the good judgment of these people — politicians who don’t think voters need to have the most basic information on nuclear power in Saskatchewan or even feel any need to read this information themselves.

Far more frightening than a nuclear power plant in Saskatchewan is the thought of either side of the legislature being in charge of running it.

So much for journalistic integrity…

The editorial board at the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, a CanWest newspaper, published nothing less than a rant on the issue of nuclear power in Saskatchewan, denouncing nuclear-free activists as an “anti-nuke gang,” a “bunch of radicals” who prevented the “dream of developing greater nuclear capacity in the province” from coming to fruition in the 1980’s.

Well, yes, frankly, it is true that the no-nukers did stop the development of a refinery just south of Saskatoon back then. And thank goodness for that! But they didn’t manage to stop the mining of uranium. And they surely did not stop industry from propagandizing throughout the province. In fact, they’ve done it so well that even the daily newspaper is singing the praises of nuclear power, quoting political deviants and corporate friends. Go ahead and read it for yourself.

Then go here and send your letter to the editor. If you need more information about uranium and the nuclear system, feel free to use the search function in the sidebar of P’n’P. We’ve managed to build up quite a collection of info from independent researchers, organizations and informed opinions over our almost two years of blogging.

Oh, and if you’d like a more balanced, though still not thorough, story about the possible reactor check out the CBC’s coverage. It’s report provides various reactions from people who live and vacation at Lake Diefenbaker, where the SaskPower study suggests the reactor might be placed.

The recommendation alarms people like Scott McKenzie, who has been vacationing in the Lake Diefenbaker area for seven years and plans to make it his home.

“It shocks me a little to begin with,” McKenzie said. “One is always worried about a catastrophe, an accident or something like that.”

However, Russ Boyle, who is building a house near the lake, doesn’t share McKenzie’s concerns. In fact, he wouldn’t mind if a nuclear facility was nearby.

I’d venture a guess that if the truth about nuclear power were placed in the hands of the people, there would be no doubt that the majority would oppose it.

I guess that’s what we’ll have to do.

An Open Letter to Albertans

This, from the Inbox, an open letter from Dr. Jim Harding, author of Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System (Fernwood, 2007).

FYI and use. Also please forward to others. Cheers, Jim Harding
Subject: OPEN LETTER TO ALBERTANS

OPEN LETTER TO ALBERTANS – from a Saskatchewan Neighbour

I have just been to speak at community events discussing nuclear power in Peace River, Grand Prairie, Whitecourt, Edmonton and Red Deer, and will soon return to Lethbridge and Calgary. I have learned much about Alberta and its vibrant grass roots and, being there the week before the provincial election, I learned much about your reputation for having a one-party political system. And I learned more about the ecological and human impacts of the tar sands than I reckoned for. It was disappointing to see such a low voter turnout when AB is facing energy and the environmental challenges with such Canada-wide and global implications.

It was a bit like coming home, for I lived in Calgary as a child when my father worked for the Calgary Stampede. I would like to let Albertans know what I learned as I connected the dots on the nuclear controversy in your province.

1. DO THE REASONS GIVEN FOR ALBERTA GOING NUCLEAR MAKE SENSE?
ENERGY ALBERTA

When Energy Alberta Corporation (EAC) floated its trial balloon about building two AECL nuclear power plants near Peace River, it initially said the electricity was for the tar sands. It even said it already had a buyer for 70% of the electricity, a claim it later had to retract. After this PR kafuffle EAC did a 180-degree turnabout and said all its electricity would be sold into the AB grid. Tar sands companies confirmed they didn’t need the electricity, as the potential for co-generating electricity from waste heat in the tar sands (and elsewhere in AB) is largely untapped.
BRUCE POWER ONTARIO

Ontario’s nuclear company Bruce Power has now bought Energy Alberta’s option, meaning money passed hands without any energy being created. Bruce Power is a consortium of the uranium giant Cameco, Trans-Canada Corporation – which is into pipelines, and a few other interests. Bruce Power continues with the claim that nuclear power is needed to make up for a projected shortfall in AB’s electrical supply over the coming decade, although it also says it will explore using excess electricity to produce hydrogen to help process bitumen in the tar sands..

When the more reasonable ways to deal with electrical demand and supply are disclosed (see below), some expect Bruce Power will again shift ground and argue the excess nuclear-generated electricity can be exported into the U.S. market, adding to AB’s lucrative non-renewable energy export economy. The sceptics note that a transmission line to Montana is already in the works.

There are several problems with this export scenario. First, sending electricity along expensive grids for distant end uses is not at all efficient, though it may be profitable for some, perhaps Trans-Canada. The way to conserve electricity and reduce dangerous emissions is to produce it as close to the end use as possible. Second, AB is apparently not ideally located for accessing the larger U.S. grid, which is why we sometimes hear (from those who wish to become the mega-exporters) that Saskatchewan would be a better location to access the “hungry” eastern U.S. market. This would be equally irrational in terms of energy efficiency and environmental preservation. Third, if co-generation from the tar sands and elsewhere were systematically developed it would produce excess electricity for the AB grid. Some are already concerned about the impact of this excess electricity on the provincial market, without even considering adding nuclear.
AREVA FRANCE

The French nuclear state monopoly Areva is also lobbying for nuclear power in AB, especially at Whitecourt. It recently argued that AB needs nuclear power to maintain economic growth from the tar sands when natural gas runs out by 2030. (Sometimes the nuclear industry also tries to make homeowners think they’ll “freeze in the dark” because the tar sands will use up all the natural gas.) The natural gas industry has responded that this is nonsense: that they are working on efficiencies (combined cycle) and, anyway, new gas reserves will come on stream when the price rises. While the National Energy Board (NEB) has created scenarios of Canada having to import natural gas by 2030, this assumes we will continue to be an energy export branch-plant to the U.S. Also, the NEB scenario was created before a recent gas find in B.C.’s Big Horn basin, which is as large as in the whole McKenzie Delta. And remember, natural gas has the lowest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of all the fossil fuels and is therefore considered one of the transition fuels to a sustainable society.

2. WILL ALBERTA NEED NUCLEAR POWER BECAUSE OF A COMING SHORTAGE OF ELECTRICITY?

What about the nuclear industry argument that their toxic hardware is needed to address a future shortfall of electrical supply. AB’s electrical grid presently has nearly a 12,000 Megawatt (MW) capacity. (This means it could produce this much electricity if working at 100%). Bruce Power and Areva parrot projections by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) that if the present increases in electrical demand continue there will be a shortfall of 5,000 MW by 2017, and then argue this will necessitate nuclear power.

EFFICIENCY, CO-GENERATION, GEO-THERMAL AND RENEWABLES

The Nuclear Energy Agency projected that 1,000 Gigawatts (GW) of nuclear electricity capacity would be needed in the world by 1990. The actual amount was one-quarter of this, or 260 GW. The nuclear industry regularly inflates future electrical demand as an economic growth strategy, and in the case of Ottawa-owned AECL, as a way to maintain government bailouts. And they are typically wrong, for a shortfall of electrical supply can easily be handled by a four-prong strategy that is much better for the environment and pocket-book. First, energy efficiency and conservation can greatly reduce demand for electricity (demand side management or DSM). Such energy savings can also be designed to reduce the electrical capacity required to meet peak loads. Second, waste heat in AB which can be used to co-generate electricity (especially in the tar sands) is likely the most underused in all of Canada. Third, geo-thermal electricity from all the geological heat along the mountain ranges hasn’t been seriously considered, and it has been suggested that interested parties can’t locate drilling crews because they are all tied up in the tar sands boom. And finally, even if somewhat unintended, AB is already helping lead the way towards a renewable energy path.

Renewable energy capacity in AB is already above 1,600 MW. (This includes 900 MW hydro and nearly 200 MW from biomass). Wind power is already at 545 MW capacity and will soon grow to 1,000 MW, which is equivalent to a large nuclear power plant. Renewables will then be 15% of the AB grid capacity, and only starting. Conservative estimates are that 3,000 MW of wind power is quite realistic. Some estimates go as high as 8,000 MW. By itself wind power could make up any shortfall in AB’s electrical supply, but that will be totally unnecessary if efficiency and co-generation are systematically implemented.

Then there is the potential of decentralized solar electricity. Since Germany decided on a phase-out of nuclear power in 2000 it is phasing in 1,000 MW of solar electricity a year. AB homes, buildings and farms can now be designed to be net producers of electricity that can go back into the public grid. When such an integrated sustainable energy strategy is in place across Canada the dirtiest coal-fired plants can be phased out, and we can accelerate the decommissioning of dangerous nuclear power plants.

3. WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?

Coal presently accounts for nearly half of AB’s electricity capacity (5,840 MW). While coal-fired plants emit the largest amount (45%) of GHGs in AB, planned tar sands’ expansion are likely going to make it AB’s major source of these. In any case, nuclear power is not being promoted in AB to replace coal plants. And nuclear power to expand tar sands production would just perpetuate the major role of heavy oil in creating global warming. Producing heavy oil creates 3 times the GHGs as does conventional oil, and the tar sands are expanding at such a rate that they could produce 3 times today’s GHGs within a decade. These emissions would make AB (and, if developed by then, SK) tar sands the world’s greatest single source of GHGs, outpacing even Harper’s much scaled-down emission reduction targets after he scuttled the Kyoto Accord. It would certainly be ironic if Harper – with his roots in the Reform-Alliance Party backlash to Trudeau’s National Energy Plan – ended up clashing with AB over its growing GHGs.

This all shows the absurdity of the claim that nuclear power is a way to reduce AB’s GHGs. Replacing natural gas with nuclear-generated electricity would somewhat reduce GHGs in the tar sands’ production process. However, if you calculate the GHGs produced all along the nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to enriching to nuclear plant construction-decommissioning and nuclear waste management (especially as the grade of uranium-bearing ore starts to lower), the GHGs begin to approach those of the fossil fuels. Co-generation would create similar GHG reductions without creating the additional GHGs along the nuclear fuel system.

Though expanding nuclear is not an answer to global warming, it would increase the radioactive contamination of the planet. This would hardly be fair for the generations to come. And let’s not forget the expansion of nuclear power is linked to nuclear proliferation and the threat of more nuclear weapons being built, tested and used. Depleted uranium (DU) weapons linked to ecological contamination and rising cancer rates have been used in the Middle East since 1991.

Nuclear is far more expensive than the practical and safer alternatives. When pro-nuclear biases are removed from the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) 2005 cost-comparisons, nuclear is closer to 21 cents a kWhr, compared to natural gas and wind costs of around 7-8 cents. Photoelectric (solar) will soon be cost comparative with gas and wind. Co-generation, coming around 4 cents, continues to be the least-cost alternative for reducing GHGs. Energy efficiency that reduces demand for electricity has seven times the “bang for the buck” in reducing GHGs as producing more electricity capacity. So it’s pretty clear which is the responsible way for AB to go.

4. SO WHY IS ALBERTA BEING TARGETED BY THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY?

The Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) remains extremely dependent on federal government handouts and bailouts, and the Harper minority government has substantially increased the level of subsidies over previous Liberal governments. Harper’s 2008 budget provided yet another $300 million in subsidies to the AECL, in part to help it get ready to come to AB. In September 2007 the federal Auditor General estimated it will take more than $1 billion for the AECL to stay in the nuclear research and sales market. It would take $850 million over ten years just to replace, refurbish and clean up the Chalk River infrastructure, and another $400 million (on top of the $300 million already spent) to complete the design work for the reactor (ACR-1000) proposed for AB. Also, two hundred and sixty ($260) million dollars will be required to partly clean up Port Hope, Ontario where nuclear fuel is processed for export and fuel rods are fabricated for Ontario’s Candus. And on and on it will go until this industry is finally phased-out.

THE SASAKATCHEWAN AECL CAPER

You can see the AECL’s dilemma. They desperately need sales to justify these huge costs to the Canadian taxpayer. After decades of subsidies they totally failed to establish a viable export market for their traditional Candu design, the kind built in Ontario. So, in the late 1980s a private consortium called Western Project Development Association (WPDA), not unlike AB’s EAC and also backed by the AECL, came knocking at our door in SK, trying, but failing, to convince us we needed their toxic technology. They told us we’d have a shortfall of electricity, and risk freezing in the dark by 2000, but that they could save us from such a fate with a new 450 MW nuclear reactor (the Candu-3 design). They told us we’d need another such reactor by 2004. And, of course, they told us SK businesses would benefit by creating a Candu-3 export industry that the industrializing-developing world apparently craved. Business and professional groups who thought they’d profit quickly got on side. Seventy-five million dollars later, with not one Candu-3 built anywhere, the AECL left and went back to Ontario to consider their next survival plan. (They also tried to sell us their Slowpoke reactor, which cost us all $45 million to no end.) In 2008 your sceptical SK neighbours continue to get reliable electrical supply and we don’t have any nuclear power plants.

Does this sound familiar?

Having failed in the export market and with this SK caper, the AECL is coming to Canada’s “energy superpower” with a new ploy. Initially using the tar sands to get their foot in the door, they will use federal subsidies, federal-provincial Conservative party connections, and promotions about lucrative economic development within targeted regions and towns (e.g. Peace River, Whitecourt) to try to convince enough AB people that you have no alternative to nuclear power. This is their version of a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

The AECL might survive a little longer if this strategy were to work. The Bruce Power consortium would profit. Cameco would increase sales in the uranium bull market. Trans-Canada could benefit from the construction of massive electrical grids, as it already does from natural gas pipelines. Meanwhile SNC-Lavalin in partnership with G.E., and France’s Areva, are waiting in the wings to get a bargain basement deal if (when) Harper privatizes the AECL. And the taxpayer would continue paying extra for any such nuclear expansion and these prospective buy-outs.

5. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE BRING THE NUCLEAR WASTE ISSUE INTO THE LIGHT?

As AB people come to understand full costing, and that they are already paying for nuclear through back door subsidies, they will become more sceptical of nuclear power. Realizing that their children will be paying for decommissioning and endless nuclear waste storage, with none of the benefits of electricity, could be the clincher.

Canadians have lots of common sense about nuclear power. Eighty-two (82 %) of us don’t believe nuclear power should expand unless the nuclear waste problem is fully resolved. This involves addressing the threat to future generations from long-lived nuclear wastes (spent fuel): the most toxic of all substances Plutonium-239, with a half-life of 24,400 years; Iodine-129 with a half-life of 17 million years; and Carbon-14 with a half-life of 5,600 years, which if leaked would get into the global carbon cycle. (The half-life is how long it takes for half the material to decay into other, also dangerous, radioactive elements.)

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA), AECL, Cameco, Bruce Power and the industry-run Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) have engaged in a decade-long “public acceptance” campaign to get Canadians to believe that industry and government will come up with some solution to the accumulating nuclear waste. Trust us again, they say. Their “plan” is about putting the burden of nuclear wastes on the next and then the next generation, as past nuclear proponents have done to us. It is called “adaptive phased management”, which means “no plan.”

THE GLOBAL NUCLEAR ENERGY PLAN (GNEP)

When George Bush created the GNEP in 2006 he was looking for a way to get uranium-producing countries like Canada to take back nuclear wastes. (He also wants to keep a monopoly on nuclear technology, an admission that nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons and that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is ineffectual.) The U.S. nuclear waste program at Yucca Mountain, Nevada is not going well from an economic, political or ecological standpoint. Australia’s neo-conservative Howard government came on side with Bush, but the electorate saw through the hidden agenda and Howard has been defeated and replaced. Now only the Harper government is onside with Bush’s plan, but Harper’s Ministers have been muzzled from talking about this because of its sensitivity with an upcoming federal election. Meanwhile, since the Chalk River medical isotope fiasco, Harper has replaced the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) head with someone who will pre-license and fast-track nuclear power in AB. Apparently, if the regulator stands in the way of profitable energy growth, diminish its authority.

Since Canada (SK) is the major world producer of uranium, we are the main candidates for taking back nuclear wastes under the GNEP. And being the front-end uranium-supplier of both the U.S. and French integrated commercial-military nuclear systems, it is no coincidence that the AECL wants to redesign its reactor so that it can use slightly enriched uranium (SEU) and spent fuel from the U.S. and French light water reactors. It is no accident that both AECL-backed Bruce Power and France’s nuclear giant Areva are knocking on AB’s door in the hope that its energy-driven boom will provide the cover for building a nuclear plant.

While there would be profits to be made, the real bonanza would be creating a technological rationale and location for bringing nuclear wastes to Canada. If a reactor was built on the Peace River or further south there would immediately be a build-up of nuclear wastes on site, and AB would then “qualify” as a place to send nuclear wastes from Ontario, the U.S. and abroad. Bruce Power is building up nuclear wastes at its Ontario reactors for which it has no permanent dump. And Cameco (part of Bruce Power) along with the AECL has been lobbying hard for over a decade for nuclear wastes to be brought back to the northern areas where uranium mining occurs, promoting the deep burial of nuclear wastes in the Cambrian Shield.

The nuclear industry has always expanded incrementally through half-truths and outright lies (e.g. about cancer-causing radiation, wastes, weapons, costs, etc.). Once you address all their promotional falsities you have to look deeper for their motives. In AB’s case it’s mostly about the wastes.

PROTECTING THE PEACE RIVER BASIN

With such plentiful efficiency and renewable energy alternatives and the catastrophic ecological challenges of the tar sands already at hand it’s hard to see why populist AB, with all its suspicions about government bailouts, would want to be cajoled into the nuclear path. Perhaps the real clincher, however, will be water. With the Athabasca River and those downstream already under assault from the tar sands, why would anyone want to risk having the Peace River system and the rich agricultural land of the region contaminated with tritium (radioactive hydrogen) and other radioactive isotopes? It seems unlikely that Lac Cardinal, a shallow and ecologically-important wetlands system that I visited, could handle the cooling of two huge reactors, as proposed by Bruce Power. Heats waves and droughts in France and the U.S. that will get worse with climate change have already forced nuclear plants to shut down or scale down. So much for this being a secure energy system. The reason why Energy Alberta and Bruce Power have not openly targeted the Peace River system for cooling nuclear plants is because this would awaken all those who depend on this amazing, sacred river system and water basin. I am certain that when the Indigenous and Settler people who depend upon the Peace River finally do awaken to the threat, the push towards sustainable energy will ratchet up in AB.

If AB makes the right choice and “votes” for sustainability and the protection of water, air and land, it will play a crucial role in helping Canada move in the right direction. The dangers and challenges of the tar sands clearly haunt the AB conscience. I can’t see why any reasonable and caring person would want to take on the added burdens of another ecologically destructive energy system, when there are such positive and practical alternatives.

So I ask you to please do what is right for future generations and us. Do it for our children and their children, and for the natural eco-systems we are finally learning to understand, respect and protect. Please keep AB nuclear free.

Yours Sincerely, Jim Harding, Ph.D.*

March, 2008

*Author of Canada’s Deadly Secret: Saskatchewan Uranium and the Global Nuclear System (Fernwood, 2007). This is a non-profit publisher and all author royalties go to support local groups working for a sustainable society.