Small reactors make no economic sense, despite the boost by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and lobbyists.

cross-posted from:

Among their key points:

  • Nuclear power more expensive than renewable energy on a similar scale
  • None of the problems of waste disposal have been solved
  • It’s so expensive financial markets won’t invest in it, so it requires massive public subsidies
  • No one is prepared to insure against the full potential cost of environmental and human impacts of accidental radiation releases
  • Construction timelines are too long for it to make a contribution to stopping global warming-

In my opinion, Canada should be all-in on hydroelectric.

Look at BC, Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Yukon Territory: They’ve managed to power their homes with electricity so plentiful and inexpensive that many homes don’t need fossil fuels for heating in the winter. Moreover, they can sell their carbon neutral power to nearby US states, reducing those jurisdictions reliance on fossil fuels. Industry in those jurisdictions can use the carbon neutral power because it’s inexpensive to do so, whereas in areas with high electricity costs they may be better served by fossil fuels. It’s a virtuous cycle and a boon to long term sustainability.

Contrast efforts to use wind and solar in Canada. Instead of driving the price of electricity down, it drives it way up. As a result, people are driven to using fossil fuels because they can’t afford to pay for electricity to heat their homes in winter.

In Ontario, commercial and industrial global adjustment charges have led to a massive boom in in-situ fossil fuel generation. Essentially, large electricity users take their loads off of carbon neutral energy sources and burn fossil fuels locally. It makes the province’s numbers look better, but the reality is that places that would never burn fossil fuels are specifically burning fossil fuels, an unintended side effect of policies intended to promote green energy.

The problem is there’s lobbyists who have a vested interest in making sure we don’t have plentiful electrical power. They want to sell technology that’s not quite there yet because that’s a gravy train, or they want to sell fossil fuels, or they want to sell technology like nuclear that works but is going to be high maintenance and high cost over time and also requires mining non-renewable uranium to keep going.

One argument against hydro is that some places don’t have the geography for hydro. That isn’t a problem in Canada. Every province has geography somewhere that can be turned into a provincial scale energy source. Manitoba is known as a prairie province, and it is at the top of the pile regarding % hydroelectric in use. I lived in Manitoba, and most of the houses I lived in were fully electric.

Another argument is that there’s an environmental impact of hydroelectric power. This argument neglects that industrial scale electricity generation will always have an environmental impact. Even solar on the roof (which by the way makes no sense – from a thermodynamic standpoint if a roof gathered enough solar energy to heat the home, then we wouldn’t need to heat our homes!) might not have an environmental impact at the point of use, but the production of solar panels requires massive mining, massive factories, and those factories have routinely had accidents that released toxic chemicals into the environment because to keep costs down they’re operated in countries that don’t have environmental regulations.

What’s going on in Canada?

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