At CDN we have frequently said that a handy sanity test for climate alarmists is whether they support nuclear power. So we think it’s big news that the government of the Canadian province of Ontario intends to build the world’s largest nuclear reactor to fight global warming. How big? Well, not very. One facility, albeit with eight reactors, that could power 4.8 million homes. So for any other global warmists looking to save the planet and their own minds, we ask: How many wind turbines or solar panels over how large an area would it take to do the same?
Well, let’s have a look. The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station is on the eastern shore of Lake Huron near Kincardine. (No, you never heard of it.) It occupies 932 hectares (no, you don’t know how big one is) or 2,300 acres of land and was built between 1970 and 1987 by the crown corporation Ontario Hydro before being leased to a private operator in 2000 by Ontario Power Generation, one of five crown corporations into which Ontario Hydro was split for reasons you don’t want to hear about.
What you might want to hear about is that the site’s operating licences have been extended repeatedly, at this point through 2028. So even these older reactor designs last 60 years. Wind turbines do not. Nor do solar panels. And if you think (wrongly) that it’s hard to dispose of the small quantity of waste a reasonably modern reactor creates, try figuring out what to do with all those blades and panels when you discover that they’re clapped out after 20 years.
Also, the proposed nuclear facility would generate 4,800 megawatts of power. The largest wind farm in the country, Seigneurie de Beaupré, has a theoretical capacity of just 363.5. But it occupies tens of thousands of acres (Wind Farm 4 alone covers 3,249 hectares or 8,028 acres, a.k.a. 80 square kilometres). For some reason various people touting the miracle of wind energy don’t seem to list such things in their brochures. But The Canadian News estimates that the entire wind farm site “represents a strip of land parallel to the river approximately 95 km long by 20 km wide.” Yikes.
So we think it good news that Ontario is talking about a new nuclear plant. We’re not getting giddy just yet. Climate change isn’t the only topic that reliably generates dismal new items, another is government-funded megaprojects, especially in Canada where we specialize in botching light rail but can also muff a pipeline or anything else in a pinch. And the Ontario electricity system is a third, an appalling hoorah’s nest of opaque pricing, stranded debt, ridiculous subsidies, buck-passing and political scandal.
Put the three together and it won’t be smooth sailing. As the National Post story says:
“Energy Minister Todd Smith… says Bruce Power will now start community consultations and conduct an environmental assessment for federal approval to determine the feasibility of another nuclear plant.”
Yes, we will begin consultations to assess the possibility of approval to undertake a feasibility study. In the process you can bet that they’ll hear from the usual tin-foil-hat candidates who can’t tell a nuclear plant from a nuclear bomb and believe all sorts of nonsense about the danger and difficulty of handling nuclear waste from a modern facility, because the very word nuclear gives a lot of people the vapours. As well as that weird subset of climate alarmists whose real concern isn’t global warming, it’s forcing us to adopt socialism and austerity, so they don’t want carbon capture or nuclear power to work. But reactor designs have improved enormously over the years, especially in countries with functioning systems of self-government where citizens’ safety concerns must be taken into account.
And another thing. Whereas solar panels and wind turbines have an annoying habit of taking over prime farmland or sensitive ecosystems, including the ones now accused of killing endangered right whales off the east coast of the United States, and wind farms particularly are infamous for their impact on birds and insects, you can put a nuclear reactor in any number of otherwise undesirable locations (provided those places aren’t seismically unstable) and they have remarkably little impact on anything except your power supply.
Of course it’s possible to muff reactor design in various ways, for instance as the Japanese did at Fukushima including putting the emergency diesel generators in the basement of a seaside facility so if there was a flood, they’d be useless. (And then ignore warnings about this obvious blunder.) But it’s possible to muff a lot of things including building an entire electrical system around unreliable power sources in insufficient amounts. Nuclear done right is very reliable, ecologically friendly, potentially cheap and durable. What’s not to love? And if you’re a woke politician (but we repeat ourselves at least in Canada) Bruce Power even starts their website with a “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion” statement followed by an “Indigenous Land Acknowledgement” that seeks “true reconciliation” which beats the fake kind. As, indeed, true power beats the fake kind.
It’s a bit annoying that people need to be in the grip of an imaginary panic to make a sensible decision. But in politics you sometimes have to take what you can get, and it does make sense to build nuclear energy especially if (are you listening, Europeans?) the alternative is to take yourself hostage to Vladimir Putin’s natural gas. Even if you do it for the wrong reason.
Which you might, because rationality is in short supply on this issue. The National Post news story added that:
“A report late last year by the Independent Electricity System Operator found that the province could fully eliminate natural gas from the electricity system by 2050, starting with a moratorium in 2027, but it will require about $400 billion in capital spending and more generation including new, large-scale nuclear plants.”
And given politicians’ ambitions to triple generating capacity in under three decades, perhaps they shouldn’t be hurrying to shut anything but their mouths. But if they’re going to say CO2 is bad, and be sensible about the surprisingly large costs and small benefits of various “renewables”, they should be opening nuclear plants as fast as they can clear their own regulatory hurdles. If indeed they can do so.