Canadians are energy gluttons.
We consume more energy per person per year than the Americans and almost twice as much as the British, French, Germans, or Japanese without major differences in standards of living. Conserving energy can save us money and shield us from inflation without discomfort.
A 2018 World Economic Forum study reported the levelized cost of a unit of electricity from nuclear energy is $148, coal: $102, solar: $50 and wind: $48. But it’s not just about financial costs. Nuclear power plants are cleaner than coal without carbon emissions, soot, and mercury vapours. Coal is a major cause of air pollution, disease and death.
A 2000 study by the Toronto Board of Health showed that 1,000 people died annually in Ontario while another 5,000 were hospitalized because of air pollution from fossil fuel combustion. That’s why Ontario closed its coal-fired power plants in favour of nuclear and renewable energy. Nuclear power plants provide cleaner power on demand when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.
One drawback to nuclear energy is location. Nobody wants to live near a nuclear power plant so it takes 10 to 15 years to find a site.
By comparison, the American Ivanpah concentrated solar thermal power plant took five years from conception to full operation.
A second drawback is a cost-effective solution to the long-term storage of radioactive waste. A third drawback is high capital cost.
For the Darlington, Ont. nuclear power plant, the site was excavated to bedrock, an artificial harbour was built, and the world’s largest mobile crane was manufactured for the plant’s construction. The volume of concrete used in nuclear power plants is staggering. Concrete manufacturing carries a high carbon footprint.
A fourth drawback is security. At Darlington, the facility is surrounded by a giant dyke within a gnarly fence monitored by armed security personnel 24/7. Wind turbines are built in unguarded pastures. Terrorists don’t target wind turbines because there is no risk of a nuclear meltdown.
Drawbacks aside, Canada’s CANDU nuclear technology has proven to be reliable. Canada has abundant uranium and Canada has decades of experience working safely with nuclear energy.
The Conservative Party of Canada is floundering to find a Climate Crisis strategy palatable to its base.
Why not an ambitious energy conservation program to cut per capita energy consumption one third, replace one third of Canada’s current coal-generated electricity with nuclear power, and supply one third of Canada’s electricity from wind and solar by 2030?
A 3-3-3 by 2030 program would painlessly reduce carbon emissions, supply secure Canadian-sourced electricity, create thousands of good paying jobs, and offer a balanced alternative to the Liberals contradictory “everything-to-everyone” energy policy.
3-3-3 by 2030 is practical, fiscally responsible, conservative policy that visionary Tories such as Robert Stanfield, Flora MacDonald, Bill Davis and Peter Lougheed would have embraced to balance social stability with individual freedoms.
Editorial by Robert M. Macrae