June 3, 2016
Decommission Pickering and invest in renewable energy
Critics of Ontario’s plan to extend the life of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station say the plant should be laid to rest. Re: In defence of Pickering Nuclear, letters, June 1
Re: In defence of Pickering Nuclear, letters, June 1
In the last couple of months the Star publishes two four-page pro-nuclear ads, then allows Mr. Gibbons a column to say “Too much trust in old nuclear plants,” but subsequently prints two letters refuting two days later!
Could you not find even one letter to point out that the Pickering station is not running on all cylinders?
Out of eight reactors, two have been out of service, idle, not making power. Fifty-four reactor years with no electricity!
Furthermore, the Power Workers’ Union is just plain stubborn — and wrong — when they say that fossil fuel is the only alternative to nuclear. All countries are building the alternatives — solar, wind, electricity storage, etc. These are going up surprisingly fast. Will readers of the Star get to know that most everywhere, except in Ontario, investments in nuclear are disappearing?
William Shore, Sutton, Ont.
The CEO of Ontario Power Generation claims that a Pickering extension enjoys strong community support in Pickering. That’s only because people don’t know about it.
OPG has been promising the closure of the plant for a decade. First in 2007, then in 2013, and then in 2018. Now we hear they want to extend it till 2024. When will it end? Will they ask for another five years after that? And so on and so on? This plant opened in 1971 with an expected lifespan of 30 years. It’s now 45.
I think the nuclear plants are actually hampering economic growth eastward along the Toronto-Montreal corridor.
The residents of Pickering have done our time. We’ve carried the risk for the rest of Ontario. We want our safety back, our waterfront, our peace of mind. Shut it down.
Barbara Pulst, Pickering
Some of your letter-writers suggest nuclear power can help address climate change. But if we look at the whole nuclear system — including uranium production — we find nuclear is not climate-friendly. Writing in Scientific American, Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi argue, “Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered.”
If we want to protect Torontonians from extreme weather, we should ramp up renewable sources such as wind and solar. Doing so would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, because air and sunlight are free, help contain costs for consumers.
Gideon Forman, Climate Change and Transportation Policy Analyst, David Suzuki Foundation, Toronto
What a pity that two senior executives from OPG and its union have to resort to shallow, childish rebukes of a perfectly sound column by Jack Gibbons to make their points. Each clearly has a vested interest in the status quo.
The fact is that the Pickering complex is aging, along with which goes increased risk arising as the current licensing is due to expire.
When confronted with this situation, Hydro Quebec’s CEO counterpart to Mr. Lyash, the CEO of OPG, did the right thing and closed their nuclear plant while asking, “Would you fly in a plane flying beyond its approved life?”
Independent opinions by recognized experts are on the record as recommending that the Pickering licence not be extended beyond its current mandate.
A future-oriented alternative based on hydro power from Quebec is already spelled out, which will not only be more economical but add to the long-term reliability of each province’s supply and seasonal balance.
Jobs will not be lost by moving in this direction.
The agency through which Pickering’s licence extension will be considered, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, gets funding for two-thirds of its annual costs to the very nuclear operations it supervises.
By any normal standards of oversight, this might be considered a potential conflict of interest, especially when CNSC deals exclusively with the nuclear file.
Roger J. Short, Kimberley, Ont.
It’s always telling when management and unions agree on something. OPG executives and the Power Workers’ Union are trying to convince you to protect and subsidize their fat jobs. Just take a look at the sunshine list and you’ll see why. Even some shift managers earn over $400,000 a year. You won’t see those salary levels in the hydroelectric, wind and solar industries. That’s partially why renewable energy is now the least expensive option for electricity.
Jack Gibbons has presented a compelling case as to why we don’t need Pickering. What he didn’t point out, though, is that the building and operation of nuclear plants is a dying business. There hasn’t been a CANDU reactor sold in 30 years. Globally, the International Energy Agency has reported that almost 200 of the 434 reactors operating at the end of 2013 will need to be retired by 2040.
The real future is in decommissioning.
Ontario has already set aside the funds for retiring old plants. We should tap into those funds and employ the skilled professionals at OPG in a real growth industry — the decommissioning of obsolete nuclear plants. They’re going to have to do so anyway. Let’s give them a head start.
Malcolm W. Hamilton, Toronto
On April 20, 2012, the Ontario Energy Board issued its report Incentive Regulation Options for Ontario Power Generation’s Prescribed Generation Assets. In the executive summary of this report we read: “With respect to nuclear operations, the benchmarking analyses that have been performed indicate that OPG’s nuclear units have performed poorly, and dramatically so with respect to the Pickering units.
The benchmarking analyses referred to by the OEB are based on an independent study carried out by ScottMadden. Their report evaluated the performance of OPG’s nuclear facilities against worldwide nuclear industry benchmarks and show that the Pickering A and B plants have among the worst, and on some measures the worst, operating records among the plants in the World Association of Nuclear Operators and Electric Utility Cost Group databases.
This alone should give us reason to close the Pickering nuclear station immediately.
Furthermore, on certain of the 19 indices in the ScottMadden report, including some key indicators, the Pickering units are not only the worst performers in North America, but they achieve this distinction by a wide margin. For example, Pickering A1, B7 and A4 all have forced loss rates (FLR) over 30 per cent; no other North American pressurized water or pressurized heavy water reactor has an FLR over 20 per cent.
The 2015 update of the ScottMadden report shows very little improvement in the performance of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.
Question: Are these not compelling reasons to close Pickering immediately?
Dr. F. R. Greening, retired OPG senior research scientist, Hamilton
It is not surprising that the two letters you published extolling the virtues of nuclear power came from an employee and a union representing employees. Both letters are misleading.
Nuclear power is very safe. There are around 450 nuclear reactors operating around the world and there have only been three disastrous failures: Three-Mile Island (U.S.A.), Chernobyl (Ukraine) and Fukushima (Japan). The latter was caused by a tsunami, not a failure of the plant itself. However, it also illustrates the weakness of nuclear power and one of its hidden subsidies.
The likelihood of failure is very low, but the damage such a failure causes is incalculably huge. For this reason, no commercial insurer will touch a nuclear plant. Rather they are “insured” by the state, which will be forced to clean up and compensate victims should a disaster strike.
Ontario’s nuclear plants are only able to supply electricity at a relatively low price because the debt incurred during their construction was “lifted” off their shoulders by Premier Mike Harris. (He was probably thinking of selling them.) How much is this worth? Well, I invite readers to contemplate how much wealthier they would feel if they did not have a mortgage…
Comparing the cost of nuclear generation to gas generators is inappropriate. The nuclear plants are “base-load generators;” their power is meant to be “cheap.” The gas plants are “peakers,” idle much of the time, only springing into action when demand is high because nuclear generators cannot boost (or lower) their output quickly. They are not “load following.” When we are forced to sell electricity to our neighbours at bargain rates, we are largely selling electrons generated by the nukes!
Yet another subsidy to nuclear power is the willful ignorance of our politicians on the subject of nuclear waste. For the moment it is in temporary storage, generally on site and above ground. As long as the nuclear power plants are operating, we don’t think too much about this waste.
However, once they are shut down, people are going to wonder whether they can — somehow — use the prime lakefront properties. Then they will realize that they cannot because of the many tonnes of highly radioactive material which the inner workings of the plant and its spent fuel rods represent.
One way or another, this radioactive material will have to be stored safely (away from terrorists certainly) for at least 200,000 years. The cost of this storage will be borne by future taxpayers, essentially forever.
How long is 200,000 years? Well, 200,000 years ago, Homo neanderthalensis still existed andHomo sapiens was only just emerging. Looking ahead 200,000 years, it is entirely possible — even likely — that Homo sapiens will have vanished too!
The bottom line is that nuclear power is not as inexpensive as its proponents would have us believe!
Peter Bursztyn, Barrie