We need two things to deal with rapidly worsening climate change: speed and impact. Nuclear power can deliver neither.
First nuclear plants take a long time to plan and build. Getting a nuclear plant built in a decade is considered an accomplishment. Compare that to the weeks or months it takes to erect a wind turbine or deploy solar panels. The one thing new nuclear projects are known for is costly delays and problems. We have waited far too long to take effective action on climate change. We simply can’t afford to wait for snail-like nuclear projects to address the problem.
The second big problem with nuclear as a climate solution is cost. Nuclear is now the highest cost ways to keep our lights on, which is why nuclear plants are either closing or begging for subsidies worldwide. We get far less “bang for our buck” from nuclear than from renewable energy or energy efficiency when it comes to reducing climate pollution. With less than a decade left to slash emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, betting on slow, expensive and often unreliable nuclear technology is not the answer.
Now OPG is proposing to build a new reactor at the Darlington Nuclear Station in the GTA. Power from this reactor will cost an astronomical 16.3 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). This makes no sense at a time when solar and wind projects are delivering power for 3-7 cents per kWh and Quebec is offering to sell us waterpower at 5 cents per kWh. As well, OPG is planning to use untested technology that only exists on paper — there are no examples of this technology in commercial operation anywhere. And, of course, because we have no long-term storage solutions in place for the radioactive waste this reactor will continue to produce, its waste will continue to be stored in temporary facilities on the shore of Lake Ontario. This project is a dangerous and costly distraction from what we really need to be doing to address climate change — increasing efficiency, expanding renewable energy and cooperating with Quebec.