Two days ago, Greenpeace’s nuclear point-man in Canada, Shawn-Patrick Stensil, told the Toronto Star he thinks creating a short-list of reactor makers will save Ontario time and money as it embarks on a new wave of nuclear generation investment.
He didn’t say Ontario should never have gone nuclear in the first place—which has been Greenpeace’s line since the group was formed thirty-seven years ago—or that Ontario should replace nuclear and coal plants with renewables and conservation.
Has Greenpeace climbed off its anti-nuclear position? Not according to an activist I spoke to yesterday. But Stensil’s comment speaks for itself. When the chief anti-nuclear group passes on an opportunity to advertise cherished dogma, you have to wonder if maybe they’ve acquired some intellectual flexibility over the past while.
It all comes down to the value you place on a tonne of carbon dioxide. Mainstream greens, almost all of them anti-nuclear, have been the loudest voice in favour of meeting Kyoto targets. Their problem is that the hated atom produced a 15 million tonne reduction in Ontario’s power-sector greenhouse gases (GHGs) between 2003 and 2006. This was the biggest reduction in any industrial sector anywhere in North America since the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997.
This has produced a policy crisis for the part of the green lobby that is active on the Ontario electricity file. Plan A, the phaseout of Ontario coal generation and its replacement with natural gas–fired generation, went down the tubes in 2003 when the price of gas went above $5 per million Btu and stayed there. Plan B, a call for renewables coupled with energy conservation and efficiency, was instantly discredited as futile and expensive. Meanwhile, Ontario’s proportional shift from coal to nuclear produced the 15 million tonne reduction—without the closure of a single proscribed coal plant. The greens must have known that sooner or later they would just have to face facts.
Have they reached that point? Stensil’s remark suggests they have.