Darlington refurbishment hearings are about how much carbon dioxide to dump into Ontario’s air

The usual lobby groups are saying the usual things at and about the proposed Darlington nuclear plant refurbishment in Courtice Ontario. Greenpeace, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, and the Sierra Club—to name just a few of the groups opposing the project—are recycling their tired, predictable, warmed-over tripe, vaguely prophesying apocalyptic doom if the Darlington refurbishment goes ahead. On the supporter side, the groups tend to be closer to the Darlington host community or involved directly in working at the plant.

I think that the latter are the ones with credibility: they have lived with, and worked in, the plant for decades. They know the safety issue like the back of their hand. If they say it is safe, I believe them. This is often used against them: opponents of nuclear energy claim that supporters’ self-interest de-legitimizes their case. They resort to that claim because the rest of their arguments are so qualitatively and quantitatively inferior to the pro-nuclear case that that is essentially all they can go on. Nuclear is demonstrably cheap, reliable, safe, and clean. So opponents say the opposite, and hope no one sees through their innumerate and hyperbolic non-logic. And if people do see through it, they play the self-interest card. It’s like claiming air travel is unsafe, and using airplane pilots’ self-interest to back up the claim. “Of course an airplane pilot will say air travel is safe. His job depends on many others believing it.” Well, of course. But his life also depends on it.

A CANDU Calandria, the heart of the CANDU system. Bundles of fresh uranium fuel are inserted in the front end of each of the tubes that run horizontally through the calandria; used fuel is pulled out the other. There are four such calandrias at the Darlington nuclear generating on Lake Ontario. In just over two years, the tubes in each of them will need to be replaced.

So it is with nuclear plant workers who are pro nuclear. Yes their job depends on continued support for nuclear energy. But since they are the ones who run the plants, who show up at eight and leave at four, five days a week, year after year, doesn’t that make them authorities on nuclear safety? I’ll believe them before I believe some Greenpeace activist who is paid to say it’s not safe.

And really, what is the alternative? As I have pointed out, Darlington generates enough electricity to power the City of Toronto 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It has not put any greenhouse emissions into the air we breathe. If we abandon this plant, then Toronto and other Ontario communities will run on natural gas, a carbon heavy fossil fuel.

Have a look at Table 2 in the left-hand sidebar. As I was writing this article, Table 2 indicated that natural gas-fired power plants across the province had emitted 10,455 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, between midnight and noon on December 4, 2012.

Ten thousand four hundred fifty-five metric tons of carbon dioxide, in 12 hours. If nuclear plants had provided that electricity, they would have dumped zero metric tons of CO2 into our air.

That is what this is about.

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11 years ago

As a nuclear worker, I ask why we don’t have pro nuclear articles such as this in the local and major newspapers?

George Carlin
11 years ago
Reply to  Peter

Steve’s articles should be a regular column in the energy section of the majority of newspapers in Ontario. The nuclear industry NEEDS to start promoting itself with fact based articles like this.

11 years ago

Great post Steve as usual. Nuclear is the backbone of the Ontario electricity system and something to be very proud of.

This past month the new World Energy Outlook (WEO) was issued by the IEA. It made headlines this year when it reported that the USA will become the world’s largest producer of oil by 2017, exceeding Saudi Arabia. But of more importance, it says the world is going down the same unsustainable path – more coal, much more gas, more renewables and less nuclear – all leading to a future where we can’t meet carbon reduction targets. It clearly demonstrates both the impact of a decline in nuclear and why there is a need for more (in my view). http://bit.ly/RztnYM
Let’s continue to lead the way in Ontario and demonstrate how nuclear power can provide safe, reliable, efficient and economic electricity to fuel our economy.

Robert Kostiuk
11 years ago

It is so refreshing to see facts and data presented instead of the usual rant about it being unsafe just because it is “nuclear”

I’m still an undergraduate chemistry student, but I’ve also been a nuclear energy worker for the past 3 years. I’ve found that no matter how calmly and logically you explain the fundamentals of radiation and radioactivity, those who just want it gone will always try and scare others into thinking the same way.

Excellent article! I too think that it would be wonderful if such articles were posted in newspapers.

11 years ago

I came back to this article after http://talknuclear.ca/index.php/2012/12/cna-endorses-opgs-applications-for-renewal-of-darlington-facilities/ to check on whether gas or coal is responsible for more CO2 in Ontario electricity generation. Answer, today 6 Dec, is that they are roughly tied. Gas is ahead on the day so far but producing at a slightly lower rate.

Essentially this means that Ontario has almost reached the point where installing gas generation automatically increases CO2 output. Definitely, if its main purposes is to support intermittent sources.

James Greenidge
11 years ago

Ditto cubed for what Peter and George said! Steve, just for the heck of it, submit your prose to those major newspapers and media outlets (they don’t regard articles submitted by a “fan”). I’d really like to hear their excuses for not running something educational instead of hot dog eating and poodle massaging contests.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

11 years ago

At this point I would rather breath CO2 then radiation. Radiation emissions seem to be left out of the article.