Pickering license renewal: to dump, or not to dump, nine million tons of carbon into our air every single year, for five more years

To dump or not to dump: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in Ontario to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous phony-green profiteering, or to take arms against a sea of carbon dioxide emissions, and by opposing—i.e., by extending the operating license of the Pickering nuclear generating station, which spews no carbon—end them… .

If you can complete the Pickering nuclear version of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, be my guest; post it as a comment.

The Pickering nuclear generating station on Lake Ontario just east of Toronto generates around 16.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. (Take capacity at 3,090 megawatts, assume a capacity factor of 60 percent, and multiply by 8,760 hours per year. That will give the total megawatt-hours. Multiply MWh by 1,000 to get total kilowatt-hours.)

The station’s output sells for 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is a regulated rate. That means that in addition to generating electricity, it also generates revenue for its owner, which is the Province of Ontario. So those 16.2 billion kWhs would fetch $893 million.

It is safe to assume that most if not all of that $893 million worth of electricity was sold to citizens and businesses in Ontario, and that they paid Harmonized Sales Tax on top of it. The HST rate is 13 percent, which means that $893 million in revenue to the province generated a further $116 million in tax revenue for the province and country (the HST is both a federal and provincial tax). Those $116 million therefore went to pay for schools and hospitals, and all the other things that are paid for with public dollars. I won’t get into the debate over whether the HST should or should not be applied to electricity. I’m just pointing out what is happening right now.

Most important, from an environmental point of view: Pickering’s electricity comes with no carbon dioxide emissions. That is extremely important when you consider the sheer amount of electricity the station generates. If Pickering’s 16.2 billion annual kWhs of electricity were to come from natural gas, an allegedly “clean” fossil fuel, then a massive waste disposal would occur, in the form of nearly 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, each and every year.

And where would this waste be dumped? Why, into Ontario’s (currently) crisp and pristine air. Not a single gram of the CO2 that is currently being produced in any of Ontario’s 51 fossil-fired generating plants is stored at the plant where it is produced. Every single gram of it gets dumped into Ontario’s air.

So if Pickering were not generating its annual 16.2 billion kWh of electricity, a gas-fired plant would be doing it, and dumping 9 million metric tons of CO2 into the air.

And the kicker is, the price we Ontarians pay for Pickering’s power—5.5 cents per kWh—is cheap. Only hydro and coal are cheaper. All the allegedly clean “green” sources, like solar and wind, cost much more than 5.5 cents. Wind under the FIT program is 11.5 cents, more than double Pickering nuclear; while the cheapest solar fetches a simply ridiculous 34.7 cents—more than six times the Pickering rate.

Neither wind nor solar can reliably provide electricity to power Ontario hospitals and schools, let alone high rise elevators. The sun these days sets at around four-thirty and does not reappear until between six and seven a.m., and even then there is no guarantee that clouds won’t obscure it. And who knows when the wind will blow. So wind and solar must be backed up with a power source that is reliable. In Ontario, the preferred backup is natural gas. Good luck finding out how much gas-fired power costs. That is a secret, shared between the government of Ontario and the owners of most gas-fired plants.

One thing is certain though. The owners of gas-fired plants don’t have to pay a dime to dump their waste product, CO2. That is a freebie.

Nuclear plants in Ontario, on the other hand, pay to manage their waste product, and they pay for that out of the revenue they receive from selling their low-priced electricity.

The Pickering station operating license is due for renewal. That means there will be a regulatory hearing; nuclear is regulated in Canada. The hearing will provide a forum for interested parties to have their say about whether the station license should be renewed. Interestingly, all the self-styled environmental lobbyists will call for the license application to be rejected.

They would rather see nine million metric tons of CO2 get dumped into Ontario’s air every year.

With friends like that, the environment doesn’t need any enemies.

3 comments for “Pickering license renewal: to dump, or not to dump, nine million tons of carbon into our air every single year, for five more years

  1. Udhishtir
    January 12, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Isn’t 60% capacity factor rather too pessimistic an assumption for a well proven and admired plant such as the Pickering GS? I would have thought that on an annual average basis, 85% CF would have been more realistic! Perhaps you wanted to say that “even with such a pessimistic assumption, PGS comes out with flying colors” :-)

    • January 12, 2013 at 7:33 am

      Pickering’s availability was probably much higher than its capacity factor.

    • January 12, 2013 at 8:39 am

      Udhishtir, yes that was a deliberate downgrading of the CF — it is probably usually higher than that. I wanted to say exactly what is in your quote. And the Poet is probably right — its availability has been higher especially in the last few years.

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