Yesterday I wrote about why I am sanguine about mankind’s prospects of reducing emissions of man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) on the scale necessary to curb anthropogenic climate change. There is a solution, an obvious and easy one; that solution is nuclear energy. I know it doesn’t seem easy. But that is because the world has been for too long bombarded with off-base prescriptions about cutting energy use as a solution to climate change, as if there is a direct and automatic relationship between energy use and CO2.
There is a direct line to increased CO2, if the energy comes from burning fossil fuels. But you can increase energy from nuclear plants all you want, and you won’t see an increase in CO2. That’s because fission releases no CO2; it’s a nuclear process, not a chemical one.
This false assumption—that increased energy use automatically means increased CO2—is the offspring of the anti-nuclear lobby. In some jurisdictions this lobby punches, politically, far above its actual intellectual weight. Anti-nuke policy recommendations are built on such a flimsy basis that it would be comical if it hadn’t led to the dumping of such obscene amounts of CO2 into our air. Some politicians have not clued into this. Some of these are in the elected government of Quebec. But not for long. The Parti Québecois government that canned the refurbishment of the Gentilly-2 CANDU nuclear plant in favour of natural gas was trounced in yesterday’s general provincial election.
Of course, Gentilly-2 did not play that prominent a role in the election campaign. In fact it probably played no role at all, other than in the riding in which the reactor is located and where a lot of the (lost) jobs are. Nevertheless, both the Liberals, who won a huge majority tonight, and the Coalition Avenir Québec, which came third after the Liberals and PQ, protested against the permanent closure of Quebec’s biggest CO2-free generator.
Does that mean G-2 will be refurbished instead of permanently shut? I don’t know. But the chances are suddenly much improved.
And that is good news for the planet.