Ontario’s nuclear generating fleet set a millennial monthly output record in March: it generated 8.72 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity (see the 2015 tab on this table). The fleet ran at an average power output of 11,717 megawatts through every one of the 2,678,400 seconds that made up the month, far more than enough to transport every millilitre of Toronto’s water from Lake Ontario through innumerable kilometers of pipes and up into every home, apartment, and condo in the city.
If that does not impress you, well try outputting an average of say 200 watts on a Concept 2 rower over a duration of let’s say one minute. Then imagine what it takes to output 58 million times that much, over 44,640 minutes.
Running a fleet of machines like this with such second-by-second, hour-by-hour, day-by-day reliability, for hundreds of days at a time, is a feat of technological excellence and managerial skill that often goes unrecognized. So let me recognize it now. Let me offer my congratulations to the employees of Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power: congratulations for your amazing record in March, and for your amazing work always. You keep the lights on in this great province.
In light of demonstrable, unequivocal, real world climate change effects—sea level rise, increased storm intensity, and hotter heat waves—and in light of the unprecedented concentrations of CO2 that are being measured right now in ambient air in Hawaii, it is very encouraging to see such a magnificent nuclear output record in Ontario. Other jurisdictions that do not have a nuclear fleet would have, in the course of generating 8.76 billion kWh to run their societies, dumped gargantuan amounts of CO2 into the air.
And you did it without dumping a single gram of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the global atmosphere. Too many of us have treated the atmosphere like a giant garbage dump, to the point where the concentration of this greenhouse gas is now over 403 parts per million (see Item A1 in the upper right; it displays the latest reading from the Keeling CO2 Observatory in Hawaii).
A lot of people have taken the recently-ended winter, which was brutally cold in this part of the world, as proof that the theory of global warming is wrong. That is like saying that because I have just had a good hearty breakfast the theory of global hunger is wrong.
It certainly was a brutally cold winter here in eastern North America. And it was even colder in the mid-North Atlantic. But across the planet—and we should never forget we do live on a planet—it was among the warmest northern hemisphere winters on record. See the NOAA chart below. Note the blue in eastern North America, indicating temperatures 3° to 4° cooler than normal. I can personally attest to that—I spent the entire duration depicted in the chart in this region. It was cold. But also note the red, in many cases deep red, indicating temperature increases of similar magnitude, across most of the rest of the northern hemisphere.
According to this RealClimate article, the slowdown in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC, the major ocean current in the Atlantic Ocean)—a slowdown predicted in climate change models—may be the greatest such slowdown in the past 1,000 years. If this proves true, then what we are experiencing is a hugely dramatic physical effect of man-made CO2 emissions.
The alleged link between global warming and the AMOC slowdown has at this point not been proven; it is, as the RealClimate authors emphasize, just a hypothesis. But it is a compelling one. Especially alongside the other effects, likewise predicted in climate models, such as storms of increased intensity, sea-level rise, and hotter heat waves. These phenomena are not hypothetical. They are happening.
So, just as we should not take that wonderful feeling of having a belly full of good food to mean all people everywhere are similarly well fed, we should not confuse the steady minus-double-digits in eastern North America from mid-January to the end of February of this year with proof that global warming is not happening. It is happening.
In light of these real world phenomena—sea level rise, increased storm intensity, and hotter heat waves—and in light of the unprecedented concentration of CO2 that are being measured right now in Hawaii, it is very encouraging to see such a magnificent nuclear output record in Ontario. Other jurisdictions that do not have a nuclear fleet would have, in the course of generating 8.76 billion kWh to run their societies, dumped gargantuan amounts of CO2 into the air.
Ontario is going, within two weeks, to see what life is like with a big chunk of the nuclear fleet unavailable. The Bruce B station, which not only through the incredible month of March 2015 but since it entered service beginning in 1984, will come offline for a scheduled vacuum building outage. The VBO will last for about a month.
During that time, Ontario will get Bruce B’s 3,000 megawatts not from wind turbines or solar panels. It will get them not from “negawatts” a bogus conservation notion invented by Amory Lovins to pretend we don’t need electricity. No, Ontario will get those 3,000 megawatts from gas-fired power plants.
Right now (10:03 EST on April 02 2015) the CIPK of Ontario grid electricity is 24.3 grams. During the Bruce B VBO, it will be, in my estimation, not lower than 100 grams, four times as high. At most times of the day it will be higher.
There will be another VBO in Ontario this year; it will occur at the Darlington nuclear station which like Bruce B has a vacuum building as safety insurance against a LOCA (loss of coolant accident). I predict similar CIPK during the Darlington VBO.
What is troubling is that the entire Pickering nuclear station will come permanently out of service in around 2020. There are no plans to replace Pickering with new nuclear capacity.
Instead, Ontario will rely on carbon belching gas-fired plants, which will jack our CIPK permanently up to beyond 150 grams
Is this a nuclear error? I don’t have no fear. London might not be drowning, but many low lying coastal areas around the world will be, thanks to us in the industrialized rich west, who can but won’t stop using fossil fuels for power generation.