How much carbon pollution will Ontario’s electricity generating sector dump into the air after 2020, when the Pickering B nuclear station comes out of service and there are multi-year refurbishment outages at the Bruce and Darlington nuclear plants? Remember that by 2020 the Pickering station, which today represents 3,090 megawatts of zero-carbon generating capacity (6 units at 515 MW each) will have been retired. That will leave 9,720 MW of nuclear capacity, of which roughly 6,400 MW will be in service as the refurbishments proceed.
So what does all this mean for our atmosphere, which we have all pledged to protect from unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions?
The answer is depressing.
The table below shows the Ontario grid generation mix on a fairly typical hot summer weekday last July—July 18 2013 to be exact.
|average CIPK over period: 194.05 grams|
As usual, the nuclear fleet did by far most of the heavy lifting on that sweltering day, providing more than half Ontario’s power. What is alarming is the sheer amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that came with the power that the combustible-fuel sources provided: more than 103,000 metric tons, 61,617 tons of which came from allegedly clean natural gas-fired plants.
Unfortunately, it may turn out that that was Ontario’s finest hour in the war on climate change. With last week’s announcement that new nuclear units have been cancelled, our once-proud province is set to re-carbonize our grid in a big way. In 2020, the Pickering station, as I mentioned, will be retired. Only around 6,400 megawatts of Canadian-made CO2-free capacity will be available to the grid.
Let’s say that in the summer of 2020 we get another July weekday similar to July 18 2013. Let’s say Ontario generators are called on to provide another 535 million kWh like they were on July 18 2013. (That of course assumes there is no increase in Ontario demand, which is a dangerous assumption. But let’s just assume it for the sake of argument.)
Well, here is how that day will look from the point of view of the war on climate change:
|average CIPK over period: 286.99 grams|
As you can see, we will have dumped nearly 50,000 additional tons of CO2 into our air.
Over one single year, that replacement of roughly 4,800 MW of CO2-free nuclear with CO2-heavy natural gas will mean that we dump more than 23 million tons of CO2 into our air.
That just about wipes out the stunning progress Ontario has made on climate change over the past decade.
I know that that stunning progress has gone almost entirely ignored by everyone (a notable exception is Margaret Wente, who pointed it up in her Globe and Mail column last July).
But just because anti-nuclear “environmentalists” ignore it does not mean the earth has not noticed. Atmospheric CO2, already grievously imbalanced because of human use of fossil fuels like the natural gas the “greens” have been selling, has an impact on the earth. It throws natural atmospheric thermodynamics out of whack. It absorbs in to the world’s oceans, turning them more acidic.
Ontario was on track to leading the world in proving you can run a modern jurisdiction on electricity that is admirably low in CO2. We could have charged toward world-beating climate change progress like an express train. The recently announced decision to cancel new reactors at the Darlington plant has sent us careening off those rails.