Quebec anti-nukes go down in flames: EXCELLENT news for the environment

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.

Silly anti-nuclear fearmongering pranks by groups like Greenpeace were actually taken seriously by Quebec’s soon-to-be-former Parti Québecois government, which spent a lot of its time pandering to that portion of the voting public. Unfortunately for the PQ, they should have pandered to bigger, more important, and better informed constituencies.

Silly anti-nuclear fearmongering pranks by groups like Greenpeace were actually taken seriously by Quebec’s soon-to-be-former Parti Québecois government, which spent a lot of its time pandering to that portion of the voting public. Unfortunately for the PQ, that precious time was utterly wasted. They should have pandered to bigger, more important, and better informed constituencies.

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.

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6 years ago

I calculated that Gentilly is only sufficient to produce about 3% of Quebec’s electricity demand.  Perhaps it’s NOT needed at current levels of demand… unless HQ intends to increase exports.

A “Clean Up Quebec” campaign, replacing fossil fuels with electricity (in cars, in heating air and water, in everything) might be a way to boost demand and cut CO2 emissions.

chris
6 years ago
Reply to  Steve Aplin

They did sell lots of power to NE. Check out the ISO NE website.

jmdesp
6 years ago
Reply to  chris

Given the price that NE power reached during the cold wave, a little bit more would have been a lot of money.

6 years ago
Reply to  jmdesp

Sadly, you can’t build a reliable business on rare spot-market events, and anything that alleviated the power shortage would have eliminated the cause of the high prices.

Johhny M.
6 years ago

Anyone know if anything has yet been done to Gentilly that would make a refurb. impractical?

Jaro Franta
6 years ago

Actually Steve, as shown in this cartoon, the Parti Québecois government canned the refurbishment of the Gentilly-2 CANDU nuclear plant in favour of windmills: Note the “AUX VERTS! XX” ticket dangling from the tip of the wind turbine. The “XX” by the way signifies “kisses.” It’s a reference to her gratitude for the greens’ support of the PQ in the 2012 election.

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A quote from a recent article in the Montreal Gazette:
“Three former environmental activists were appointed as provincial ministers, the government shut down the Gentilly-2 nuclear power plant, extended a …”

http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/words+environment/9665161/story.html

Regarding your comment that “Gentilly-2 … 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.”
In fact there were at least four ridings where Gentilly-2 was an important political issue.
Pro-G2 LIB candidates won in all of them, including Trois-Rivieres and Champlain (CAQ, also pro-G2, won in Niclolet-Becancour).

Just for interest, the very popular pro-G2 LIB politician Danielle St-Amand resigned for health reasons last February, and was replaced by equally pro-G2 candidate Jean-Denis Girard (see linked pic).

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Both were very actively supporting the G2 refurb project and participated in demonstrations and other popular events.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=489976894353295&set=a.391378354213150.98879.108833445800977&type=1

It will be interesting what Girard and other elected candidates will say on the issue in the coming months.

However, I disagree that “the chances are suddenly much improved” for a refurb of G2: For the leadership of the Liberal party, they are probably grateful to the PQ for having made the decision to shut the reactor permanently – they now have an excuse (“It’s too far down the decommissioning road”) and someone to blame (the PQ).

Morgan Brown
6 years ago

Several people I’ve talked to (all nuclear industry employees) have wondered about the effect (if any) that the election will have on G-2. Essentially, we have no data (i.e., nothing from Hydro Quebec or the Liberal party to hint at any possible change). I agree with Jaro’s view that the deed is done with little or no prospect of any other outcome.

However, I was completely wrong about Bruce A (I thought it would never rise again) – I would be delighted to be proved wrong respecting G-2!

Michael
6 years ago
Reply to  Morgan Brown

What would be really cool would be if the reactor was refurbished and used to test advanced fuel concepts…e.g. thorium.

You could use conventional fuel in most of the channels and reserve a few channels for test fuel.

Sell some electricity to recover some of the costs…

crf
6 years ago

I don’t think G2 will be refurbished. But you never know. I think it is a casualty of low economic growth.

It may depend on what the Federal government does with regards to its climate and nuclear policy.

It’s really sad that very few governments in western world now bother to plan for any potential crises. Climate change and energy policy are not the only casualties of poor planning: Unemployment, low growth, inequality, conflict, population growth and resource use.

Maybe they’ll start to take these problems seriously, especially since the Ukraine crisis shows how dangerously sour things can get, quickly, even in relatively advanced countries.

6 years ago
Reply to  Steve Aplin

Actually, the executive summary of the IPCC report says this (p. 15, emphasis added):

a tripling to nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero? and low?carbon energy supply from renewables, nuclear energy and fossil energy with carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), or bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) by the year 2050

So it’s there, it’s just not emphasized nearly as much as it should be compared to its demonstrated capability.

6 years ago
Reply to  Steve Aplin

Sadly, the people who write the IPCC consensus report aren’t acting as scientists.  They’re acting as representatives of their governments, and “consensus” means one clown can cast a veto.

It would be good to have a process which determines which governments are responsible for these anti-scientific elements, and remove them from participation.