Build them fast, and start now: why Ontario needs new nuclear reactors

Readers of this site will have noticed a new bit of information at the upper left, in Item A1. It is the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), as measured at the Keeling observatory in Mauna Loa, Hawaii. Today’s reading is 396.59 parts per million. That means that 0.04 percent—two-fiftieths—of the atmosphere is CO2. Doesn’t sound like much. But it’s far higher than it has been at any time in the last 800,000 years. And according to climate scientists, it’s why the planet is warming. And it’s not good news.

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization. He recently told Reuters “Past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable. We are running out of time.”

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization. He recently told Reuters “Past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable. We are running out of time.”

Why is it not good news? Because the global concentration of CO2, already higher than it has been in the last 800,000 years, is growing faster than it has at any time in human history. Models of the thermal effect of the extra CO2 in the atmosphere predict that a 450 ppm level will produce an average temperature rise of 2° Celsius. We’re on track to hit 450 ppm in twenty years.

Past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable. We are running out of time.—Michele Jarraud, secretary-general World Meteorological Organization

The World Meteorological Organization recently announced that the past two years have seen the biggest increase in CO2 concentrations since people began measuring the concentrations. Reuters quotes WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud as saying

The world has the knowledge and tools to keep global warming within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), a U.N. goal set in 2010.

Mr. Jarraud is right. We do have the tools. He was perhaps referring to his native France’s big fleet of nuclear reactors, which make most of France’s electricity. French electricity, kilowatt-hour for kilowatt-hour, is five times cleaner and half as expensive as the electricity in neighboring Germany. A kilowatt-hour of French electricity comes with roughly 77 grams of CO2 and costs roughly 17 cents at the household level; a kWh of German electricity with 477 grams and costs 33 cents.

Mr. Jarraud also is quoted as having said this:

Pleading ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not acting.

He is absolutely right. We know how to run a modern advanced society with no carbon. France makes most of its electricity right this minute with a known, proven technology. My home province of Ontario also does: right this minute, nuclear reactors, Canadian-designed and -made, are making more than 65 percent of the electricity that is running my computer (see Table A1 on the left).

We here in Ontario have been endlessly debating whether to build new nuclear reactors at the Darlington site. We should take Mr. Jarraud’s words to heart. We should take the decision to build new reactors. And we should start now. It’s our responsibility to the planet.

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Pete51
6 years ago

France’s grid operator has its own CIPK real-time display, though they don’t call it that.
http://www.rte-france.com/en/sustainable-development/eco2mix/national-data/co2-emissions-per-kwh-of-electricity-generated-in-france

Currently at 29 grams CO2/kwh.

6 years ago

France’s power isn’t 5 times as clean as Germany’s.  It’s more than SIX times as clean.

Let the Gauls gall the German Greens on that score.

Pete51
6 years ago
Reply to  Engineer-Poet

But the New York Times lauds Germany for being a green energy leader.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/science/earth/sun-and-wind-alter-german-landscape-leaving-utilities-behind.html?_r=0

Intentions are more important than results.

6 years ago

When Harper decided to sell AECL to SNC Lavalin for a measly $15 Million he may not intentionally but the effect is the same. He was essentially saying nuclear energy is not important or worth fussing over. Ontario has had a progressive view on energy but the local attitude is that while the nuclear industry is thriving let’s not rock the boat for fear of punishment from Harper. The Chalk River has only one year left. Gentilly in Quebec could have been saved with a sensible leader in power. That is big news when the only nuclear reactor in Quebec is being shut down. It should have gotten federal attention but it did not. Harper did not care and his selected staff did nothing. For new reactors to come back online we need a change of government.

6 years ago
Reply to  Rick Maltese

I know it is a provincial issue but AECL was federal and nuclear power’s success affects the record of the whole country in regards to our nations emissions of CO2.

Maury Markowitz
6 years ago
Reply to  Rick Maltese

> Harper did not care

Harper cared a tremendous amount – about closing it down ASAP. He never hid this from anyone.

People forget that half the money for AECL’s $20 billion budget to 2006 came from outside Ontario, yet almost all of that money went to Ontario.

This fact was not lost on the west, let me assure you. Where’s Harper from again? Oh, right…

> nuclear power’s success affects the record of the whole country
> in regards to our nations emissions of CO2

52% of the country’s power comes from hydro, making Canada one of the lowest CO2 emitters for electricity in the industrialized world.

Ontario is flat in that regard, so your conclusion appears incorrect.