Nuclear industry study suggests that nuclear is better environmental choice than wind

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics
Canada geese stand near the troubled Ontario Hydro Pickering nuclear power station August 13, 1997.

The province of Ontario  like many jurisdictions around the world  is slowly shifting away from the use of nuclear power in favour of ‘green’ technologies such as wind. 

It’s expected that, by 2025, nuclear reactors will supply only 42 per cent of the provinces’ power compared to 59 per cent in 2013. 

Well, the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) isn’t taking the industrial snub lying down. 

They’ve released a new “independent study”  conducted by an engineering firm called Hatch  suggesting that nuclear power is cleaner than wind and natural gas when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. 

"Because wind farms cannot produce electricity reliably and predictably, they typically rely on gas plants to fill in their supply gaps," notes a news release by the CNA.

"The Hatch study realistically estimated that wind farms generate only 20 per cent of their capacity, leaving gas-fired plants to make up the remaining 80 per cent. 

The combination of wind-plus-gas generates about 20 times more greenhouse gas than does nuclear. That’s why nuclear energy offers far more environmental benefit than the combination of wind and gas power.”

Not surprisingly, the wind power industry isn’t endorsing the study. 

In a statement emailed to Yahoo Canada News, the The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) argues that the Hatch report fails to consider “a broad range of equally or more plausible scenarios for the future evolution of Canada’s electricity grid.”

"The study..compares nuclear power with one, and only one, mix of potential alternative source of electricity supply - a scenario where wind energy and natural gas are jointly responsible for electricity supply in a 20 / 80 ratio. Naturally, the wind / natural gas supply mix is more greenhouse gas intensive.," notes the statement.

"In reality, however, there are many potential supply mixes that can facilitate significant amounts of wind energy penetration in Canada and the vast majority of them are much less greenhouse gas intensive than the scenario described in the study. Realistic, alternative scenarios see wind energy partnered with hydroelectric power (60% of Canada’s electricity today), varying mixes of emerging renewable energy sources like solar energy, and the use of energy storage and demand side management technologies."

CanWEA’s website claims that, nationally, wind turbines supply approximately 3 per cent of Canada’s electricity demand to about 2 million Canadian homes.  

And the trend towards wind is growing.

In 2013, 23 new wind energy projects were built making Canada the fifth most wind power country in the world in terms of newly installed capacity. 

Much of that growth emanates from the province of Ontario where the governing Liberals have financially backed numerous wind projects. 

Yahoo Canada News did ask Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli to comment on the Hatch report. As of press time, his office hadn’t offered a response. 

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The government hasn’t had an easy time of trying to convince Ontarians about the efficacy of wind power  the debate over wind farms has, in some instances, been a heated one.  

In addition to pressure from the nuclear industry, the Dalton McGuinty and now Kathleen Wynne Liberals has been faced with some failed projects and a lot NIMBY-ism. 

There are currently court cases or energy tribunal appeals filed against a nine-turbine wind project near Picton, Ont.,a 140-turbine wind project near Goderich, Ont. and a 92-turbine wind farm near Kincardine, Ont.

Opponents of such projects argue that wind farms lower property values, push-up the price of electricity and could pose physical and emotional health hazards.  

It’s a debate that’s sure to rage on for some time. 

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