Friday, November 21, 2014


"An indispensable element of sustainable human development is access to energy."

In August T. Nitheanandan and M.J. Brown, of Atomic Energy Of Canada Ltd. , delivered a paper to the The 19th Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference (PBNC 2014). [1]

I have received permission to share that paper here. It seems appropriate now as Ontario's emissions hit record lows, but that appears likely to be short-lived as the province's electricity system operator gears up to acquire more natural gas capacity as the government continues to contract wind and solar generation.

A review of Ontario’s electricity mix over the past two decades provides lessons for future electricity supply planning. To sustain the level of well-being in a community and plan for the future, a historical perspective of electricity generation capacity is useful. The electricity generation mix requires a balance of generating technologies for stable and controllable amounts of continuous electricity generation. Historical records over forty years reveal nuclear energy to be a reliable baseload producer in a sea of changing supply mix and policy emphasis. As intermittent sources of generation in the electricity mix increase, the need for backup generation capacity also increases, in conjunction with maintaining a stable grid. In the electricity mix, flexible despatchable power generation capacity comes from gas and hydro, which can be brought online at short notice to meet variations in demand and generation. 
Within the past decade, the non-hydro renewable contribution to the electricity mix has increased in Ontario. This review determined that replacing coal-fired generation with nuclear and renewable electricity sources reduced the carbon intensity significantly. The energy (including electricity) use of a community is closely linked to the health of the economy - significant reductions in energy use occur due to global economic factors like a recession.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What It Would Really Take to Reverse Climate Change

In 2007, when Google unveiled its initiative to make renewable energy competitive with coal, called RE<C, it represented a major breakthrough for the industry.
...Then, in 2011, Google stopped its R&D efforts prematurely.
...Two Google engineers who worked on the RE<C initiative have finally opened up about why the team halted their efforts.   - quoted from Stephen Lacey article
The article, by Ross Koningstein and David Fork, is fascinating.
What It Would Really Take to Reverse Climate Change| IEEE Spectrum:
...calculations cast our work at Google’s RE<C program in a sobering new light. Suppose for a moment that it had achieved the most extraordinary success possible, and that we had found cheap renewable energy technologies that could gradually replace all the world’s coal plants—a situation roughly equivalent to the energy innovation study’s best-case scenario. Even if that dream had come to pass, it still wouldn’t have solved climate change. This realization was frankly shocking: Not only had RE<C failed to reach its goal of creating energy cheaper than coal, but that goal had not been ambitious enough to reverse climate change. 
Image from IEEE Spectrum article
That realization prompted us to reconsider the economics of energy. What’s needed, we concluded, are reliable zero-carbon energy sources so cheap that the operators of power plants and industrial facilities alike have an economic rationale for switching over soon—say, within the next 40 years. Let’s face it, businesses won’t make sacrifices and pay more for clean energy based on altruism alone. Instead, we need solutions that appeal to their profit motives. RE<C’s stated goal was to make renewable energy cheaper than coal, but clearly that wouldn’t have been sufficient to spur a complete infrastructure changeover. So what price should we be aiming for?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

News and commentary re: U.S.-China Joint Announcement

Then (1997):
... the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992...which would--
(A) mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex I Parties, unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties...  -Byrd-Hagel Resolution, Summer 1997
Image from vox, credit to Global Carbon Project
The resolution in the U.S. Senate opposing what became the Kyoto protocol passed unanimously, and then the Clinton administration signed on anyway - but it was never presented to the Senate for ratification.

The American "commitments" at Copenhagen, which aren't binding, were taken from the American Clean Energy and Security Act that had passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in the prior months, but was not expected, and never did, pass in the Senate.

I'm taking the U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change as a replay, coming, as it does, shortly after the Republicans gained control of the house; it's act III, but there is some interesting change from Act I (Kyoto).

The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China ... are committed to reaching an ambitious 2015 agreement that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances. -U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change, Fall 2014
My hope is the announcement that Barack Obama is conceding a long-standing U.S. point prior to next year's climate negotiations, and concedes his administration will, appropriately, not attempt to take a lead role during those negotiations.

Here's a collection of other views on the joint announcement:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Candu Energy sees promising future

“There’s a lot of exciting things [happening] for Candu that I don’t think any of us would have recognized five years ago.” -Candu Energy President and CEO Preston Swafford

A double: promising developments for CANDU technology, and some nice press coverage in Toronto!

In China, Candu Energy sees promising future - The Globe and Mail
Jean Chrétien was in a good mood when he came to Shanghai in late 1996 to sell two Candu reactors. He kidded around with Li Peng, the then-Chinese premier, going so far as to try to place a red pompon on the head of the famously dour leader. Mr. Chrétien promised a future filled with more multibillion-dollar sales of Canadian nuclear technology to China. “I hope we will have many more Candus built in this great country of yours,” he said then.
Graphic grom Candu: Advanced Fuel CANDU reactor (.pdf)
For the nearly two decades that followed, that optimism bore no fruit.
Now, however, Candu Energy – divorced from the federal government and in the hands of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. – says it is working toward a deal that could see it partner with a Chinese nuclear giant to build new reactors, both in China and abroad.
By June, 2015, Candu hopes to finalize a joint-venture deal with China National Nuclear Corp., the massive state-owned atomic power and weapons company, “to develop global opportunities” for its advanced fuel reactor. The two sides signed an initial broad-strokes memorandum of understanding during the visit of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Beijing this weekend.

In the past week, a technical committee led by CNNC also gave its approval to the technology Candu intends to use, classifying it as a third-generation nuclear system that can meet post-Fukushima safety requirements.
Continue reading at The Globe and Mail

See also: New Candu reactors clear hurdle in China in the Toronto Star

Please also see CANDU 6 shares the load with light water reactors in China and South Korea. The Donald Jones article, posted in July, includes a performance history of CANDU reactors in China and South Korea.

Nuclear Engineering International has much more on this in AFCR: Transcending natural uranium fuel cycles
The AFCR is a 740 MWe heavy water- moderated, heavy water-cooled pressure tube reactor. It has evolved from the CANDU 6 plants licensed and operating in five countries (four continents) with more than 150 reactor years of safe operation. In recent years, this global CANDU 6 reactor fleet has repeatedly ranked in the world's top performing reactors.
The AFCR is designed to use advanced fuel cycles: derivatives of recycled uranium (DRU) and low-enriched uranium/thorium (LEU/Th) fuels. DRU fuel is a mixture of dysprosium and recycled uranium (reprocessed from LWR spent fuel) with slightly higher U-235 content than NU fuel, and higher burnup. These fuels reduce dependence on NU and offer the opportunity to use previously-unused LWR uranium feedstock (that is reprocessed) efficiently and economically in a reactor design that has already been commercially proven.
The main driver of the AFCR programme is to increase the sustainability and availability of fuel resources in China, using DRU and LEU/
Th fuels. Using DRU fuel in the AFCR results in a front-end fuel cycle cost ~32% lower than the traditional NU-fuelled reactor designs and
~128% lower than representative advanced LWR designs. The front-end fuel cycle cost of LEU/Th fuel is expected to be comparable to
DRU fuel.
This superior utilisation capability is particularly appealing to countries with limited uranium resources. The utilisation of abundant indigenous thorium sources reduces dependency on foreign uranium fuel.
Additionally, the successful demonstration of LEU/Th fuel implementation creates a path for more advanced thorium fuel applications, such as plutonium/thorium fuel, which have a larger potential for greater economic and resource utilisation benefits.
...The AFCR is synergistic with current and planned LWR reprocessing technologies around the globe. It uses an undesired by- product (in the form of RU), to both produce power and provide a near-term path forward for implementing advanced and sustainable alternative fuel technologies, such as LEU/Th, CANMOXTM and Pu/Th fuels.
The AFCR design is based on the proven CANDU reactor design and incorporates numerous technological enhancements in terms of safety features, design margins and fuel utilisation...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IPCC reports? We don't need no IPCC reports

On climate change communication....

We don't need any more IPCC reports on climate science.:
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Scientists are in the news, warning about the dangers of escalating fossil fuel emissions:
A quarter century has improved our understanding of ...
  • “Emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing.”
  • “These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth’s surface.”
  • “Continued emissions of these gases at present rates would commit us to increased concentrations for centuries ahead.”
  • “The longer emissions continue to increase at present day rates, the greater reductions would have to be for concentrations to stabilise at a given level.”
  • “The long-lived gases [like carbon dioxide] would require immediate reductions in emissions from human activities of over 60% to stabilise their concentrations at today’s levels.”
Only thing is, the above statements were written in 1990.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Parker Gallant: The Broadbent Institute and their selective report on “Political Activity” by charities

Following is a guest post written by Parker Gallant. I've collaborated with Parker on articles that have appeared in The Financial Post and on the Energy Probe site noted by Parker and the Broadbent Institute.
I've previously posted articles from Parker that had no obvious home. A topic of those orphan columns were loans to a charity - MaRS - by an Ontario government body that didn't exist to give money to charities, but to fund Ontario's MUSH facilities. Years later the MaRS scandal is unfolding, as I hope a faux charity scandal will over time.

The Broadbent Institute and their selective report on “Political Activity” by charities

A recently released report from the Broadbent Institute claims it is dismayed the CRA doesn't come down harder on “right leaning charities” and picks 10 of those and desperately tries to provide quotes from reports and articles to back up their premise. (link to .pdf)

The report doesn't claim authorship by anyone at the “Institute” but the writer's personal opinion is that it sure looks like the author is Rick Smith, formerly Executive Director of Environmental Defence and now ED of the Broadbent Institute. The report tries to glorify five (5) of the charities currently under audit by the CRA including the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence. Those charities claim some of their revenue was spent on “political activity” whereas the 10 “right leaning” charities didn't make those claims.

The “report” attempts to vilify the latter by finding appropriate quotes/data from articles or reports. One of my quotes was included in an effort to discredit Energy Probe where I occasionally contribute articles. The quote; from a September 21, 2013 article I had penned about the “Sussex Group” and leaked documents the Toronto Star had reported on in 2010. In the article I noted “The “Sussex” document disclosed the “unnamed green energy developers would be in the company of Environmental Defence and the GEA Alliance, both instrumental in creating the Green Energy and Green Economy Act when George Smitherman was Energy Minister.”

I have penned several articles about Environmental Defence over the years when Rick Smith was their ED and more recently since Tim Gray took the reins. One of the earlier articles disclosed how much money ED had received from Ontario's taxpayers via the Trillium Foundation, Friends of the Greenbelt and the Toronto Atmospheric Fund. It was over $3 million!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Nuclear Gap In Obama's Clean Power Plan

The Canadian Nuclear Association and Wind Concerns Ontario are both cited in a Forbes commentary pointing to the substantial studies that should be heeded to correct the poor EPA/NRDC proposal for a so-called "standard" to address U.S. electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions.

The Nuclear Gap In Obama's Clean Power Plan - Forbes:
If we want to arrest climate change, all we need are more renewables like wind and solar, right? Not exactly, according to a newly published Canadian report on lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions (“GHG”). In fact, the report, which is based on 246 studies covering various power generation scenarios and constraints, concluded that nuclear power beats wind and natural gas on an ‘apples-to-apples’ basis for battling climate change.
The Forbes post, by Michael Krancer, won't surprise readers of my related writings:
commented on my "levelised cost" post on reddit - and that might explain how "apples-to-apples" comparison requires the systemic approach of looking at a wind + gas scenario. The emissions figures provided in the Hatch study didn't strike me as varying significantly from the emission ranges provided in the latest IPCC Working Group III documents, but on costing, and providing realistic supply mix scenarios, WG3's work is behind Hatch's.

The Forbes article concludes:

European energy policy – winding down

Energy policy columns for a Monday morning...

European energy policy – time to start again | Nick Butler:
image from The Telegraph:
Wind farms can 'never' be relied upon to deliver UK energy security
The deal reached at last week’s European summit on climate change will satisfy no one.
...The fractious debate which led up to the summit should be understood as marking the end of the “consensus” on energy policy established in 2008.
...Although not a total consensus, the 2008 policy was grounded on the broad acceptance of four cornerstone propositions, which over time have turned to dust. These core beliefs were:
  • fossil fuel prices would rise inexorably as global demand exceeded supply; 
  • Europe could gain a material competitive advantage by being the first major region in the world to develop a low-carbon economy based on renewables; 
  • a gradually rising carbon price would increase the cost of externalities including air pollution and climate change, until renewables became fully competitive; 
  • the negative effects of higher energy costs on competitiveness would be mitigated by a global deal with all the world’s major economies making progress towards the common goal of reducing emissions.
The inconvenient truth is that none of these beliefs have proved to be true.
Read the entire column at the Financial Times

Wind goes:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Levelised Cost confusion disguises rate impact of intermittent renewables

Recently Subsidies and costs of EU energy: An interim report was released -within a week of my appearance on a panel discussing the policy implications of Hatch's Lifecycle Assessement Literature: Review of Nuclear, Wind and Natural Gas Power Generation.

Recharge's reporting of the EU Ecofys study (Study hails onshore wind cost lead) begins predictably:
Onshore wind is cheaper than gas, coal and nuclear when air quality, climate change and human toxicity are taken into account, according to a study published by the European Commission.
An analysis by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) of the data in the Ecofys report finds that onshore wind costs about €105 ($133) per MWh. Gas costs up to €164/MWh, nuclear €133 and coal €162-233.
Emphasis added.
The quality German Energy Blog reported on the study more intelligently:
The interim report also presents figures on the cost competitiveness of the different power generation technologies. The estimated ranges reflect costs of new power generation without public intervention (levelised costs). Costs for producing one MWh of electricity from coal are in a range around €75. Electricity from onshore wind is generated at only somewhat higher costs. Costs for power from nuclear and natural gas are in comparable ranges around €100/MWh. Solar power costs have fallen considerably since 2008 to about €100-115/MWh depending on the size of installations.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Michigan turbine suit settled; another lesson in operating too close to already-generous noise limits

Following the issue of wind turbines impacting human health?
Jim Cummings' Acoustic Ecology Institute reports have been a favourite resource of mine on the issue for some time. I think he makes some excellent points in reporting on a settlement in Michigan - one that followed shortly after a health board in Wisconsin declared an industrial wind site a public health hazard.

MI turbine suit settled; another lesson in operating too close to already-generous noise limits | aei news:’s essential that enough of a safety factor is built in to the sound models to account for known variability in sound production (how loud the blades are in various unsteady wind conditions) and sound propagation (how far sound travels as it gradually loses power). Regular readers will know that variability is indeed, as Howe mentioned, often more than the simplified 3dB margin of error that was neglected here (see AEI’s 2012 report). The second half the lesson is related: when noise limits—for the sound of the turbines when it reaches nearby homes—are set as high as 45dBA, they will be regularly audible at these homes, and likely well above night-time ambient sound levels. As many acousticians have stressed for years, these situations are very apt to trigger a significant number of complaints, especially if there are dozens of homes in that nearby range. Here, we had the worst of both worlds: turbine siting plans that pushed sound right at the limit into nearby homes, and a limit that was on the high end of tolerability for many neighbors. Indeed, after one such cautionary report was presented to the Mason County Planning Board, it decided to lower the limit to 40dB, but that change was revoked after push-back from Consumers Energy.
With this backdrop, this week the 17 original plaintiffs in the noise nuisance lawsuit agreed to a settlement offer from Consumers;