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Comments for Darlington Project Panel

Comments for Darlington Project Panel

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Published by Walt Robbins
Need for a comparative analysis; i.e., nuclear vs green energy
Need for a comparative analysis; i.e., nuclear vs green energy

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Published by: Walt Robbins on Feb 24, 2011
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Comments on the proposal to build nuclear reactors at DarlingtonFebruary 18, 2011To:  Panel Secretariat, Darlington New Nuclear Power Plant Project Joint ReviewPanel, Ottawa, Ontario, CanadaThe proponent has given me no reason to believe that the objective of  producing4500 megawatts from new nuclear reactors at Darlington cannot be met over the same, or shorter, time frame and for less cost from the accelerated development of alternative renewable sources of energy and from significant conservation efforts.  With the political will, Ontario should be able to produce at least that much electrical energy from green alternatives and conservation rather than fromhighly polluting sources such as nuclear and coal. Especially, since the construction of a full-scale nuclear power reactor can take as much as a decade or moreto complete.However, let’s do it right.  What Ontario needs is a serious, comprehensive and unbiased comparative analysis which includes projections of the full range of benefits and costs of new nuclear construction vs. those from a realistic spectrum of green energy sources and conservation.Without such a study, any conclusions drawn regarding the efficacy of proceedingwith a highly centralized, extremely expensive nuclear option at this point would be meaningless and could do a great disservice to the people of Ontario.It should be noted that a recently released study (January 27, 2011) by Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi of Stanford University concludes that the world can be electrically powered by alternative energy from wind, water and sunlight within 20 to 40 years. Nuclear energy is ruled out as an option particularly on the basis of potential terrorism threats, weapons proliferation, carbon emissions, and radioactive waste issues.Significant developments in alternative energy are underway which must not be brushed aside and ignored within the narrow boundaries of a typical environmentalassessment process on one particular mode of energy.It should also be noted that the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Energy Agency-backed Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century(REN21) project, declared that, for the second year in a row, the quantity of  “newly installed capacity” of  renewable energy in Europe and the U.S. outpaced thatfor fossil fuels and nuclear. The report suggests the same outcome is likely ona global basis this year.The ongoing Darlington environmental assessment must be amended to encompass a comparative analysis which also includes the negative features and consequences of nuclear energy, (many of which are frequently overlooked).As a reminder, following is a summary of some of those “down-sides:”.Nuclear energy is responsible for the release of large quantities of greenhousegasses and other noxious emissionsAccording to a December 14, 2006 report by the Pembina Institute, no other energy source combines the generation of as wide a range of conventional pollutants and waste streams-including heavy metals, smog-and acid-rain precursors and greenhouse gases. It notes that "...total greenhouse gas emissions associated with uranium mining, milling, refining, conversion and fuel fabrication in Canada are estimated at between 240,000 and 366,000 tonnes of CO2 per year."
.Harmful emissions from the nuclear industry will continue to increase as supplies of rich uranium ore decreaseAccording to scientists Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Bartlett Smith,"...at the present rate of use, worldwide supplies of rich uranium ore will soonbecome exhausted, perhaps within the next decade. Nuclear power stations of thefuture will have to rely on second-grade ore, which requires huge amounts of conventional energy to refine it. For each ton of poor-quality uranium, some 5000tons of granite that contain it will have to be mined, milled and then disposedof. This could rise to 10,000 tons if the quality deteriorates further. At somepoint, and it could happen soon, the nuclear industry will be emitting as much carbon dioxide from mining and treating its ore as it saves from the so-called clean power it produces thanks to nuclear fission." The researchers estimate that"The use of nuclear power causes, at the end of the road and under the most favourable conditions, approximately one-third as much carbon dioxide emission as gas-fired electricity production.".Nuclear power production could well go into energy deficit as rich Uranium orequantities are consumedAccording to energy writer David Fleming in Prospect magazine on the subject ofrich ore depletion, "...it (nuclear) would be putting more energy into the process than it could extract from it. Its contribution to meeting the world
s energyneeds would become negative! The so-called reliability of nuclear power, whichits proponents enthuse over, would therefore rest on the growing use of fossil fuels rather than their replacement."In my view, Fleming’s comments translate into more and larger dangerous uranium tailing ponds with all of their health and safety issues.  The Stop Darlington coalition says “there are currently over 200 million tonnes of uranium tailings in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This waste remains a hazard for thousands of years and contains carcinogens, such as radium, radon gas, and thorium among others.”.Nuclear reactors routinely emit other noxious substances, one of the worst of which is radioactive tritium into the environmentAccording to Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, "Tritium poses an ever-present radiological hazard to CANDU (reactor) workers. It is also an environmental contaminant which pollutes the drinking water of many communities situated near CANDU reactors. In addition, atmospheric emissions of tritium are readily inhaled - and also absorbed directly through the skin- by residents living near CANDU reactors.".Nuclear reactors can have an adverse impact on surrounding bodies of water, such as the Great LakesAccording to Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, the lake has a “fragile” ecosystem.  Since millions of people depend on this lake for basic physiological needs, it is my view that the plan to place additional large-scale nuclear reactors on the lake could enhance that fragility and is, therefore, a highly questionable undertaking..New nuclear reactor design problems can delay or even terminate large scale, expensive projectsOne example of this phenomenon in which I was personally involved, can be foundin Atomic Energy of Canada’s failed effort to develop a promised 10 mw Slowpoke reactor, even while attempting to market it in Canada and abroad.  The 2 mw pilotversion at the Whiteshell Nuclear Research Establishment in Manitoba was finallyshut down as it failed to reach its full capacity.
Many concerns have been expressed about the technical problems associated with the so-called “new generation” of large nuclear reactors..The Canadian taxpayer is footing much of the bill and incurring much of the national debt, for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd
s) nuclear expansion.  The economics of nuclear energy are not sustainableAccording to a 2006 Energy Probe study, federal subsidies to AECL since its inception in 1952 amounted to $74.9 billion of  Federal Government debt (about 12 per cent of the entire outstanding amount).According to Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Greenpeace nuclear analyst. “Ontario consumersspent nearly $2 billion (in 2009) on their electricity bills to pay down the debt from building reactors in the 1970s...”  This “debt retirement charge” continues toappear on Hydro One billings.Significant cost overruns are not confined to CANDU reactor nuclear power development in Ontario.  A current case in point is the development and construction of the Olkiluoto reactor in Finland by the French based AREVA company.  Accordingto Stephen Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, "Olkiluoto has become an example of all that can go wrong in economic terms withnew reactors.” Areva and the utility involved "...are in bitter dispute over who will bear the cost overruns and there is a real risk now that the utility will default"According to the Stop Darlington coalition “This (Darlington) plan will divert billions of dollars that should be invested in cheaper and cleaner green energy sources. Expanding our use of green energy to replace Darlington would create thousands of decentralized jobs, save rate-payers money and end the production of radioactive waste.”According to the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA), energy conservation and efficiency per-kilowatt-hour costs from 2.3 to 4.6 cents, while the re-build of Darlington would be as high as 19 to 37 cents.  OCAA also points out that “... every single nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone over budget and the actual costs of Ontario’s nuclear projects have been 2.5 times greater than the original cost estimates.”According to John Parsons, director of the energy and environment program at theMIT Sloan School of Management, nuclear is increasingly seen as uncompetitive with natural-gas-fired plants as gas prices fall and global construction costs soar. In 2009, MIT doubled its forecasted construction costs of new nuclear plants, while the U.S. Energy Information Administration increased its 2009 estimate by 37 per cent just this past December..No publicly acceptable solution for the permanent disposition of irradiated reactor fuel waste as yet exists in CanadaAccording to the Canadian federal environmental assessment panel (Seaborn) report released in March, 1998 after an eight year intensive public process "... the(AECL) concept in its current form for deep geologic disposal does not have broad public support, and does not have the required level of acceptability to be adopted as Canada
s approach for managing nuclear fuel wastes.".Canada
s nuclear industry-based Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO,) i

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