Friday, July 21, 2006

Canada Nuclear Update

It was only a month ago that the province of Ontario announced an ambitious plan to upgrade its electrical generating capacity -- a plan that included the building of two nuclear reactors and the refurbishing of six others. Now, Duncan Hawthorne, CEO of Bruce Power, says the plan doesn't go anywhere near far enough:

``The government's proposal for 1,000 megawatts of new nuclear makes no sense to me,'' Duncan Hawthorne told an RBC Capital Markets conference on nuclear power in Toronto today. ``It's not nearly enough.''

Ontario plans to build two new reactors and refurbish six others as part of a C$46 billion ($40.6 billion) plan to avert energy shortages over the next two decades, Ontario Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said last month. That won't be enough to offset the shutdowns slated to start in 2014 at Bruce Power's B complex and Ontario Power Generation Inc.'s Darlington plant, Hawthorne said.

``Bruce B and Darlington will need refurbishment at the same time,'' Hawthorne said. ``New building has to smooth that out. That's why the 1,000 megawatts makes no sense.''

Ontario may face energy shortages in the next 20 years as demand begins to exceed supply in 2014, the energy ministry said. The Ontario Power Authority estimates the province will be 10,000 megawatts short by 2025. The province is also delaying the planned closure of four coal plants.
This conclusion is roughly in line with a report issues by the National Roundtable on The Environment and The Economy that recommended that Ontario build another 9,000 megawatts of new nuclear capacity in order to keep up with demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Last November, Rod Adams noted that Hawthorne has said before that he wants to build North America's first new nuclear plant. Early in 2005, I saw Hawthorne deliver a speech at a Platts conference here in Washington, and his enthusiasm for new nuclear build was evident, though he did acknowledge that the Canadian nuclear industry did have some unique challenges in selling the public on the idea.

Earlier this week, Bruce Power announced that it was joining the Canadian Hydrogen Association, something that prompted Tyler Hamilton of Clean Break to ask:
What I want to know is if hydrogen can be produced during off-peak hours using nuclear baseload generation, then why can't we do the same for charging electric cars at night? I keep hearing critics of electric vehicles talk about the lack of capacity on the grid, but given there's a surplus of baseload electricity produced overnight from nuclear generators, why isn't Bruce Power joining an electric vehicle association or trying to push the EV concept, which is within reach today?
Are any of our readers up to answering his question?

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1 comment:

Doug said...

Tyler's correct, EVs can be charged at night when spare capacity is available. In theory, anyway. The problem of course is that over half of the electricity comes from fossil sources. Power companies can and do switch off load-following fossil capacity at night - they do not continue burning fossils to turn generators to produce power that's not being used. Levelling the load by charging EVs at night would allow power companies to increase the amount of baseload and decrease the need for load-following generators. Solar panels on homes would also have the effect of reducing the need for load-following power.