Monday, June 25, 2007

"Climate change puts nuclear energy into hot water"

Those who promote nuclear energy as the answer to climate change may be ignoring
"...a less well-known side of nuclear power: It requires great amounts of cool water to keep reactors operating at safe temperatures. That is worrying if the rivers and reservoirs which many power plants rely on for water are hot or depleted because of steadily rising air temperatures.

"If temperatures soar above average this summer - let alone steadily increase in years to come, as many scientists predict - many nuclear plants could face a dilemma: Either cut output or break environmental rules, in either case hurting their reputation with customers and the public.

"Governments and the energy industry are just starting to grasp the vulnerabilities of water-hungry power plants. If the complications prove serious in countries where inland sources of water are growing scarce, where seafront nuclear stations are unwelcome or impractical and where alternative cooling technologies are too expensive, it could take the bloom off of nuclear as a source of clean energy and leave it more unclear than ever where sizable new power supplies might come from.

"'We're going to have to solve the climate-change problem if we're going to have nuclear power, not the other way around,' said David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who is with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"'As the climate warms up, nuclear power plants are less able to deliver,'" he said.


"The French company operates 58 reactors - the majority on ecologically sensitive rivers like the Loire.

"During the extreme heat of 2003 in France, 17 nuclear reactors operated at reduced capacity or were turned off. Électricité de France was forced to buy power from neighboring countries on the open market, where demand drove the price of a megawatt hour as high as €1,000, or $1,350. Average prices in France during summer months ordinarily are about €95 per megawatt hour.

"The heat wave cost Électricité de France an extra €300 million. The state-owned company 'swallowed it as a one-off cost of doing business in extreme circumstances,' Philippe Huet, an executive vice president at Électricité de France, said.

"The company was not allowed to pass along price surges to customers.

"Huet said the company was preparing for this summer on several fronts. The company is stocking more water in reservoirs, offering lower priced contracts to large users in exchange for the right to cut supplies and using more sophisticated forecasting tools for weather and river temperatures, he said.

"'If this year is the same as in 2003 we will handle it better,' Huet said. 'But we cannot exclude difficulties if the summer is even warmer and drier than 2003.'"

Source and more details: Climate change puts nuclear energy into hot water - International Herald Tribune
(via Green Car Congress and Treehugger ).

Even this story might be over-optimistic. It claims that if you put nuclear power stations by the sea, then you have no problem. Yet ocean temperatures are rising due to climate change, too. Granted, oceans heat up much more slowly than smaller bodies of water, so ocean temperatures may be unlikely to affect nuclear power operations in the short term. But the increase in sea levels due to melting ice, plus more frequent severe storms, could endanger any shoreline installation. What would happen if a Katrina-sized hurricane hit a nuclear power station?

Finally, we have already learned in many painful ways that the oceans, too, are finite. Increasing ocean temperatures to cool nuclear power stations might not be as benign as it may seem.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

McGuinty's Climate Change "Plan rests on technology, cash" - - sciencetech

Here's a good summary of the trouble with McGuinty's Climate Change Plan (besides missing the Kyoto deadline by a couple of years): - sciencetech - Plan rests on technology, cash

I will try to provide a more detailed analysis when I have more time.

Electric Cars and Other Green Tech - Government of Ontario, Canada Sees the Light

Apparently, a public talking-to by Al Gore, plus an impending election, have sharpened the mind of Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty. He is now promising to lift the ridiculous ban on Neighbourhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) such as the ones being made by Ontario-based ZENN Motor Co. McGuinty also promises big money to attract electric car manufacturers and other green technology makers to Ontario, Canada, starting with ZENN (now being assembled in Quebec), and on to GM's proposed Chevy Volt (currently rumoured to go to GM's Cobalt assembly plant in Ohio, USA).

The carrot, according to the Toronto Star:
"Grants from the five-year, $650 million fund will be available to both carmakers and other types of manufacturers, sources say.
"These include generators of clean energy, such as solar and wind power, and makers of cleaner fuels, among other products.
"The fund is a cornerstone of McGuinty's platform for the Oct. 10 provincial election.
"'I'll be saying to Detroit and I'll be saying to Japan ... let's partner and let's make them cleaner than they've ever been made before,' McGuinty said yesterday at a meeting of the Toronto Star editorial board. 'We know there are global markets to be exploited here.'"
Better late than never, I suppose. In
McGuinty's case, though, "late" has had a tendency to turn to "later and later". The delays in his promised closing of Ontario's coal power plants, from 2007 to 2009 and then 2014, are notorious by now (see "The Trouble with Coal" sidebar story in the Toronto Star -- scroll down on the right side of this page).

Even this late in the game, though, McGuinty could have chosen to run on a better record instead of on promises. The quote from the NDP at the end of this article suggests that McGuinty may have been able to pass many of his "green" measures -- had he chosen to send them to the Legislature instead of to the Press:

"New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth) said McGuinty's plan is electioneering that 'falls short on credibility' because it's based on his twice-broken promise to close coal plants.

"'There's an election coming. I think that's why you're seeing it today. If he's serious, if this is just not an election promise, recall the Legislature, put the measures before the Legislature and let's vote on them,' said Tabuns" [emphasis added].

Realistically, what happens after the election is what will count. Perhaps one day we would actually catch up to the innovative spirit in places like Ontario, California.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

C.D. Howe Institute Calls Baird's Bluff

"In 'Estimating the Effect of the Canadian Government’s 2006-2007 Greenhouse Gas Policies,' authors Mark Jaccard and Nic Rivers say Ottawa’s current policy proposals will fall short of its reduction target for 2020 by almost 200 megatonnes. Further, because of this gap, which the authors estimated using an energy-economy simulation model, it is unlikely that a future government would be able to meet the ambitious 2050 target."

Source (likely to be later archived here); see also the more detailed "ebrief" (in PDF); and the even more detailed Working Paper (in PDF).

Click on image to enlarge.
Image source: Working Paper (in PDF, screen page 21 of 24).

As noted earlier in this blog, Mark Jaccard is one of the economists who had questioned the effectiveness of Baird's scheme. Backing up his criticism with research is great. Having it published in a peer-reviewed journal would be even better. Still, this is already much more than Baird's Ministry has done:

"We asked Environment Canada for information on the energy-economy modeling tools it used and the major assumptions it applied in concluding that its policies would reduce emissions by 20 percent by 2020, as well as in concluding that its policies would set the country on the trajectory needed to achieve its 2050 target of a 65 percent reduction. While the government provided aggregate results for individual policies, we are still unclear about the key assumptions the government used in estimating how businesses and consumers would respond to its 2006-2007 policy initiatives and also unclear about how the government ensured that the effects of overlapping policies were not double counted."

Source: Working Paper (in PDF, screen pages 8 and 9 of 24)