Monday, August 13, 2007

Warm Water Algae 1, Ontario Nuclear Reactor 0 -- A Sign of Things to Come

I wrote in this blog recently about the trouble that some nuclear power stations abroad are having with staying on. Their cooling water intake is heating up as the climate changes. Well, we now have a Canadian example. A nuclear reactor in Pickering, Ontario, has had to close down recently because its cooling water intake was blocked by algae -- whose growth had been spurred by warming Lake Ontario waters (Toronto Star).

More ominously, the Star says in the same story that

"OPG [Ontario Power Generation], in the environmental assessment report it recently filed to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in relation to the possible refurbishment of Pickering B, said climate change and rising lake temperature could lead to increased algae and zebra mussel growth.

"'Temporary reactor power reductions could be required,' the company said.

"'None of the potential effects associated with climate change are expected to pose any risk to workers, members of the public or the environment.'"

Even if the last statement were true (and that's a big "if"!), wasn't nuclear power supposed to be a great energy option to help fight climate change, according to this technology's proponents?

Even building reactors on bigger, colder lakes farther north might not solve the problem. In Lake Superior,

"...the average water temperature has surged 4.5 degrees [Fahrenheit] since 1979, significantly above the 2.7-degree rise in the region's air temperature during the same period" (AP/Yahoo! News via
Once again, it's hard to avoid the question, if nuclear technology is this vulnerable to climate change, then how can we count on it?

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