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FACT SHEET # 3 – Non-Nuclear Network

THE RENEWABLE ECONOMIC ALTERNATIVE IS ALREADY HERE

SK’s economy has unfortunately been shaped to depend upon exporting non-renewables like uranium and oil and gas. Because of the blinders of short-term government and corporate self-interest we have been slow to realize the potential of the renewable, sustainable resources. Sask  Power, for example, is far behind other public utilities in Manitoba and B.C., where expenditures on conservation (demand side management) are seen as saving public capital costs for generating electricity. We have been misled to think that our economic prosperity depends on the profitability of such uranium-nuclear multinationals as Cameco. And the Calvert NDP has seemingly tied its political future to the expansion of nuclear – building a uranium refinery in the province.

RENEWABLE vs NUCLEAR ENERGY

Worldwide renewable energy has now passed nuclear as a source of electricity (20% to 17%). This is partly due to wind, biomass and solar power, but is mostly due to co-generation of electricity from waste heat. Wave (tidal) power will soon accelerate this trend.

FACT: By 2004 decentralized electrical generation provided 3 times the output and 6 times the capacity as provided by nuclear. Centralized thermal plants – whether nuclear or coal, can no longer compete with wind and co-generation, and solar may soon become competitive.

Nuclear proponents often reply that “we need all options”, but society can’t afford all options. And surely we want to encourage the “no carbon” or low carbon alternatives, especially when they don’t produce radioactive wastes. Right now the subsidies and hidden costs of uranium-nuclear steal from the potential of converting to renewables. This conversion to renewables is urgently needed to avert the further doubling of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and perhaps irreversible cataclysmic climate changes over the next half century.

FACT: According to Energy Probe, public subsidies to the nuclear industry in Canada amount to 75 billion dollars. Our provincial and federal governments continue to subsidize uranium-nuclear and oil rather than the renewable energies.

WIND POWER SUCCESS STORY

After co-generation, wind is now the “least-cost option” to nuclear power and coal. The potential for wind power is worldwide. The North Sea, Great Lakes and southern South America are all extremely high potential wind-producing areas. The Canadian Prairies has great potential for wind too. It is good that SaskPower has finally started to build wind farms, but, tied as the government is to the uranium-nuclear industry, it still isn’t admitting the great successes of wind power, worldwide.

FACT: Wind power has increased 34% annually since 2001. In 2004 wind added 6 times the capacity to generate electricity and 3 times the electrical output as did nuclear.

Denmark rejected nuclear power after Chernobyl and now leads the world in wind technology. England is adding more electricity from wind power than it is losing from shutting down nuclear plants. Germany is nearing 10% of its electricity from wind and biomass.

The huge advantage of wind over nuclear is that it is up and operating much more quickly, with far less energy use and capital expense, and gives a quick payoff in reductions of GHGs. China, which nuclear proponents assert must replace coal with nuclear, is now exploring wind. It has already constructed a wind farm in Inner Mongolia (at Huitengxile) which by 2008 will generate 400 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The plan of China’s Centre for Renewable Energy Development is to have 4,000 MW from wind by 2010 and 20,000 MW by 2020. (20,000 MW is equivalent to ten large nuclear power plants.)

THE POTENTIAL OF SOLAR

The U.S. has not yet widely embraced wind, but it is becoming a leader in solar.

FACT: Sales in solar technology in the U.S. increased by 28% between 2004-05. An estimated 300,000 homes got electricity from solar by 2006. Rebate programs exist in places like New Jersey and California, and fourty states now allow residents to sell excess electricity into the public grid.

One downside of solar power is that it takes fossil fuels to create the photovoltaic cells to generate electricity, but solar is still a net energy producer after 1-4 years. Passive solar, which involves designing and building to capture and retain solar heat, is a completely “no-carbon” option with huge untapped potential. (Its only “downside” is that it doesn’t produce a commodity for corporations to sell and profit from.) It is therefore clearly one of the best sustainable energy options.

CONSERVATION, RENEWABLES AND THE SK ECONOMY

North Americans are among the worst energy wasters on the planet. The U.S. Alliance to Save Energy estimates that the U.S. presently wastes half of its energy fuels. And the U.S., with only 4 % of the world’s population, creates 24% of the GHGs from electrical generation. Meanwhile the Bush administration (along with Canada’s Harper minority government) rejected Kyoto and its targets, which could probably be met through conservation and energy efficiency alone.

But SK remains part of the problem, with the fastest rising and largest per capita GHGs in the country in recent years. And it remains the major uranium-radioactivity exporting region on the planet. Rather than the SK economy being made even more dependent on toxic non-renewables, we need to shift to a sustainable energy system and economy. Rather than towns being encouraged to compete for a toxic uranium refinery, or nuclear waste dump, or heavy oil plant, we should promote a renaissance in conservation and renewables. While ethanol provides a new market for crop farmers, it takes land from food production to fuel machines. Rural redevelopment would be encouraged far more by a growth in “wind farmers.” Such sustainable, renewable energy will create far more job opportunities per investment, without creating long-lived toxic wastes that come from uranium-nuclear. Policies should be changed so wind farmers can sell excess power into the public grid. It’s time for SK to get off its destructive and unsustainable energy path.

Main Sources: Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute; Ch 9, Helen Caldicott, “Nuclear Power Is Not The Answer” (2006); Jim Harding “Canada’s Deadly Secret” (2007).

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