Alternatives to a Nuclear Nanticoke

Grand Erie Energy Quest: Jim Elve - June 9, 2009

With the shuttering of US Steel, the threatened impending closure of the Nanticoke coal-fired station and the demise of the tobacco industry, Norfolk faces real challenges with regard to jobs and our economy. If we are an unwilling host for a nuclear power plant, what alternatives do we have for job creation and economic stimulus?

Continued Operation of Nanticoke Thermal Generating Station

Some options exist which would allow the existing Nanticoke generating station to continue operation. The chief options are conversion to the use of biomass fuel and the development of carbon capture and sequestration technology (CCS).

Nanticoke has already been experimenting successfully with burning biomass to generate electricity at the existing plant. An expansion of this technology would have multiple benefits. The most obvious benefit would be the retention of existing jobs. Additionally, a new market would be created for area farmers to grow specialized crops, suitable for biomass fuel. The fact that Ontario has a surplus of base load power but will be facing a shortage of peak demand power due to too much nuclear in the mix, means that biomass fuelled Nanticoke would fill a significant gap in our energy supply.

The use of biomass has the support of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. Farmers in Norfolk and Haldimand would have a distinct advantage in supplying such fuel due to their proximity to the plant and low transportation costs.

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is being promoted by the Harper government as a solution to carbon output issues in the Alberta oil sands. Billions of dollars of research and development money is being poured into this technology. Essentially, CCS involves pumping carbon dioxide emissions into underground cavities. Here in Haldimand and Norfolk, the presence of natural gas wells, many depleted, indicates the existence of natural, underground (and under the lake) geologic formations suitable for CCS. Carbon capture would allow Nanticoke to continue burning coal or to use a mix of coal and biomass.

Energy Efficiency Initiatives

By implementing an aggressive program of energy efficiency, we can solve two problems at once. When we become more efficient, we use less energy. This does not mean we “freeze in the dark” but rather that we enjoy the same lifestyle but we use less energy to do so. By becoming more efficient, we negate much of the demand for new energy sources. Energy efficiency and smart grid technologies are already having an impact and are a big part of the reason Ontario has a surplus of base load power.

Jobs are created with energy efficiency initiatives. Unlike the jobs promised by a nuclear build, energy efficiency jobs are jobs that can be filled by existing Norfolk County residents. Our local businesses and tradespeople are already working in the field of energy efficiency through the sales and installation of high efficiency heating and cooling systems, energy efficient windows and doors, energy efficient new homes and renovations, insulation, geothermal heating and cooling solutions, rooftop solar and small scale wind power projects.

Job associated with both the construction and operation of a nuclear plant are not jobs that can be filled by our local businesses. There are no contractors in Haldimand or Norfolk that are large enough or experienced enough to bid on either the site preparation or construction of a nuclear plant. Those jobs and contracts would go to companies from Hamilton, London or Toronto with the wages being paid to a commuter workforce and most of the money leaving Norfolk. Nuclear operator jobs would draw some people into the area but do little to provide employment for our existing residents.

Energy efficiency jobs are jobs that can be done and are being done here and now by Norfolk residents. Biomass production is agricultural activity that can be adopted by our local farmers as quickly as they plant next year’s crop.

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