October 5, 2001
Your panel discussion on Ontario's "nuclear comeback" was well-moderated
and presented, but concerns a complex subject seldom done justice in such
For example, I believe the crux of the matter came out right at the end
but had to be cut off; namely, that Norm Rubin (Energy Probe) and Tony
Sinclair (U of T) are talking about two different scenarios.
Sinclair was correct to point out that generating electricity with wind
and solar power requires the construction of equal-capacity generating
plants of a more reliable type (fossil, nuclear) if we are considering
future expansion of the supply system. Rubin, however, was clearly
talking about present-day usage, where every "clean" megawatt avoids an
existing "dirty" megawatt, regardless of how unreliable that source of
"clean" energy is.
Rubin's point is valid, but completely irrelevant to the restart of
Pickering-A. This project is about replacing 2000 MW of dirty baseload
generating capacity, with clean baseload generating capacity. The coal
plants that would come to the rescue of Rubin's windmills (typically
supplying their rated capacity only 10-15% of the time), are simply not
going to be around in the future. Thus, we are talking about major plant
addition to the grid, even if our current electricity demand stays
The only practical alternative to nuclear power in Ontario is natural gas,
often touted as a clean energy source by environmental groups. In
Wednesday's discussion Rubin inexplicably shrugged off Sinclair's point
that natural gas is a polluting fossil fuel. Is Rubin (and Energy Probe)
suggesting that the annual emission of 6 tonnes of carbon-dioxide (a
greenhouse gas) for every home powered by natural gas, is a trivial
concern? Does the fact that coal emits 10 tonnes really make gas
Finally, I take exception to a few of Rubin's statements that are of
questionable accuracy. Of particular concern was his claim that Canada's
nuclear regulator does not require Pickering to have a "state-of-the-art"
shutdown system capable of avoiding a Chornobyl-type accident. This is a
highly irresponsible, fear-mongering comment to make, and quite false.
Clearly Rubin is either out of touch with the technology he is paid to
oppose, or he is practicing deliberate obfuscation.