Nuclear has a place in power discussion

Duncan – Remember all of those smiling souls that we heard extolling the virtues of solar power in the video at ISC a few weeks ago? They were all filmed in some sunny corner of the Soutwestern U.S.:

Yuma: 4,015 average annual hours of sunshine; Phoenix: 3,872 average annual hours of

sunshine; Tucson: 3,806 average annual hours of sunshine; Las Vegas: 3,825 average annual hours of sunshine; El Paso: 3,763 average annual hours of sunshine.

Cowichan is cozy and warm by Canadian standards but records less than half the annual sunshine hours of any of the above, southwestern U.S. locales.

That’s the part that self-serving promoters are not telling us.

Yes, solar power does make a contribution; and, its time will come. But, don’t go looking for government handouts that come out of everybody else’s pockets.

When I spoke up at the ISC meeting, I pointed out that the German government was struggling with a huge debt load directly attributable to their alternative energy policy, which reflects in their high power costs.

The high cost of power in Germany is particularly crippling for its lower income population. Power cost for the average German household is approximately U.S. $1,700 per year, against a median household income of U.S. $33,000. So, power takes a big slice out of the average household’s budget.

Another point that is often overlooked or understated: hydro and thermal power plants are intended to operate at steady states. Adjusting operating rates to meet demand (when solar and/or wind power fluctuate) is very hard on the equipment; leading to extended downtimes and increased repair costs.

Remember, we have to look at the whole equation: hydro fulfils some of our needs; renewable energy sources, including solar, will help a bit, too, but we have to leave ourselves open to other technologies that will help fill the gap if we’ve maxed out our hydro capacity and thermal is unpalatable.

Thorium fusion is just another technology that, used in its right way, could be part of our overall energy solution.

Thorium reactors present a small footprint and they are scaleable. In addition, thorium and its daughter products do not yield fissionable materials of military significance. And, spent thorium’s half-life is 200 years as opposed to 10,000, for plutonium, which makes thorium much easier to store.

Choices will have to be made, not all of them simple choices.

We need to educate ourselves to think in terms of a mix: hydro, renewable energy sources and, I submit, thorium.

In closing, Germany’s leaders are beginning to question their purely political decision to shut down their nuclear capacity.

They sorely need cheap, reliable power to average down their power costs. Nuclear offers that.

At the same time, Japan is struggling to replace its lost electrical generating capacity and is concluding that, in the context of small land mass and high population density, nuclear may be their best alternative.

Would that life was simple. We Canadians have it easy by comparison.

Laurie Thomson

Duncan