Rust never sleeps … and neither do tar sands nuclear power boosters

Grande Prairie, or some other northwestern town in Alberta’s Peace Country, as it’s sure to be portrayed by the nuclear industry. Not exactly as illustrated, but then, these things never turn out to be exactly as illustrated, do they?


Just when you thought it was safe to breath the isotope-laden Western Canadian air again, now that the wind from Japan has died down a little, comes word that the tireless lobbyists for a nuclear power plant near the Alberta tar sands are back at it.

A Calgary Herald report last Friday told the story of a “debate” about nuclear energy in the oil sands at a conference of petroleum industry toffs at a famously luxurious Banff hotel.

Actually, if you read the story you’ll find the kind of thing that could only pass for “debate” in the pages of the Calgary Herald, long justly known for its undeclared mission as the Fearless Champion of the Overdog.

The debate in question, at any rate, consisted of the differences between an oil industry exec who wants a $6-billion-plus taxpayer-paid nuclear power-generation plant here in the Peace River Country right flippin’ now, and another big shot who only thinks the nuke should be built really, really soon.

At least as far as any alert reader could tell from the story, no one in a nicely tailored summer suit was standing up and asking, “Are we crazy, or what?”

Using nuclear power – either in the form of “controlled” explosions, or in the more conventional manner of electricity generated in a multi-billion-dollar reactor paid for by someone else – has long been a dream of the tar sands oil extraction industry.

When something like the recent Japanese typhoon-meltdown-incompetence disaster-cum-scandal illustrates the risks of nuclear power a little too vividly, these advocates issue a few soothing news releases (don’t worry, “our country’s nuclear sites are always built on sturdy foundations”) and keep their heads down for a spell. Pretty soon, though, we can again hear the buzz of low-grade mumbling about what a wonderful thing a nuclear plant in northwestern Alberta would be.

The event stumbled upon by the Herald’s Banff stringer – or whoever it was that authored this muddled report, which was mainly concerned with the irony of the fact the power briefly went out during the conference – is merely a little more evidence that, like rust, nuclear power advocates never sleep.

But with the oil industry in the vanguard, can the “reinvented” government of Alberta be far behind?

Not likely.

As has been said in this place before, pressure to build one of these massively expensive, high-risk, environmentally unsustainable white elephants out here in the Peace River Country of northwestern North America is likely to continue with the enthusiastic backing of the Alberta government, whoever leads it.

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5 Comments on "Rust never sleeps … and neither do tar sands nuclear power boosters"

  1. Kyle Olsen says:

    As long as there isn't any power price guarantee, and no subsidy that isn't offered to other electricity generators (like having transmission covered by consumers), I have no issue with it.

    With the federal coal regulations, and coming gas regulations, along with limited hydro development potential in the province, there aren't many options for base load power generation left.

    Unless the province wants to import all the power we need (if we had the capacity, it would dramatically lower our electricity costs), or some new magical electricity source comes around, we need new generation.

    Would you rather have coal with CCS or nuclear?

  2. Anonymous says:

    How about gas-fired turbines for base load when the wind is not blowing? Oh, and lets not forget co-gens sitting idle because of the crony capitalism that pulls so many strings.

    How about an HV DC line from Manitoba? Super cheap compared to nuclear.

    And what about all those abandoned geo-thermal (oops – oil wells)

  3. Carlos Beca says:

    I am not sure why Kyle has not mentioned wind, which we have lots in Southern Alberta and especially geo-thermal which is abundant enough to be a great contributor to Alberta energy market.

  4. Stephanie says:

    With all due respect to Kyle, no nuclear power reactor has ever been built in North America without huge taxpayer subsidies, and Canada is no exception. Alberta is home to the Pembina Institute which released a report in 2009 called "Greening the Grid: Powering Alberta's Future with Renewable Energy". The report shows how Alberta could move from 70 per cent coal to 70 per cent renewable energy in just 20 years. Instead of dreaming about nuclear power, an old, dangerous & unreliable technology, why isn't Alberta moving in this direction.

    You can watch the report's author talk about his work.

  5. Carlos says:

    Stephanie is absolutely right and I have to confess that I am a bit surprised with Kyle's attraction to nuclear power. This tells me that you are either too young or to conservative. If you are too young and do not know the history of nuclear power I would suggest you read it very carefully. If you are too conservative, I am sorry about that :)
    I will just finish by saying I can very confortably extend what Stephanie said about subsidies by adding 'not just North America, but all over the world'. Also no one includes the costs of dealing with nuclear waste.


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