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Nuclear Electricity and Canada's Domestic Response to the Kyoto Protocol:

Modeling the Economics of Alternative Scenarios


Much of Canada's electricity is produced from greenhouse gas free water power and nuclear generation. Still well over 10 % of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are from electricity produced by burning  coal and natural gas. The electricity industry is thus an attractive target for those seeking to reduce emissions.

Canada’s National Climate Change Process undertook extensive analysis of the implications of implementing the greenhouse gas reduction commitments of the Kyoto Protocol. Reports (no longer posted circa 2006 DRP 08/06/30) from the Analysis and Modeling Group (AMG) were interpreted by some as evidence that nuclear energy has no role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada as it is uneconomic. Yet nuclear energy is a proven means of generating electricity in Canada that does not emit greenhouse gases and that can be economic under a range of circumstances. The results were puzzling. It turned out  the modeling of nuclear electricity production by the AMG was constrained by choosing input parameters from some of the earlier and less effective implementations of nuclear electricity production in Canada. The constraints which were imposed on decision and construction time did not realistically reflect newer technology and project management techniques.

A key modeling scenario was re-evaluated to consider the effect of a shorter decision time and to reflect current nuclear industry capability with respect to construction time. We also took into account revised input parameters to account for a reduced capital cost system which is the goal of the CANDU designer. These changes resulted in the model choosing more nuclear energy (twenty four new nuclear reactors) over the period from 2000 to 2020 as a least cost source of electricity. The model results indicated they  would allow  Canada to produce more clean  greenhouse gas electricity, at the same time substantially reducing production from fossil fuel generators. The results, no longer (DRP 08/05/12) posted at the Canadian Nuclear Association website, indicate that more nuclear electricity production could significantly reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. (DRP 04/03/06)

Since the results of the modeling are no longer posted on a public website, they are provided here with the permission of the Canadian Nuclear Association. The source is the former Integrative Group of the former National Climate Change Process. The date of completion of the analysis was March 2001. Costs have definitely increased since then. It seems likely that nuclear would be in an even better position to serve as the low cost alternative to fossil fuels now, as the relative cost of fossil fuels  has escalated  a lot. In view of the interest in nuclear energy in Alberta now, it's worth pointing out that the model predicted that seven advanced CANDUs totalling about 4600 MWe would be installed there by 2020. That is very close to the proposals for 4000 MWe of nuclear plants for Alberta under discussion now.  Decisions to rebuild plants in Ontario and to proceed with some new build, as well as talk of nuclear plants in Saskatchewan, reinforce the thought that the predictions of the report may essentially come true. The documentation consists of a presentation to the Integrative Group, the body of the report, Appendix A which contains cost data, and a support document from AECL on the development of the next generation CANDU.  The concepts described there for cost reduction have now evolved into the Advanced CANDU Reactor design. (DRP 08/06/30)



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