• Chris Keefer

Jack Gibbons Gaslights on Nuclear’s role in fighting Climate Change

Jack Gibbons claims that “Nuclear Power [is] no solution to climate change.” In fact, Ontario has some of the cleanest and lowest carbon electricity in the world thanks to nuclear power, which provides 65% of our generation.

Indeed, it was the reactivation of six CANDU reactors that provided 90% of the ultra low emissions power needed to phase out coal from our grid. This has been called the greatest greenhouse gas reduction measure in North America. Ontario’s electricity emissions dropped by 80% compared to 2005, and smog days declined from 53 in 2005 to zero in 2014 thanks to nuclear.

The great tragedy for Jack Gibbons and the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA), which received substantial donations from Enbridge and Union gas in the early 2000’s, seems to be that the coal phaseout was accomplished with nuclear instead of natural gas.

As the chairman of the OCAA, Jack Gibbons has taken some positions that seem contrary to the stated goal of his organization. For example, the OCAA lobbied for natural gas as the “transition fuel” to replace coal. When residents of Oakville protested natural gas plants being built in their backyards, Gibbons, the champion of clean air, gaslighted them. He explained that “Exhaust stacks are typically high enough to disperse pollutants beyond the immediate area and it makes sense to generate power as close as possible to where it is consumed.

Since winning their battle against coal, the OCAA has turned its sights on nuclear energy in Ontario. They argue that it should be replaced by wind, solar, and hydroelectricity from Quebec. Beyond the lunacy of making our province dependent on the whims of Quebec, there simply isn’t enough power in Quebec during the winter months. Quebec heats with electricity and routinely imports Ontario electricity during its cold snaps to stay warm.

Gibbons argues that costs for wind and solar are outcompeting natural gas. It seems that he doesn’t know Jack about the grid. Solar in Ontario produces about 15% of the time, wind 30%. Both are out of sync with our peak summer air conditioning season. They produce erratically at the whim of mother nature and as a result require natural gas backup, which dramatically increases their emissions profile.

We are in agreement on one point Jack Gibbons makes. SMRs and advanced nuclear, while vitally important for decarbonizing smaller sized grids in Canada, and providing emissions free process heat to industry, are too small and too far off to achieve net zero emissions on a meaningful timescale alone. Thankfully we have a readily available solution to fill that gap!

Ontario has existing, extremely well functioning, large modular reactors. We have CANDUs, like those at Pickering whose 3 billion watt output produces enough energy to power the city of Toronto. We are doing the right thing by refurbishing our CANDU fleet at Darlington and Bruce. Unfortunately, refurbishment plans for Pickering have been sidelined and it is now scheduled to be closed in 2024.

Gibbons wants to blanket Ontario with tens of thousands of industrial wind turbines and millions of solar panels, and rely on Quebec to attempt to fill in the resulting daily and seasonal gaps in electricity.

We want the Ontario government to commit to maintaining and refurbishing Pickering Nuclear. To anyone genuinely concerned about clean air and the climate, it should come as a tragedy that its output will otherwise be replaced with natural gas.

According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, 7590 direct and indirect jobs providing $747 million in wages are at stake if we let Pickering close.The CANDU supply chain and its highly skilled workforce is 95% based in Ontario. Every dollar spent on Pickering’s refurbishment stays in Ontario, providing us with the dignified high paying jobs in science, technology, engineering and the skilled trades that sustain our economy. The same cannot be said for low paying temporary jobs installing “made in China” solar panels.

Refurbishing Pickering has all the ingredients of a truly green recovery. Environmental organizations like the OCAA need to come to terms with the fact that Ontario has some of the cleanest and lowest carbon electricity in the world thanks to nuclear. Let’s keep it that way.

Chris Keefer MD, ER Physician

Christopher Adlam, Network Engineer, IT Director

Jules Besseling, Nuclear Technologist

Steve Aplin, Energy Analyst

Tom Hess, former IESO NERC Certified System Operator

Mohammed Mahdi, Nuclear Engineer

Ike Bottema, Network and IT Consultant