Canadians for Nuclear Energy call for action

In a detailed report launched by the group Canadians for Nuclear Energy, the case is made for the life extension and refurbishment of Pickering B as the least expensive path to secure 3+GW of emissions-free generation going forward.

Losing Pickering is bigger than losing all the generating capacity at Niagara Falls, a reference that may help people understand the scale.

Ontario faces an energy crossroad. Its world-class low-carbon grid is unprepared for the loss of 3,100 megawatts of clean, reliable power from the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, yet the station is scheduled to close in 2025. Extending the life of the station would secure years of carbon-free electricity and thousands of high-quality jobs in STEM, manufacturing, business, and skilled trades.

https://www.canfornuclearenergy.org/save-pickering

Cold snaps – Nuclear delivers

We experienced an extremely cold January this year with numerous periods where the temperature was below -20C. At one point, it was -32C here locally. Quebec demand exceeded supply for a number of these events and they were importing power from Ontario, power we had an abundance of thanks to nuclear, hydro and gas capacity, as wind was nowhere to be found.

If we go back to Wednesday the 12th of January, wind collapsed for ~36 hours, 848MW and dropping at 4PM, not recovering until 4AM Friday. This was also when Quebec demand exceeded supply. Gas was ~5,600MW; so over 8GW without Pickering.

Early on the 20th, wind collapsed again, but gas demand was even higher, crossing 7,000MW and not dropping below 5,000MW until the 22nd. 43 hours. Without Pickering that would have been 9,700MW; >8,600MW for the duration; 370GWh.

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance has made several claims lately that are not based in reality:

  • Pickering can be replaced by Quebec imports and conservation
  • Gas can be replaced by Quebec imports and conservation
  • V2G battery technology can be used to replace gas peaking capacity

During extreme hot and cold events, shutting off air conditioning or heating (conservation) could be fatal for the elderly and other vulnerable members of our society. These events are not experienced in a vacuum, Quebec and Ontario were both hit with the same cold snap and Quebec was pushed beyond their supply capability, even pleading for residents to turn down their heat to try and curb demand.

60% of Ontario’s heat is provided by natural gas; the vast majority by fossil fuels including propane and oil. We are being encouraged to electrify heating and transport, both of these things will increase demand beyond where it is presently. In the above scenario, Ontario had no alternative but to burn gas, as that was the only reliable source available beyond nuclear and hydro. Conservation was not an option and you can’t import what isn’t there, made more obvious by the fact we were already exporting to that same party.

This brings us to the storage claim. Jack Gibbons has stated that 1 million electric F-150’s could provide double the capacity of Ontario’s existing gas generation assets.

  • The F-150 Lightning, in the highest trims, has the ability provide 9.6kW of electricity, ergo, 1 million of these would be 9,600MW. Ontario has 10,515MW of gas capacity.
  • The F-150 Lightning, with the extended range battery, has a capacity of 131kWh.
  • That is 13hrs of electricity at full load, fully draining all 1 million trucks, assuming they were all fully charged at the onset and all remained connected for the duration.
  • Simplifying this further, this is 131GWh of available capacity. Between the 20th and 22nd Ontario would have needed 370GWh to replace gas + Pickering, but both gas usage and Pickering output didn’t stop after the 22nd just because the wind picked back up.

Ontario will need more clean, reliable power in the future as we increase electrification. We clearly can’t rely on Quebec, nor should we, they do not expect us to. During the summer, the relationship is such that Ontario is a net importer, during the winter, we are a net exporter. This works for both provinces. Hydro is mostly tapped-out in Ontario with very little development potential. Wind doesn’t work during periods of high demand, and weeks-long storage has no economic case with batteries. Pumped hydro storage is widely unpopular, with even the small single Meaford project facing widespread opposition. This brings us back to nuclear and why it is absolutely idiotic for us to be shuttering a plant with 40+ more years left in it and replacing it with gas generation. With the world in the state that it is and the consensus that we must reduce emissions, Ontario already did! We phased-out coal, using nuclear. Prematurely retiring 1/4 of that capacity is criminal and why we must Save Pickering.

Pickering back to full capacity for winter

After having a several units down for maintenance during the low demand fall season, each were returned to service with the last unit, Unit 7, coming back online December 28th. This was timely, as on January 3rd, temperatures were down to -20C in some parts of Ontario and wind output had predictably collapsed.

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France commits to new build nuclear

A bold new commitment from Macron as Europe has battled with a continent-wide wind lull, soaring gas prices and lack of supply, the result of which has many nations falling back on coal. France, whose original nuclear build-out was designed to eliminate foreign resource dependence, has concluded from these recent events that they must build even more nuclear capacity to ensure that they are insulated from this going forward.

Wind doesn’t work

As an August heat wave rolls through, wind generation has decided to take a vacation. This emphasizes the point made numerous times by those knowledgeable on the issue that wind produces out of phase with demand, making it a low value generator with next to no capacity value. As Scott Luft noted on twitter: “I believe an electricity supply mix should be about reliability in meeting demand.” which wind utterly fails at doing. Pickering on the other hand, is running wide-open and providing Ontario with 3GW of reliable electricity.

Pickering returns to full capacity for the high demand summer months

As the heat of the summer approaches Pickering B Unit 8 is back in service, putting the site at full capacity (3,100MW). During the period of peak demand today Ontario’s 5,000MW wind fleet was producing approximately half the output of one Pickering unit, a common theme in the summer months where wind produces grossly out of phase with demand. Gas use has been high lately with a unit off at both Darlington and Bruce for refurbishment, so this return to service of Pickering 8 will provide some much needed relief on that front, driving Ontario emissions down, regardless of the weather.

Outstanding performance!

On the morning of February 15th, 2021, Pickering B Unit 5, which received an HP turbine replacement some time back, hit 560MWe at 9AM. This feat was complimented by Unit 6 getting into the 530’s, both units showing remarkable performance for their age. Producing at 109% of nameplate capacity, this is a clear demonstration of the uprate potential of the Pickering units, which, if leveraged as part of the refurbishment efforts, will drive down the per kWh price necessary to recoup the cost.

2020 – Another record year

As we waved goodbye to 2020 we also did so to another successful year for the four Pickering B units, representing 2,064MW of capacity which managed to produce 15.7TWh, putting their Capacity Factor at 87%, right up there with Bruce and Darlington. This was 4TWh more than Ontario’s 4,951MW industrial wind fleet, the output from which was mostly produced during the periods of lowest demand, a trait also identified by the OEB:

Putting a price on emissions? Not compatible with closing Pickering.

OPG’s plan to replace Pickering with methane (Natural Gas) is completely at odds with the object of putting a price on carbon, which is to drive consumers, including utilities, to other sources that have a lower, or zero emissions footprint. In 2019 Pickering avoided the consumption of 5.9 billion cubic meters (based on average gas plant efficiency) of natural gas for power generation, enough to heat millions of homes for a typical winter. As carbon pricing increases occur, the cost of every kWh generated by gas will become more and more expensive, increasing the value of Pickering’s ability to produce electricity with no direct emissions and satisfy Ontario demand during the peak summer months.