The Only Choice For Electricity In Ontario Is Clean Generation, Isn’t It? Essay

ONTARIO POWER GENERATION IN ONTARIO CANADA (OPG)

Introduction

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The Ontario government is the sole owner of the public company OPG. OPG generates approximately 70 percent of electricity that is used in Ontario province in Canada. The company mainly focuses on producing electricity and selling it within Ontario and other markets that are interconnected (Epp, 2009).  The generating portfolio of electricity from OPG in-service capacity totals to 22,000 megawatts. This is made of five stations that are fossil fuelled, 64 stations of hydroelectric and three stations of nuclear. Two other stations which generate nuclear are owned by OPG and leased out to Bruce power in a long term basis. It is estimated that electricity amounting to 107.8 Terawatt hours (TWh) were generated by OPG in 2008 (Epp, 2009).  These methods that are used in generation of electricity by OPG cause a lot of pollution in the environment. This is of great concern due to the climatic change that is being experienced in the world due to global warming (Epp, 2009).

Environmental issues of the OPG

In 2008, OPG was awarded the Weenie award for degradation of the environment. This was caused by its plan of building a deep dump underground near Lake Huron which would be used for storing radio active waste (Thompson, 2008). This radio active waste is from the nuclear plants that are used for generating electricity within OPG. This dump caused a lot of outrage from the Environmental Alliance since it was going to be close enough (only one kilometer away) to one of biggest fresh resource of water in the world. This plan was aimed at centralizing all the nuclear waste that is generated from all the power generating plants that use nuclear within Ontario province (Thompson, 2008).

Prior to this, all the nuclear waste that was generated in the power plants was safely stored in casks within the sites. This was the first attempt to build an underground site for storage of nuclear waste and there was fear it could contaminate drinking water and result to other untold disasters. It was feared that if this plan was to go ahead and the facility is successfully completed, this site will be permanent and most nuclear waste from Canada will end being dumped near the lake (Thompson, 2008). The great lakes have sustained Canada in many ways as they provide water for drinking, will be in serious trouble if this waste was to contaminate their waters.

The fossil fueled stations in OPG normally use coal in generation of power. These generating stations that are fired by coal emit a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which causes a lot of environmental degradation and mitigates global warming. Although OPG is one of the top employers in Ontario and the greater area of Toronto, it is also a fact that in the world it can be ranked among the worst polluters (Martin, 2008). It is estimated that carbon dioxide amounting to 28.4 million tones was emitted by the generating plants of OPG. This tangibly made a contribution to the crisis of global warming that has hit the world. Climate change which is a result of global warming has endangered the lives of millions in the world (Martin, 2008).

This risk arises from destruction of the ecosystem, droughts, floods, forest fires, rising levels of the oceans, heat waves and extreme weather. OPG is thus putting the world at risk by releasing so much carbon into the atmosphere since this is likely to worsen the situation further. According to the Kyoto protocol, developed countries are supposed to ensure that there is a reduction of emission of the green house gases into the atmosphere from industries, so as to slow down the erratic climate changes that are being experienced in the world today. The countries are supposed to come up with ways to sequester the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from industries to avert the global warming crisis (Martin, 2008).

OPG is known to one of the largest plant operator that uses nuclear power in the world. The stock pile of radio active waste of high level from OPG nuclear plants was estimated to have increased to approximately 34,000 tones in 2007. The storage of this waste temporarily was done in the nuclear plants in Bruce, Darlington and Pickering (Martin, 2008). Nuclear waste is known be deadly and it remains so for millions of years. This waste causes serious health problems if it contaminates drinking water or people come into contact with it. It also causes a lot of degradation to the environment since plants cannot grow well if the soil is contaminated with this waste. Since OPG has not arrived at any consensus on how to dispose this waste, it continues to threaten the environment and people.

It is estimated that sulphur dioxide amounting to 105,000 tones was emitted into the air by OPG in 2007 (Martin, 2008).  In addition to this, nitrogen oxides amounting to 35,000 tones were emitted into the air from OPG in the same year. This caused a lot of acidic rain, smog and ozone on the ground level. The Ontario Medical Association in 2008 in June attributed the 9,500 premature deaths that were experienced annually in Ontario, to the above named polluters of air among others. The Nanticoke coal plant belonging to OPG scoops the award of being the largest polluter in Canada (Aplin, 2009).  Nanticoke took the top most position in 2006, as the largest greenhouse gases source as it released a staggering amount of carbon dioxide amounting to 16.272 million tones. This is equivalent to an environmental holocaust which is done by OPG on a daily basis through out the year (Hamilton, 2009).

There are mercury emissions that are normally released by the power plants that are generated by nuclear power. The generating stations that are fired by coal in OPG are also responsible for releasing a large amount of mercury into the atmosphere (Perkel, 2004).  There is an international consensus that exposure to any level of mercury be it minimal is unsafe. Thus, it is always safer to urgently eliminate any releases that are caused by humans or totally eliminate them as this is very significant (Perkel, 2004).

The Nanticoke plant still emits most of the mercury into the air in Ontario. Although the government is aware of the dangers that the coal plants pose to the environment and the people, they are afraid to phase them out, as a lot of generating capacity will be lost (Perkel, 2004).  The shutting down of the coal plants could push a shortage of power supplies as the supply is tight during peak periods. A conservation program was supposed to be implemented by OPG back in 2001 to cut back on the demand but it never came to be. Mercury which, is a dangerous highly toxic gas, causes neurological damage which is a health hazard. It is known that this airborne mercury contaminates the lakes in the province and affects the fish in the inland lakes (Perkel, 2004). The emission of mercury in the air causes various environmental and health hazards when it is find its way into water, land and air.

Although the power generating plants fired by coal have negative environmental impacts, shutting them down would affect the supply of electricity which is normally tight at peak periods. The plants that are fired by coal are used in generation of electricity at a lower cost (Robertson, 2005).   The relative costs that are associated in generating electricity are also lower in coal plants since there are no extra allowances that are associated with disposing of waste as it is common in nuclear plants. The plants that are fuelled by fossils have capital costs that are lower but their operating cost is high due to fuel costs (Robertson, 2005).

The best alternative for Canada is to adopt the nuclear power in generation of power since the plants that are fired by coal cause too much environmental and health damage (Shpyth, 2002). The adoption of nuclear power in the country over the last thirty years has prevented emissions of million tones of green houses (Robertson, 2005).  It has been established that nuclear power in Europe is cheaper in price than gas. This is in terms of direct costs and competitiveness in comparison with coal. This made it to emerge the cheapest electricity source when direct costs are added to external costs. The power also enjoys a lot of subsidies from the federal government in Canada under R & D which stands for Research and Development. Since nuclear plants are associated with a lot of intensity in capital, this renders them to be overly proof to inflation after their completion (Robertson, 2005).  Conversely, this factor is responsible for increasing their vulnerability to high rates of interest while they are undergoing construction. This also makes them vulnerable to unfilled demands which had been forecasted and if this demand fails to materialize, then no income will be present for payment of capital cost of a plant which is unneeded (Robertson, 2005).  The plants which are fired by fossils are no different since their vulnerability lies in increases in cost as a result of political and natural factors during the plants lifetime. As nuclear plants have capital costs that are relatively high, it is good if their use is focused on base-load plants (Shpyth, 2002). This means that they could be used in supplying the demand for power which exists for 24 hours daily. The fuel waste that is generated by the nuclear plants can be contained and releasing it to the environment can be prevented. A site can be designated where it can be managed responsibly and safely (Shpyth, 2002).

Conclusion

From the above reviews, it is clear that OPG causes a lot of environmental and health damages during the process of generating power. The plants that are fired by coal are responsible for emission of green house gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. These gases are responsible for mitigating the global warming crisis which has led to climatic changes in the world endangering the livelihood of all living beings. These coal plants generate electricity at a very low cost and this has made it impossible to completely shut them down since the demand for power in Ontario is very high. The nuclear power can generate electricity with fewer environmental and health hazards as long as the waste is carefully disposed and contamination avoided. A high of cost is associated with building these nuclear plants which cannot fully satisfy the demand and supply of electricity during the peak periods. However, the high overall cost to health, environment and human beings that is associated with coal plants makes the nuclear plants to be netter option for OPG.

References:

Aplin, S. (2009). Canadian energy issues. Retrieved on June 5, 2009 from http://canadianenergyissues.com/category/ontario-power-generation/

Epp, J. (2009). OPG Canada. Retrieved on June 5, 2009 from http://www.e8.org/index.jsp?numPage=52

Hamilton, T. (2009). OPG sees 27 percent fall in coal emissions. Retrieved on June 5, 2009 from http://www.thestar.com/comment/columnists/article/575844

http://www.cna.ca/english/pdf/Speeches/TheEditor-HillTimes.pdf

Martin, D. (2008). OPG: an environmental holocaust every day of the year. Retrieved on June 5, 2009 from http://blogs.greenpeace.ca/2008/10/19/ontario-power-generation-an-environmental-holocaust-every-day-of-the-year/

Perkel, C. (2004). OPG mercury emissions up. Retrieved on June 5, 2009 from http://www.ontariotenants.ca/electricity/articles/2004/cp-04i27.phtml

Robertson, J. (2005). What are the benefits of nuclear energy. Retrieved on June 5, 2009 from http://www.magma.ca/~jalrober/Chapter11.html

Shpyth, A. (2002). Nuclear power. Retrieved on June 5, 2009 from http://www.cna.ca/english/pdf/Speeches/TheEditor-HillTimes.pdf

Thompson, C. (2008). Ontario power generation wins top weenie award. Retrieved on June 5, 2009 from http://www2.canada.com/windsorstar/news/story.html?id=e4c2afce-0edd-42b6-8f55-023b2e67a6bc