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Print 35 comment(s) - last by Nervenkrieg.. on May 20 at 2:52 PM

If you close coal plants and don't build nuclear, what are your options?

The Canadian province of Quebec recently started construction on a major new hydroelectric project that will cost an estimated $6.5 billion dollars (CAD). The Romaine Hydroelectric Complex will have 1550 MW of capacity and produce 8 terawatt-hours of electricity per year. Consisting of four power plants when completed, it will be able to supply electricity for 450,000 households.

Much of that power could end up in New York state and New England. Hydro-Quebec, the province's public utility, generates over 95% of its electricity from hydropower. It currently exports 21.3 terawatt-hours of electricity per year to Ontario, New York state, and New England, generating over $1.9 billion CAD in revenue for 2008.

Several factors are leading to increased hydroelectricity imports. The Obama administration’s policies on renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions trading, and the shift away from coal power plants means that hydroelectricity becomes more attractive to municipalities. On the other hand, growing power consumption along the eastern seaboard means that new and replacement power generation must be brought online quickly.

The Luther Forest Technology Campus in New York state's Capital Region is expected to require large amounts of power. GlobalFoundries is planning to build its Fab 2 CPU plant there, and GE Transportation will build a new battery plant in the region to support its hybrid-electric vehicle efforts.

Hydroelectricity is a source of constantly available baseload power during the day and night. Baseload power is currently only available from nuclear, coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric sources. Solar and wind power require large amounts of reactionary power from coal and/or natural gas plants to ensure stability in the electrical grid and power supply chain.

Hydroelectric dams usually raise environmental concerns due to flooding needed to create reservoirs for the dams. Over $200 million has already been spent or budgeted on environmental studies, attenuation measures, and environmental monitoring, which is planned to continue until 2040.

Power from the project will be initially available by 2014 and all construction will be completed by 2020.



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So we're going to pay money to Canada?
By Bateluer on 5/19/2009 1:43:44 PM , Rating: 3
Because we're too lazy/shortsighted/stupid to build our own plants? Its not just the money we'll be paying for Canadian electricity, but we'll also be supporting the employees at that plant.

I don't have anything against Canada or Quebec province, but I think it'd better serve the US to be as self sufficient as possible. Even in today's global economy, a nation as large as the US can supply its own utilities with ease.




RE: So we're going to pay money to Canada?
By Jansen (blog) on 5/19/2009 1:57:28 PM , Rating: 4
I would love for the US to build new nuclear plants and replace their old coal-fired plants.

It amazes me that many people are against even replacing 50 year old nuclear reactors with new reactors that have passive shutdown systems and use much less fuel. They are much safer, but extremists would rather focus on stopping new reactors than replacing older, less safe models.

Don't forget too, that coal-fired plants from Michigan and other states upwind of Ontario and Quebec dump their pollution laden with mercury and other chemicals onto Canadians.


RE: So we're going to pay money to Canada?
By matt0401 on 5/19/2009 2:38:19 PM , Rating: 5
Don't remind me...

Come on now, here in Ontario the vast majority of our electricity is renewable. We do import a lot from Quebec but what we generate is either nuclear or hydro, a small remaining fraction being filled in with wind and coal/natural gas. If Canadians can do it, why not the states?


RE: So we're going to pay money to Canada?
By arazok on 5/19/09, Rating: 0
RE: So we're going to pay money to Canada?
By omnicronx on 5/19/2009 3:08:51 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Because the United States is an advanced industrial economy 10 times the size of Canada’s.
Ontario is home to 12 million people, and is the economic powerhouse of Canada.

Simply put, you are not allowed to build nuclear reactors, don't blame it on the size of the economy.

With careful planning there is no reason any water accessible state should not be able to do the same as Ontario. i.e utilizing nuclear power for a large portion (50%+) of your power needs


RE: So we're going to pay money to Canada?
By arazok on 5/19/2009 3:24:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Ontario is home to 12 million people, and is the economic powerhouse of Canada.


Yes, and we import Hydro (5%) and rely on Coal (~30%), and Natural Gas (~5%) for some of our needs.

The American industrial heartland dwarfs Ontario. There’s no way they could rely on Hydro to the same extent. I would agree that they need far more Nuclear power.


By FITCamaro on 5/19/2009 10:09:28 PM , Rating: 3
It could easily rely on hydro. Because it isn't a variable source of power. Unless the river dries up. But then you have bigger problems.


By teldar on 5/19/2009 5:37:16 PM , Rating: 2
And Ontario imports electricity from Quebec as well. As the OP said, there are simply not enough large rivers to dam for power for the US to run on.
The only realistic option IS nuclear. But we have too many tree huggers who don't understand how safe it is.


By omnicronx on 5/19/2009 3:01:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If Canadians can do it, why not the states?
Quebec is the only province with a significant amount of population to be pretty much self sufficient. Ontario is not even close to 'the vast majority', it is currently only around 50%.

Quebec cannot really be compared to pretty much anywhere else either. They have huge amounts of accessible water masses, small lakes and rivers which are suitable for hydro installations.

Even with Ontario's numerous Nuclear plants and hydro dams (Niagra is a pretty big hydro producer), we still make use of coal burning and other fossil fuel based power plants (and as the article mentions, we buy from other provinces). Considering this took years of planning even to reach this state (at this point even with two new reactors being built, ontario is only aiming for 50% nuclear power by 2025), it is no wonder the states cannot catch up. It will take years for big states like New York to become self sufficient.


By tmouse on 5/19/2009 3:16:21 PM , Rating: 2
Problem is in NY they want to close down Indian Point, they gave a thumbs down to a new gas line and new proposed power transmission lines. We need more power but no one wants any of the necessary infrastructure. I suppose the magic electric fairy's will beam it to us. made from happiness and sunshine.


RE: So we're going to pay money to Canada?
By SeeManRun on 5/19/2009 4:47:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I would love for the US to build new nuclear plants and replace their old coal-fired plants. It amazes me that many people are against even replacing 50 year old nuclear reactors with new reactors that have passive shutdown systems and use much less fuel. They are much safer, but extremists would rather focus on stopping new reactors than replacing older, less safe models.


It isn't that they think the plants are bad, well some do, but it is the 'not in my back yard' crowd. People are all for new airports, better transit via trains, and more prisons, but as soon as you put plans up people freak out saying they don't want to live near those things. I think most Americans would be fine to have nuclear reactors in Alaska in the wilderness, but they won't do much good way up there...


By Zoomer on 5/19/2009 11:54:27 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure AMD, oops Global Foundries, wouldn't mind a nuclear reactor, train stations, etc right next to their new fab. Cheap power, cheap freight, woohoo!

No reason why it can't be built at industrial-ly areas like that. I'd be more concerned about the fab's chemicals.


By arazok on 5/19/2009 2:40:46 PM , Rating: 2
Plus, we’re just going to waste all the money you give us subsidizing our highly lucrative bagged milk industry.


By HotFoot on 5/19/2009 3:20:33 PM , Rating: 2
I suppose the question is about strategic interest, which I think electricity is, because nearly everything else involving labour has been sent overseas or to Mexico. Do you think the same thing when everything in the stores is 'made in China'? I do, actually, think nations should be a little more self-sufficient than they currently are, but in the end trade in areas of clear advantage makes a lot of sense. I don't believe in trade for the purpose of cheap labour, as in paying Chinese workers 13 cents/hour to produce crap, when high-quality merchandise could easily be made right here.

But that's getting to a different story, following the same sentiment.

The thing here is electricity, and trade between two countries with the same standard of living. Buying power at 9 cents/kWh in that kind of bulk sounds like a pretty good deal to me. What do they charge for power in NYC? What does it cost in comparison to construct a Nuclear plant instead to fill the need?

I think when it comes to labour, maybe we should all put our money where our patriotic mouths are and not be so damned cheap that we're not willing to pay our neighbors an honest wage for their work, but would rather support early-industrial age working conditions and send so much of our capital overseas. But in this case, it's a natural resource, one which Quebec has excessive amounts of, an it's simply cheaper to get power from there than to make it at home.

Keeping energy costs down this way is really attractive to industries, helping their bottom lines and keeping high-quality jobs around in the Eastern Seaboard.


RE: So we're going to pay money to Canada?
By Uncle on 5/19/2009 9:40:36 PM , Rating: 3
Come on get out of the closet. Canada is the 51st state, has been for many years now. The money men devalued our Canadian dollar(65cents to 1.00us. Remember you guys came up here and bought anything of value at 1/3 off, telling us what fantastic deals we were getting. We are the largest exporter of oil to the US. Then we are conned into believing that we have to import oil for our own needs. Because of NAFTA we are not allowed to curtail the flow south. Also NAFTA states we have to supply the US a fixed percentage of oil, even if we were in dire straights and needed the oil ourselves.
That's the reason they keep trying to get someone to start selling water using a canal or tanker, NAFTA states that once the flow of water starts, under the agreement, same as oil, we are not alowed to stop it.
Tell me the US of A doesn't own us. Its easier to rip us off if we stay as a country, then it is to make us the official 51st state. Its easier to keep devaluing our money and buying everything at a discount. A lot of people have been asking why we just don't switch to the American dollar since over 80% of our exports goes south. I hope I opened up your eyes to just a fraction of what is going on. Oh by the way that includes hydro electric, and we the tax payers pay for these dams that flood large areas of our land,so you can play on your computer and turn on the lights.


RE: So we're going to pay money to Canada?
By just4U on 5/20/2009 2:12:29 AM , Rating: 3
We are also on a very short list of countries that "could" be considered a resource super power. While I do agree that Canada and the United States are tied at the hip.. I wouldn't go as far as saying we are the 51st State.

Someday .. probably many years from now we will all be under a continental government.. Perhaps the United States of North America. I think though that it will be largely dependant upon the unification of Europe and just how powerful China gets as it advances. (you know trading blocks and such)

That's my theory anyway .. and we seem to be taking baby steps back and forth in that direction.


RE: So we're going to pay money to Canada?
By mudgiestylie on 5/20/2009 2:57:10 AM , Rating: 2
Ya know, people are so caught up in a rustic nationalist mind set and think that this kind of thing must be bad. Personally I think the US, Canada, the EU and a handful of other westernized countries could pretty easily unify and have it work out quite well. Half of the EU speaks english as a second language, plus the brits who are still learning to speak it (they'll figure it out soon enough). So does Canada and the US. We all share common cultural history, similar standards of living, similar styles of government, similar levels of education, and already have a strong military alliance in NATO (even with standardized ammunition so that we can all shoot the same bullets). We all do a lot of business with one another, and our governments are generally amiable, short of the occasional row. Take all those countries that get along anyway, make a sort of confederation of them, and you have one monstrously powerful new country. Whats stopping it from happening is people clinging to local cultural identity, instead of recognizing that our similarities greatly outweigh our differences. As long as we keep the french out (jk).


By Uncle on 5/20/2009 3:36:57 AM , Rating: 2
After reading your piece, its obvious to you that unification is great as long as the US of A pulls all the strings as they have been doing.


By just4U on 5/20/2009 12:57:26 PM , Rating: 2
I don't find it to be bad or good really. I realize that as Nations go we are all very young in comparison to other countries. Over time things are going to change and it would be pretty arrogant of us to somehow think we are going to head on down thru the ages with our countries staying as they are now. History pretty much indicates otherwise.

The next logicial step seems to be continental and we have loosely regulated bodies for that already which is what I meant by baby steps forward. Self interest is what pushes those steps back to so it's a bit of a tug of war.


Hydropower
By Nervenkrieg on 5/19/2009 3:04:16 PM , Rating: 1
Electricity generated from river dams is not really considered part of baseload power due to the constant changes in flow.
Wind power increases the need for hydropower due to unpredictability. Wind creates spikes and deficits on the power grid. Dams can respond quickly due to being able to start/stop units in 5 minutes or less. Nuke plants can take a few days to power up/down.




RE: Hydropower
By rudolphna on 5/19/2009 8:33:26 PM , Rating: 2
I think you are a little confused. Hydro plants supply constant electricity, and like all power plants can adjust the output. Nuclear plants take several days to turn on/off, due to the necessity of slowly warming/cooling the reactor to avoid thermal stress to the reactor vessel. The actual power output can be changed quite quickly.


RE: Hydropower
By Nervenkrieg on 5/20/2009 2:52:45 PM , Rating: 2
Yes I am always confused.
However, working at a Hydroelectric facility I can tell you that we are at the mercy of the river and I have seen our output vary up to 155 MW in a weeks time. Believe me if we could generate #MWs, we would be all the time. Hydro power is not considered baseline power.
The only time we generate more than our current flow permits is in emergency situations, but it cannot be sustained for long. We do have a few feet of reservoir elevation to play with.


Romaine river dams?
By JustKidding on 5/19/2009 11:08:32 PM , Rating: 2
You can dam a river with lettuce? Sounds like a new government 'green' thing...




Ahhh perceptions...
By Amiga500 on 5/20/2009 7:33:25 AM , Rating: 1
The methane release from the trapped humus behind the dam is much more damaging to the environment than an equivalent oil plant's CO2 emissions (indeed, sometimes over 3x as much).

So your safer with an oil plant than a hydro-electric one.

Not a well know fact that one.




Dams are bad for the enviroment
By the goat on 5/19/09, Rating: -1
RE: Dams are bad for the enviroment
By Suntan on 5/19/2009 1:34:07 PM , Rating: 5
Tell that to the beavers....

...Nothing good ever came from beavers...

-Suntan


RE: Dams are bad for the enviroment
By rcc on 5/19/2009 1:37:19 PM , Rating: 3
Hey! I like b....., er nevermind. Inappropriate discussion for inappropriate board.

: )


RE: Dams are bad for the enviroment
By rcc on 5/19/2009 1:35:34 PM , Rating: 2
You are missing the point. Today it appears to be better to trash an ecosystem than to utter the evil N word.


RE: Dams are bad for the enviroment
By omnicronx on 5/19/2009 1:41:56 PM , Rating: 4
This project was actually done pretty well. They spent/plan to spend well over 200 million dollars in environmental studies, attenuation measures, and environmental monitoring over the next 30 years.

Some of the measures include:

- $20 million Atlantic salmon development program over 20 years
- Protection of downriver in-stream flows to preserve fish habitats
- Creation of spawning areas and stocking of lakes and tributaries
- Telemetric monitoring of forest caribou
- Recovery of merchantable timber in reservoirs and at dam sites
- Replanting and reforestation of work vicinity
- Development of wetlands and borrow pits, deforestation of sections of reservoir shoreline, and creation of bays to facilitate riparian habitat

P.S I find it funny you focus solely on C02, as though sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, mercury, arsenic, lead and other airborn particles are not released into the air and surrounding areas with current coal burning plants.


RE: Dams are bad for the enviroment
By arazok on 5/19/2009 2:43:40 PM , Rating: 2
200 million on environmental assessments?! How is that even possible? (Don’t tell me, I already know)


By Sulphademus on 5/19/2009 4:34:00 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
200 million on environmental assessments?! How is that even possible? (Don’t tell me, I already know)


Thats what I thought at first but the $200mil is a total of whats already been spent combined with what is planned on being spent until 2040 on this assessment project.

Of course, given the nature of government I expect this to become $500mil + $100m for bailouts of companies involved who are in financial trouble + $50m emergency salmon war funding.


By amanojaku on 5/19/2009 2:43:50 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
$20 million Atlantic salmon development program over 20 years
For $20 million those salmon should come with lasers. Spawning season would be funny as hell, with salmon shooting each other and getting the bears fat. But bigger bears means bigger farts, thus more CO2. So, I guess no lasers. :-(


By geddarkstorm on 5/19/2009 3:03:03 PM , Rating: 2
Oh god, the salmon! They say they make "fish ladders" for them, but everyone knows salmon don't have opposable thumbs, how will they ever climb a ladder?!


RE: Dams are bad for the enviroment
By drycrust on 5/19/2009 3:03:52 PM , Rating: 2
I totally agree with your comment on CO2. Pretty well every air breathing thing is breathing out CO2, even plants do it at night. I just can't see what all the fuss is about. Yes, I can see dangers with the other emissions from burning of fuel, but water and CO2 are natural emissions. If nature couldn't cope then we'd have all died years ago.
In regards to the environmental impact, I wonder if there is a maximum size a hydro dam can be before it starts to impact the earth's crust. There seems to be lots more earthquakes around the Three Gorges Dam than one would expect.
In regards to the cost of building the dam, I heard a radio report many years ago regarding the "total energy content" of a 1970s technology nuclear power station. Basically, if you looked at the total energy used to extract and refine the nuclear material to a suitable level of radioactivity, the amount of fuel needed to build a nuclear reactor (including the extraction and refining of steel, making concrete, etc), and the fuel and electricity needed to run it and to dispose safely of the waste, after 20 years you have just made a small profit in terms of total energy.
I don't know how long it will take to pay off the energy put into a hydro-electric dam is, but the impression I get is they are pretty low maintenance and don't need large numbers of staff to run them. Even if it took 20 years to pay off the energy put in, which I doubt, after that it's pretty much profit all the way.


By Nervenkrieg on 5/19/2009 5:06:28 PM , Rating: 2
I know of a dam that has an annual operating budget of $13 million. Generating up to 950 MW, can bring in 120-200 million per year, depending on flow and the market. The total cost of the project was almost $418 million in 1970 dollars.
The carbon footprint that the dam offsets is large, approx 3 million tons of CO2 per year. Some river dams allow barges to travel inland, offsetting the need for thousands of semi trucks. Barging decreases traffic, CO2 and the need to build/maintain more highways.
Is the savings worth the potential environmental impact?


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