Letting OPG compete in renewables could turn the Power Workers’ Union into an ally over time. Recent data from the industry-led Construction Sector Council has raised a red flag, warning that Ontario will face an extremely tight labour market between the period 2014 and 2019.
The Greater Toronto Area will be hit particularly hard, and the Council pegs much of that to nuclear refurbishment and new-build plans. This is supported by comments from Mark Arnone, vice-president of nuclear refurbishment execution at Ontario Power Generation.
Simply put, Ontario will have a very difficult time refurbishing its fleet of reactors AND building a new plant at Darlington.
You might be thinking that this applies equally to other power-sector projects, such as the building of wind farms and big solar plants.
Ontario, in other words, must be careful that it doesn’t bite off more than it can chew.
The Ontario government directed the province’s power authority today to negotiate an agreement to purchase biomass power from Ontario Power Generation, a move that marks the beginning of a three-year coal-to-biomass conversion project at the Atikokan power station about 200 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.
I know there are concerns within the environmental community, also expressed by Ontario’s environmental commissioner, about the wisdom of using biomass for power generation. Ontario Power Generation issued a call today to potential suppliers of wood pellets to the Atikokan coal plant, which the utility plans to beginning converting to 100 per cent biomass burn in 2012.
Ontario is making solid progress with its plan to convert some of its coal-fired power plants to biomass. If OPG can pull this off, it would be another Ontario first — and something other jurisdictions can learn from. Greenpeace fights nuclear power because it poses a serious threat to the environment and humanity. The current provincial government wants to spend $36 billions to rebuild aging reactors and build new one at the Darlington nuclear station.
Every dollar governments and the nuclear industry spend repairing old reactors and building new ones reduces our chance to build Canada's future on sustainable energy. Challenging industry claims: We produce material that shows the true costs and the threats of nuclear electricity, which the industry wants to hide. Pressuring politicians: Through actions and interventions at hearings, we take on politicians and regulators to force them to tell the public the truth about nuclear costs and risks. Informing the public: We reach out to Canadians through actions, activities and news events in an effort to inform them of the costs and threats of nuclear energy and of the real solutions to the climate crisis.
Our campaign exposes the subsidies and sweetheart deals for the nuclear industry that undermine the growth of green energy.

Last week, I attended my first Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearing in Kincardine, Ontario.
Ontario’s government stood behind its nuclear power plants on Tuesday, saying it has no plans to back down from a planned expansion to one of its facilities.
A spokesperson for Energy Minister Brad Duguid said the government remained committed to building two new units at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ont., in the wake of a possible nuclear meltdown in Japan. On Tuesday, New Democrat energy critic Peter Tabuns called for the Ontario government to halt construction on the facility amid safety concerns and cost increases. Statistics show that five million Ontarians live within 100 kilometres of the nuclear facilities in Clarington and in Pickering. The latest seismic assessment conducted by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) says the Pickering facility can withstand an earthquake of magnitude 6 to 7.
In 2000, another study concluded that the western Lake Ontario basin is an area of low seismic activity, with no evidence of a magnitude 4 earthquake in the previous 100 years.
Last year, a magnitude 5.0 quake hit parts of Ontario and Quebec, but did not cause serious damage in the GTA. In Japan, workers are having trouble keeping the reactors cool after they lost power in the wake of the tsunami.
Switzerland, Lithuania and Germany have all put a halt to nuclear plans in the wake of Japan’s atomic crisis.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there are 442 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide, with 65 new facilities being made.
Japan had plans to add 14 plants to the 55 it had in operation, while China and India have also been looking at massive increased to their nuclear power systems. Denise Carpenter, president of the Canadian Nuclear Federation, said it was important that Canadians understand how safe the country’s nuclear power industry is, and the value it brings as a clean energy source.
Nuclear power provides more than 50 per cent of power in Ontario, and about 15 per cent of Canada’s power on a whole. The Council’s report ranks a number of different construction trades in each region of Ontario, including the GTA. First, the Ontario government and its opposition are underestimating the impact of baby boomer retirements during a period of what is expected to be high construction activity. The expansion of nuclear power must be halted and nuclear plants shut down so that we can develop a clean energy future.
Ontario can't afford to spend billions on nuclear power and not foster renewabile energy, which is our hope for long term growth.

What we didn’t know is that the energy minister would direct the power authority to let Ontario Power Generation bid for these large projects (see page 3, third paragraph of directive). Indeed, as countries such as Japan, Germany and Switzerland vow to phase out their nuclear fleets or rely less on nuclear power, Ontario appears intent on not only preserving the 50-per-cent share of electricity that nuclear power generation supplies in this province; it is open to giving nuclear an even larger share of the power mix.
Big projects, such as nuclear refurbs and new reactor builds, will suffer and will be at serious risk of delay.
Given that natural gas won’t stay low forever and will eventually be subject to carbon pricing, this makes the biomass option competitive (also with wind and nuclear) and at the same time is a winner when it comes to local green-collar job creation. That's why we are working to stop Darlington in Ontario and protect electricity consumers from a new round of nuclear debt.
If power is cut, the three back-up systems are designed to keep cooling systems running for at least one week.
The reason for this restriction was to limit OPG’s clout in the marketplace and give independent power producers a chance to establish a foothold in the generation mix. It’s something the Society of Energy Professionals, a shareholder in the nuclear business of Bruce Power, has called for since at least 2007. In my humble opinion, the province would be far better off ditching its plans to build a new nuclear plant at Darlington and re-evaluating its existing fleet refurbishment plans.
Let’s keep in mind these converted coal plants will be used as peakers when using biomass fuel.
More thought should be put into industrial efficiency, conservation, hydroelectric imports from Quebec (or Newfoundland and Labrador), combined heat and power plants, offshore wind and community power projects based on renewables. This means there is plenty of biomass available for several units being targeted for conversion at the massive Nanticoke coal plant. A new University of Toronto study has concluded that converting coal-fired units at the Nanticoke and Atikokan plants to burning wood pellets would reduce GHGs by roughly 92 per cent, and this is based on a full lifecycle analysis.
OPG figures that coal plants converted to burning biomass will likely operate for another 10 years before decommissioning, at which point the pellet supply chain will be firmly established and the move to build a distributed fleet of newer biomass-burning plants can begin. Ontario will be competing with other jurisdictions, such as Alberta, and this will cause both labour markets to overheat.

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