Canada's interest in the climate change issue began in earnest about 1990 as did mine. I worked for Atomic Energy of Canada at that time until 2000 when I retired from full time employment and established Computare. As a result most of my earlier formal publications on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions include a nuclear energy theme. They do also include general information on energy use, climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. They span the time period from Canada's first involvement in United Nations climate change initiatives, through the signing of Kyoto in 1997 to the present. (DRP 08/01/27)
Energy Bridge magazine approached me in late 2010 to request an article on nuclear energy and the oil sands. Energy Bridge is a Canadian Chinese language magazine directed at Chinese investors. I submitted an article and proposed sidebar which were published in the inaugural issue of the magazine on February 28th, 2011. The article and sidebar, as edited and submitted, are available here. (I thank editor Sebastian Gault for his concise modifications) The Chinese translation is available at the magazines website in the Spring 2011 issue. The English version of the article from the Energy Bridge website is also posted here with permission of the publisher. I found a Babelfish translation of the Chinese language sidebar, back to English most interesting. The essence is still there, but a bit difficult to follow. (11/08/20)
This article, posted here with the permission of "Alberta Oil", examines the politics of petroleum and nuclear energy in Alberta circa 2007-2008. Of particular interest is the illustration of Canada's energy flows developed by the Office of Energy Research and Development of Natural Resources Canada. The figure shows that Canada's export of nuclear energy is about equal to the energy content of exports of natural gas and oil. The calculation is based on once through use of uranium in CANDU reactors. The energy ultimately retrievable from uranium is roughly one hundred times that obtained from the once through use of uranium in current commercial reactor systems. That potential is obtainable through the engineered development of advanced reactor and fuel cycle systems. The figure and it's implications to energy supply have already been discussed elsewhere on this site. (DRP 08/06/23)
The article below (March 2007) introduced the possibility that it might be possible for humans, via intervention in the carbon cycle, to enhance the world's soils while sequestering carbon in the soil in the form of charcoal. This second article published by "Alberta Oil" identifies how this would be done and some of the evidence for thinking it would work. If there ever was a case of "the devils in the details" this would be it.
The article I submitted to "Alberta Oil" included the process by which I stumbled on this concept. I was looking for a way to establish a carbon sink, rather than just an emission avoider, with nuclear energy. It seemed integrating nuclear energy into agricultural processes via the enhanced growth of plant material would be one way. The final version of the article, as edited by "Alberta Oil", focuses just on the carbon sink - soil enhancement aspect. It is posted here with permission. (DRP 08/01/27)
I met an editor of Alberta Oil, a very glossy magazine focusing on the Alberta's oil industry in October 2006. We exchanged business cards and corresponded by email. After some discussion, I proposed to write an article for a forthcoming issue to be focused on environment, energy and education. In my somewhat naive enthusiasm, I perhaps reached too far to provide a review of the status of climate change, commentary on energy, and even a chapter on education. My article was very long. While I was writing it the plans for the issue also contracted somewhat to focus on environmental issues. I was a bit surprised and also appreciative of the great effort the editors made to adapt my submission to the needs of the magazine. However it no longer read as if I had written it and I asked that I not be identified as the sole author.
The resulting published article does retain the most important points I set out to demonstrate. Earth's carbon cycle is responsible for much bigger carbon flows than is mans burning of fossil fuels. Human intervention in the carbon cycle may be possible and advantageous. More energy use, rather than efficiency increase and conservation as promulgated by environmental groups, is key to managing climate change should that become necessary. Nuclear energy is a most viable source of that energy. I hope the editors are more effective than I am at getting those ideas across.
May 2006 - Kyoto and Beyond: Development of Sustainable Policy
Some solutions which are proposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will turn out to be ineffective. Some will even counter efforts to reduce emissions by setting up "perverse" incentives which could actually encourage the release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This paper, discussed at greater length in the Fora Input section of this website, provides some examples and argues in favor of solutions that can be sustained over the long term. (DRP 06/09/12)
May 2006 - Energy, the Carbon Cycle, and Enduring Greenhouse Gas Management
This peer reviewed paper builds on and develops the theme that additional energy will be needed to manage greenhouse gases - or climate change - as initiated in the paper dated October 2004 below. It served as the basis for integrating a session on large scale mega-engineered solutions at the Engineering Institute of Canada climate change conference. These are sometimes referred to as "planet-sized" or macro-engineering options and solutions. Possibilities include large scale bioengineering, geo-engineering, chemical engineering schemes, space based apparatus to modify solar heating of earth, carbon sequestration, and the development of greenhouse gas free energy systems. (DRP 06/09/12)
Nuclear fission is quite often dismissed by those who are most keen to reduce greenhouse gases. They have come to the mistaken belief that fission fuel resources are inadequate to provide energy for human needs over the long term. My colleagues demonstrate that nuclear fission fission resources can be expanded by the use of "fast" or "breeder" reactors or systems to provide bountiful energy for human needs for at least thousands of years. Nuclear fission thus becomes essentially inexhaustible and a major candidate for planet sized mega-engineered greenhouse gas free energy systems. (DRP 06/09/12)
One of the authors of the above paper, George Stanford, has brought to my attention a paper on the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) by Dr. Charles Till. This is poetry to engineers and a "must read" for anyone concerned with energy for the future (DRP 06/09/23)
October 2004 - Science and Technology Development to Integrate Energy Production and Greenhouse Gas Management
Some propose that we improve the efficiency of energy use and conserve resources to lessen greenhouse gas emissions and avoid climate catastrophe. Many of the more promising technologies to keep and remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere actually require the use of even more energy. This paper presents a line of reasoning for the integration of energy use into greenhouse gas control. A shorter version appears as a slide presentation with notes under the "Fora Input" menu at the left.
October 2001 - Canadian Climate Change Technology Conferences
Duane Pendergast participated in the work of the "Technology Issue Table" of Canada’s National Climate Change Process. The Technology Table was one of sixteen Issue Tables, involving 450 experts, established in early 1998 to help develop Canada’s response to the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases. His involvement with the Technology Table spurred him to propose a national symposium and subsequent conference on Canadian Climate Change Technology. The Climate Change and Energy Options Symposium organized by the Canadian Nuclear Society in Ottawa, Canada, November 17-19, 1999 was the first of these. The Climate Change 2 - Canadian Technology Development Conference hosted by the Canadian Nuclear Society in Toronto on October 3-5, 2001 was the second. Papers focusing on a wide range of climate change technology deemed of particular importance to Canada were presented. Additional discussion on the conference scope is provided here from promotional information prepared before the conference. More details from the program are repeated here from the conference Program Description. Conference and symposium papers, are maintained at the conference website. (DRP 04/01/20)
June 1999 - Oil Sands and Nuclear Energy
Oil sands, located mostly in northeastern Alberta, require a lot of energy to extract and refine. Production of oil from them has been expanding rapidly in recent years as extraction techniques become more efficient and conventional oil supplies become more expensive. The national debate on climate change, greenhouse gas management and Kyoto has focused attention on means to continue increasing production from them in the face of constraints on greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear energy in the form of heat and/or electricity could be used to extract and upgrade bitumen (tar) from the sands. I prepared a paper in 1999, with major input from John Donnelly, which addresses technical possibilities for synergy between nuclear energy and the production of upgraded oil (syncrude) from the sands.
This spring (2003) the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) completed a study of the economics of nuclear energy in place of natural gas to extract oil from the sands. A summary paper is available at the CERI website. (DRP 03/11/17)
May 1999 - Transportation and Hydrogen
Our transportation system presents some particularly thorny problems with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Combustion gases, mainly carbon dioxide and water vapor, from fossil fuels burned in our cars are discharged to the four winds through their exhaust pipes. From there they are dispersed and quickly mixed throughout the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is continuously removed from the atmosphere by earth's growing plants. Nevertheless, it seems plant life has not, so far, been able to keep up with the growing release of carbon dioxide from human use of fossil fuels.
The use of hydrogen is often discussed as a possible source of energy for transportation. It can be chemically combined, like fossil fuel, with oxygen in the atmosphere to release energy. Hydrogen can be stored and is portable under high pressure and/or low temperature. It produces only water as it's main combustion product. Sometimes particularly keen proponents forget to tell us that hydrogen is not freely available to us in nature. Producing it requires an energy source which may produce emissions and greenhouse gases.
Hydrogen does open up opportunities to use stationary low emission sources of energy such as renewable and nuclear power in our planes, trains and automobiles. Exhaust emissions from stationary fossil fuel plants which produce hydrogen could also be captured and isolated.
I prepared a paper in 1999 which compares greenhouse gas emissions from hydrogen fuelled cars and light trucks using several alternatives for producing hydrogen from electricity. Nuclear power plants were found the the most effective of the alternatives considered. The David Suzuki Foundation and Pembina Institute produced a related report in 2000 focusing on greenhouse gas emission reductions using hydrogen fuel cells - which summarily dismissed the use of nuclear energy for this purpose. Another interesting paper presents a case for the use of hydrogen fuel cells to power Canada's trains. (DRP 03/11/05)
I just came across this early paper authored with some colleagues from Atomic Energy of Canada in 1998. It provides early thinking on the role nuclear energy could play in helping Canada meet her 1997 commitment to Kyoto. It's interesting that over the ensuing ten year period very little has come of the nuclear option optimism evident in the paper. Indeed nuclear energy has been explicitly excluded from such initiatives as the Clean Development Mechanism. Many environmental organizations professing to be immensely concerned with climate change, have actually embarked on organized campaigns to unequivocally eliminate bounteous carbon dioxide free nuclear energy from consideration as a means of reducing emissions. Go figure! (DRP 07/12/20)
October 1998 - Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from CANDU Power Plants
All means of producing electricity result in the release of some greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear, hydro solar, and wind electricity generating plants consume energy in preparing materials and during construction. Some of that energy, almost inevitably, comes from burning fossil fuels. The preparation of nuclear fuel may consume some fossil fuel.
This review and analysis paper first compares carbon dioxide emissions from the full life-cycle (build, operate, fuel and decommission) of several different electricity production systems. It then goes on to estimate carbon dioxide emissions from CANDU nuclear reactor electricity generation plants. CANDU plants differ, in this context, from more common light water reactor systems. Light water reactors use fuel enriched in the fissile component of uranium. The enrichment process consumes substantial energy. CANDU power plants use natural uranium fuel but use heavy water to enable fission. The production of heavy water is also an energy consumptive process. Canadian plants now use heavy water which was produced from nuclear energy avoiding the use of fossil fuels. As a result CANDU reactors now in use produce fewer greenhouse gas than competitors. (DRP 03/11/17)
November 1996 - Sustainable Development and Nuclear Energy
The concept of sustainable development is an interesting and flexible basis for discussion of many environmental and energy issues. Some seem to believe that only renewable energy is consistent with their concept of sustainability as depleting resources will not be available indefinitely. Others believe the term is an oxymoron as "development" can not be "sustained" without bounds.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in their 1995 report, discussed nuclear energy as an option to avoid greenhouse gas emissions. They raised several caveats that needed to be resolved. I undertook to prepare a paper to place nuclear energy in the context of sustainable development while addressing the caveats. Several colleagues from AECL and Ontario Hydro made valuable contributions. I presented the paper to a conference in Japan. (DRP 03/11/17)
The use of nuclear energy, and indeed fossil fuel energy, can be fit into the sustainable development discussion framework. That framework needs to be sufficiently flexible to allow for growth and contraction in the energy supplies and other products on which humans depend. The level of human population which is consistent with earth's carrying capacity will depend on their level of knowledge and use of the resources available to them and may go up and down. Ideally, the rate of population change will be managed, taking into account the life span of individual humans and other beings and life forms that sustainable development is designed to serve. The alternative is population management by nature. (DRP 03/11/18)
June 1995 - Deregulation in Ontario - Nuclear Environmental Consequences
The University of Toronto undertook a study to conduct an "investigation of the possibilities for, and challenges of, significant restructuring of the electric power industry in Ontario", in 1994. The project, was supported by Ontario Hydro and the U of T Faculty of Law. Study papers presented at the U of T Electric Power Project Conference on June 5-6 1995 were supplemented by commentary from stakeholders. I reviewed a paper on "Nuclear Environmental Consequences" prepared by Professor Donald Dewees on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. My comments were published in the book, "Ontario Hydro at the millennium: has monopoly's moment passed?" which comprised the proceedings of the conference. I focused on the reduced greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear generated electricity as a potential market advantage. (DRP 03/11/17)
October 1991 - Conservation of Uranium Fuel Resources with CANDU Reactors
General interest in the climate change issue had waned in 1991. Only diehard enthusiasts and climate change scientists remained engaged. Some authors had questioned the use of nuclear energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the basis that it is in such short supply that it could not significantly displace fossil fuel energy. I presented and published a review which addressed nuclear fission fuel supply and discussed the role of Canadian CANDU nuclear reactors in nuclear fuel conservation. (DRP 03/11/17)
December 1990 - Nuclear Power and Greenhouse Gas Reduction
At the World Meteorological Organization's Toronto Conference on the Environment, it was suggested a challenging target would be to reduce emissions to 20% below 1888 levels by 2005. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was also established in 1988 to study the issue in more depth.
Further study and negotiation led to the establishment of the The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992. At that time many nations pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2000.
At the UNFCCC Kyoto meeting in 1997 and subsequent related meetings "developed" nations committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below 1990 levels over the period 2008 to 2012. (Typo - Changed developing to "developed" on 06/10/20)
Throughout this setting of goals and establishing of commitments, global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to grow. I prepared a paper linking the apparent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the role of nuclear energy could play in reducing them. Over the years, the climate change issue has been captured by other environmental imperatives to the extent nuclear energy is essentially excluded from the discussion and actions which have been implemented. Greenhouse gas emissions may actually turn out to be causing harmful climate change. Nuclear energy is still waiting in the wings to be adopted as part of the solution. This paper, aimed at my fellow engineers, remains a valid overview of it's potential. (DRP 03/11/05)
June 1990 - Cooling of the Greenhouse (Temperature Predictions and Interest)
By 1990, the intense initial public interest in the greenhouse effect had waned considerably. New estimates of projected temperature increase had also decreased. A paper noting this cooling of interest in the greenhouse effect urged my nuclear colleagues to remain involved to clearly establish the role nuclear energy could play to reduce emissions should the need be determined. (DRP 03/11/17)
October 1989 - Can nuclear energy reduce environmental risks to improve safety?
Canada hosted an early United Nations sponsored meeting on climate change and global security in Toronto in 1998. My interest in the issue was sparked about that time. I undertook a review to determine whether nuclear energy could play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I concluded that it could, and prepared a paper to bring the issue to the attention of my colleagues in the nuclear industry. It is noteworthy now that I cited a 1984 statement from Ralph M. Rotty that a clear signal of global warming should be present in about two decades. To quote, he stated that "If the theory is correct, within the next two decades the signal of the CO2 effect on climate should become quite clear." (DRP 03/11/17)