Sunday, December 31, 2006

Nuke Plant To Power Oil Sands Extraction?

Here's one I entirely missed until I stumbled across The Edmonton Sun's Saturday Editorial. It appears that federal natural resources minister Gary Lunn thinks it is only a matter of time before Canada builds a nuclear power station to help extract oil from the massive tar sands in northern Alberta:

"It's not a question of if, it's a question of when in my mind," the Sun quoted Lunn as saying. "I think nuclear can play a very significant role in the oil sands. I'm very, very keen."


Lunn noted that nuclear energy is "absolutely emission free" and "CO2 free" and that it can help replace natural gas and other fossil fuels currently being burned to extract other fossil fuels from the tarsands.

I don't quite know what to make of this. Is it an end-of-year off-the-cuff remark that's best left ignored? Nuclear plants take a hell of a long time to get approved and finally built, so I doubt any structure would be in place before the end the next decade--by which time oil-sands emissions will have more than doubled--let alone this one. Furthermore, initial reaction from the oil-patch itself seems to have been negative. They certainly don't want to get stuck with the cost of building a power plant, and nobody has asked the people of Fort McMurray what their opinion of the project is, either.

Although I doubt these views would be hard to guess. The Edmonton Sun Editorial is already hinting that the proper response might be NIMBYism.

Personally, I am neutral on Nuclear Power. It might be due for a re-evaluation. However, Mark from Section 15 once promised a series of posts on why more reactors would not solve our Global Warming woes. If and when Mark produces, I shall happily link.

Update: Here's a good link on the history of using nuclear power to, well, power the extraction of oil from the tar sands. Luckily, we've moved on from the 50s, when they were thinking of setting off a bomb under Cheechum Crossing. Apparently, the technique works and

...was actually used in the US in the 60's or 70's in Colorado near Rifle. It was called the Rulison project and was to free up significant amount of natural gas. It did, but the gas was not usable because of unacceptable levels of radioactivity

A proposal similar to Lunn's was made about two years ago, but Ralph Klein ruled it out because Greens "would go nuts". Though Ralph is out of the picture, I trust his judgments re. the Alberta electorate. You probably won't be seeing any action on this soon.


Anonymous said...

This idea has been around a while. The nukes they are talking about are small scale plants like those that have been powering subs and aircraft carriers for fifty years. The technology is well developed and could be quickly put in place. Do some research dumb ass, we're not talking Pickering here.

bigcitylib said...

The consultation/approval process would painfully long. Would you want one on the outskirts of your town?

And they can't be that small, cuz the tar sands companies are looking askance at the possible cost.

Anonymous said...

"...Canadian Energy Research Institute produced a report in 2003 that found a small nuclear reactor could produce steam for tarsands extraction on an economically competitive basis as a natural-gas fired steam extraction process"

Small reactors such as those on subs and aircraft carriers are almost off-the-shelf items for US makers. Proven technology means much lower design cost and simpler regulatory review. As for living next to one last I heard Oshawa, Whitby, Scarborough were still thriving communities. Besides, you have to be adventurous to live in Ft McMurray, no Don Mills panty waists there.

Anonymous said...

"Don Mills panty waists (sic)?"

I'm amazed that these ill-bred, ill-mannered cretins expect anyone to listen to them. I'm sure, in real life, no one does.

That really is a shame, as I suspect, on some level, they might have something worthwhile to contribute.

Anonymous said...

This is only a trial balloon that Harpor has allowed one of his mini-serfs to float. If it meets the minimum opposition -- let's see what farmer Ed says, nevermind the good citizens of Fred MacMurray -- it'll be dropped and denied as any kind of idea they had. Unless an idea has ideological merit or quick conversion to public approval, like dumping the CWB, Harpor isn't interested in investing any time on it. Take his original Green Plan. Essentially he was saying "fix the environment? Not in my generation." He isn't interested in the hard work of hashing out deals with 10 provinces unless it helps relieve him of the responsibility. Health care wait times? That was so early-2006ish. When he dumped that 'priority' it was replaced by national security because of the 7 suspected terrorists... He'll change the channel so quickly I wonder exactly what his attention span is. Nuclear energy debate would take too much time, would provide too 'radio-active' an issue that would unite his opposition, and really isn't what his Big Oil buddies are clamouring for.

Anonymous said...

BSL, your Mr Hyde persona ti-guy is slipping out again, time for your meds.

Anonymous said...

Oh shut up.

Anonymous said...

At the rate the "tar" sands (they're not oil sands) are depleting our natural gas reserves the nuclear option looks increasingly viable. That tar sands mess is well, an environmental mess.