By: Donald Jones, P.Eng., retired nuclear industry engineer – 2013 February
The present situation in Ontario, and indeed in all of north America, is reminiscent of that in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. Cheap natural gas discovered in the North Sea together with the fortuitous development of combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) generating stations effectively put a stop to any future nuclear build. The “Dash for Gas” had started. The last nuclear plant to be built in the UK was Sizewell B, a Westinghouse design, that started up in 1995 but planned follow-on units were cancelled because of the availability of low cost gas. However in North America, well at least in the USA, nuclear has not been stopped, just slowed.
Today the situation in the UK is much different. North Sea reserves of natgas are down and gas prices are very much up. In 2010 the UK grid was made up of 34,000 MW of gas (Ontario 10,000 MW), 29,000 MW of coal (Ontario 3,300 MW), 11,000 MW of nuclear (Ontario 13,000 MW), 4,200 MW of hydro (Ontario 8,000 MW) and 4,200 nameplate MW of wind (Ontario 1,500 MW). Imported gas will account for 75 percent of all gas consumed in UK by 2015, it was 50 percent in 2009. The government has set a limit on carbon emissions from fossil plants that ensures that only gas-fired units get built in the future, unless carbon capture and storage (CCS) becomes practical for coal-fired plants – unlikely. Read the rest of this entry »