Nuclear or hydro: take your pick

The ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan has led to an intense planet-wide discussion and re-examination of nuclear energy over the past few weeks.  Countless nations have paused to take stock of nuclear energy and consider what other options there may be.

To be fair, nuclear energy has been used in many countries, and for many decades, with a relatively good safety record; albeit with the still to be resolved question of what to do with nuclear waste.  But as we’ve seen in Japan, when nuclear power goes wrong it goes wrong in a big way and with severe consequences: Reactor No. 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant will forevermore rank alongside Chernobyl and Three Mile Island as a poster child for nuclear energy gone bad.

Given the fact that the BC coast is an active earthquake zone, we’re fortunate that plans from the late 60’s for nuclear power plants on Vancouver Island never went ahead.  Perhaps even more fortunate is the fact that, during the intervening years, technological innovations in alternative energy have come about that can, thankfully, provide the energy we need with virtually no environmental downside or risk.

A great example is the well-proven run-of-river technology that’s been used in the mountainous parts of Europe for decades.  Run-of-river offers one of the smallest carbon footprints of any clean energy source and is ideally suited to BC’s terrain.  And given BC’s tight environmental regulations, BC run-of-river projects have proven to have minimal impact while still allowing the energy of flowing water to be captured on its way downstream to the ocean.

Nuclear energy will undoubtedly be hotly debated for many months to come as the world continues to come to grips with the question of how to power the world without destroying it in the process.  Fortunately there are proven alternatives, and new innovations are being made every day.  And as a proud British Columbian I’m pleased to say that many of the clean energy innovations and breakthroughs that will eventually help the entire world are being made right here in BC.

 

 

Jesse McClinton