Increasingly, in the worldwide discourse on climate change, nuclear power plants are being touted as a zero-emission clean energy source and a key solution towards meeting reduced emissions goals. New technological advancements could make nuclear power far safer than existing plant designs.
When queried on whether British Columbia should support nuclear power for electricity generation, respondents in a new province-wide survey by Research Co. were split, with 43% in favour and 40% against.
Levels of support reached 46% in Metro Vancouver, 41% in the Fraser Valley, 44% in Southern BC, 39% in Northern BC, and 36% on Vancouver Island.
The closest nuclear power plant to BC is the Columbia Generating Station, located in southern Washington State.
The safe use of nuclear power came to the forefront following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster when the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan triggered a large tsunami that damaged the plant’s emergency generators. Japan subsequently shut off many of its nuclear power plants and increased its reliance on fossil fuel imports, but in recent years there has been a policy reversal to restart shuttered nuclear plants to provide the nation with improved energy security.
Over the past decade, Germany has also been undergoing a transition away from nuclear power. But in an effort to replace Russian natural gas, Germany is now using more coal for power generation than ever before in decades, and it is looking to expand its use of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Last summer, German chancellor Olaf Scholz told the CBC he wants Canada to increase its shipments of LNG gas to Europe. LNG, which is greener compared to coal and oil, is generally seen as a transitionary fuel source for parts of the world that currently depend on heavy polluting fuels for power generation.
When the Research Co. survey asked BC residents whether they support the further development of the province’s LNG industry, 55% of respondents were supportive, while 29% were opposed and 17% undecided.
Support for the expansion of the LNG is highest in Southern BC (67%), followed by the Fraser Valley (56%), Metro Vancouver (also 56%), Northern BC (55%), and Vancouver Island (41%).
A larger proportion of BC residents are against any idea of the provincial government moving to ban the use of natural gas for stoves and heating in new buildings, with 45% opposed and 39% in support.
Significant majorities of BC residents are concerned that energy costs could become too expensive, with 84% expressing concern for residents and 66% for businesses. As well, 70% are concerned that energy shortages could lead to measures such as rationing and rolling blackouts.
Currently, about 90% of BC’s electricity is produced by hydroelectric dams, but this fluctuates throughout the year — at times, BC imports cheap electricity from the United States that is generated by fossil fuel sources.
According to BC Hydro’s five-year electrification plan released in September 2021, it is estimated BC has a sufficient supply of clean electricity only by 2030, including the capacity of the Site C dam, which is slated to open in 2025. The $16 billion dam will have an output capacity of 1,100 megawatts or enough power for the equivalent of 450,000 homes.
The provincial government’s strategy for pushing vehicles towards becoming dependent on the electrical grid also necessitates a reliable supply of power. Most BC residents support the provincial government’s requirement for all new car and passenger truck sales to be zero-emission by 2035, with 75% supporting the goal and 21% opposed.