New details are emerging that indicate the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is far worse than previously known, with three of the four affected reactors experiencing full meltdowns. Meanwhile, in the U.S., massive flooding along the Missouri River has put Nebraska's two nuclear plants, both near Omaha, on alert. The Cooper Nuclear Station declared a low-level emergency and will have to close down if the river rises another 3 inches. The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant has been shut down since April 9, in part due to flooding. At Prairie Island, Minn., extreme heat caused the nuclear plant's two emergency diesel generators to fail. Emergency-generator failure was one of the key problems that led to the meltdowns at Fukushima.
Our hearts go out to the people of Japan, who have suffered and continue to suffer in the wake of the recent terrible earthquake and tsunami. To make matters worse, the horrendous natural disaster has been compounded by a human crisis in the making.
The world is watching as reports emerge about the shutdown of nuclear power plants and subsequent radiation leaks. Our immediate concern should be for the people of Japan, but at the same time, people here can't help wondering how this will affect us.
Over the past two years a serious buzz has built over the electric car. The high-profile marketing and release of the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf in the United States has prompted much of this attention while the mainstream press in Canada and the United States has been scrutinizing these products in reports and editorials. Every car show around the world is featuring electric vehicles, and it seems that they could become the next big thing in personal mobility.
Faced with federal impotence on the climate file, Canada's provinces are taking independent steps to reduce their carbon consumption. At the same time, new international trade agreements, such as the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), that the provinces areactively negotiating along side the Harper government threaten to undermine these new provincial efforts to mitigate climate change.
It's 10 to 20 years late, but we're finally getting some realistic talk about what we're facing regarding energy. The government's renewable electricity plan, unveiled a week ago, raises consciousness about this much higher than what we've been used to.
It acknowledges the problems and limitations of the various options -- including its controversial biomass project. It damps down our longstanding Nova Scotian fantasy of an electricity strategy based on exports and does the same with the bizarre and pointless claim cooked up by former premier Rodney MacDonald that we'll be leading the world in green energy by 2020.
Big wind farms in financial or deadline trouble, sometimes being bailed out by Nova Scotia Power, are almost daily fare on the business pages these days. Like much of the rest of the world, we've cast wind as the saviour in our quest for green energy. Here's stuff we should know while we still have time to reset our options.
In Spain, Italy, the U.S. and elsewhere, big wind power scams have erupted, the result of hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies being pumped into wind with little control. Some politicians and entrepreneurs are already in jail.
Canadians know that our built environment -- homes, offices, factories, roads and infrastructure -- holds the key to an environmentally sustainable and healthy future. The energy and environmental demands of the built environment will undergo substantial changes in the years ahead. Several pressures exist: looming carbon cap and trade legislation, shrinking energy resources and, perhaps most importantly, evolving attitudes toward our consumption and production patterns.