Is nuclear power in Alberta's future?

Social Sciences

Credit: Stock photo (Pixabay - public domain).
After closely examining 10 years of wind energy data in Alberta and assessing the economic costs of several energy-generation scenarios in light of CO2 emission reduction targets, three University of Victoria researchers find that wind power alone cannot fill in the electricity gap for the province once coal is phased out by 2030.

“Our results indicate that for Alberta to reduce CO2 emissions from the production of electricity by 30 per cent or more will likely require something more than investments in wind energy, with nuclear energy looking most promising despite its high costs,” says lead author Cornelis (Kees) van Kooten, an environmental economist and the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Studies and Climate.
The paper, “Is there a Future for Nuclear Power? Wind and Emission Reduction Targets in Fossil-Fuel Alberta,” published today in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, explores how Alberta can meet its emissions reduction target and fulfil its promise to be a world leader in renewable energy.

The study focuses on the potential of wind energy to replace coal-fired power. “Solar power was not included,” adds van Kooten, because it’s difficult to model and “sufficiently inadequate during winter and night time to warrant consideration at the moment.”

The team concludes that a substantial investment in wind energy would allow Alberta to reduce emissions by 30 per cent, but only when supplemented with purchased hydropower from BC. Add nuclear power to the mix, and emissions would be reduced by up to 85 per cent.

“If Alberta politicians are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions while also continuing to develop the oil sands,” says van Kooten, “the most realistic option might well be a nuclear one.”

Funding for the study was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

Read the full study in PLOS ONE.

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Media contacts

Dr. G. Cornelis van Kooten (Dept. of Economics) at 250-721-8539 or

Anne MacLaurin (Social Sciences Communications) at 250-217-4259 or

In this story

Keywords: clean energy, economics, research

People: Cornelis van Kooten

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