Dr. Chris Keefer is one of the busiest and most successful nuclear energy advocates working today. He is a Canadian emergency room doctor, the founder of Doctors for Nuclear Energy, the founder and host of the Decouple podcast, the founder of Decouple Media, and the founder and President of Canadians for Nuclear Energy (C4NE).
And to think, just a few years ago, Chris was a free thinking progressive who had only thought negatively about nuclear energy if he bothered to think much about it at all.
We talked about his journey from a tribal antinuclear thinker – one who thought negatively about nuclear because most of the people they knew did – to an openly and consistently pronuclear advocate who believes that nuclear energy plays an important role in our present and an increasingly vital one in our future.
As the Crown corporation’s sole shareholder, the province of Ontario requested Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to determine if it could safely continue operating the Pickering nuclear power plant. On September 29, 2022, OPG announced that planned to keep the Pickering nuclear plant operating for at least one more year. It also announced that it would conduct a new evaluation to determine if refurbishing the plant for an additional 30 year period was justified. Chris and his team at C4NE declared that September 29 should now be called Pickering Day.
OPG requires approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for its revised schedule. The CNSC, which employs a rigorous and transparent decision-making process, will make the final decision regarding Pickering’s safe operating life. OPG will continue to ensure the safety of the Pickering facility through rigorous monitoring, inspections, and testing.Province of Ontario news release titled “Ontario Supports Plan to Safely Continue Operating the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station”
Over the past several years, C4NE fought what was initially a lonely battle to save Pickering and to prevent Ontario from dramatically increasing its use of natural gas to supply electricity to Canada’s most industrialized province. As it continued to show up to various meetings, events and even parliamentary sessions, C4NE accumulated a following that included other advocates, plant workers, union organizers and local business leaders.
They reminded people that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission had approved a plan to refurbish Pickering before the 2009 closure decision. They pointed out that the energy market had changed dramatically since that decision, which was made in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008 and at a time when “cheap natural gas” seemed to be clean and infinitely available.
We also discussed the coincidence that OPG announced it was open to keeping Pickering for 30 more years just three days after it announced a dam-breaking deal with Microsoft to begin selling clean energy credits sourced from its nuclear and hydro-electric fleets. That deal should be the first of many announcements from major tech companies that have made pledges to power their data centers with clean power on an hour by hour basis, constantly matching demand with supply.
This is an evolution and an improvement over the trading system of exclusive “renewable” energy credits where companies purchase enough credits so that their total energy demand is matched by the total energy production of sources like wind or solar that are not likely to be producing power to supply demand at the time that the demand occurs.
Aside: Atomic Insights has an article in the works to more completely describe the clean energy credit deal and the system that Ontario is developing to track and trade the credits. Look for that article to appear here in the near future. End Aside.
Chris and I then ranged into a number of other topics focused on Canada’s nuclear energy leadership and its opportunities to prosper in the continuing Nuclear Renaissance. (Please remember, the original Renaissance took about 50 years to get going. Historians still differ in their declarations of when the 300 year-long period actually started.)
We live in “interesting” times; nuclear energy is a powerful tool that can help address our biggest economic, environmental and geopolitical challenges. People like Chris Keefer are helping to increase awareness of the usefulness of that tool.
I hope you enjoyed the show and participate in the discussion here.