Ontario leads way on air quality

06 November 2018

Other provinces and jurisdictions should follow Ontario's lead to improve the quality of life for people who live with asthma, allergies and other respiratory illnesses, according to a new joint report by Bruce Power and Asthma Canada. A separate report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for decreasing global reliance on fossil fuels as a measure to combat polluted air, which it says caused 600,000 deaths in children under 15 in 2016.

Bruce Power's Ontario site (Image: Bruce Power)

Bruce Power and Asthma Canada's joint report, Clean Air Canada: Recognising the role of nuclear power supporting coal phase-out to achieve long-term climate change goals, highlights nuclear power's integral role in helping Ontario transition away from burning coal for electricity.

Canada has committed to phasing out its coal-fired electricity power plants by 2030 and has reduced its coal consumption by 24% since 1990 and by 41% since 2000.

"Although Canada has already come a long way in reducing GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions in the electricity sector, in large part due to the leadership exemplified by Ontario, which closed its last coal plant in 2014, some provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan remain primarily fossil fuel-burning regions, which reflect opportunities for change," it says.

Much of Ontario's success at phasing out coal was made possible by the province's nuclear industry, the report notes. A major part of this commitment was achieved through the refurbishment and return to service of Bruce A’s four units, which provided an additional 3000 MWe of carbon-free electricity to the provincial grid between 2003 and 2012.

"The refurbishment of the four Bruce Power reactors provided 70% of the power the province needed to shut down coal stations once and for all," Bruce Power CEO and President Mike Rencheck said. "Meeting energy demand in a clean and affordable way is possible, and Ontario is a perfect example of how."

Ontario's coal phase-out led to a significant reduction in the province's level of GHG emissions, the report notes, with the number of "smog days" falling from from 53 in 2005 to just two since 2014.

"Air pollution affects us all - it is not limited to the borders of provinces or countries, and it is up to each of us to ensure we pursue choices that reduce air emissions," Vanessa Foran, president and CEO of Asthma Canada, said. "Through its commitment to nuclear and other non-GHG emitting energy sources, Ontario is leading the way, but this was just the first step, and there is plenty of work left to do. By co-authoring this report with Bruce Power, we are leveraging a partnership between two organisations that are focused on combating climate change and ensuring Canadians have cleaner air to breathe for future generations."

WHO reports on polluted air


Almost 80% of global GHG emissions from human activities come from energy consuming activities such as transportation, energy and electricity production, heating and cooling of buildings, operation of appliances and equipment, production of goods, and the provision of services, the Canadian report notes.

WHO last month said that around 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 years - some 1.8 billion children - breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk. A new report, Air pollution and child health: Prescribing clean air, launched ahead of WHO’s first ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, estimated that globally 600,000 children died in 2016 from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.

The organisation has called on all countries to work towards meeting WHO global air quality guidelines to enhance the health and safety of children, by adopting measures such as reducing the over-dependence on fossil fuels in the global energy mix, investing in improvements in energy efficiency and facilitating the uptake of renewable energy sources.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News