Energy Alberta prepare to introduce nuclear
05 March 2007
Energy Alberta wants to use a nuclear power plant in its oil sand mining operations by 2016.
Wayne Heunset of EA told Reuters that he imagines a C$5.5 billion ($4.7 billion) project could see a two-unit Candu plant operate in the north of the province of Alberta. The first of the twin reactors could come online by 2016, the second following a year later.
Colin Hunt of the Canadian Nuclear Association told WNN that a likely plan to employ nuclear energy in oil sands would see a reactor supply electricity to power energy-intensive oil extraction operations.
At the moment, the process of extracting oil from the bitumen contained in the gritty sands requires a variety of power products. First, a large amount of steam is pumped underground to soften the oily mixture; next, electricity is used by a variety of plant equipment; and finally, hydrogen is added to the resulting oils to 'sweeten' them.
At present, natural gas is the primary energy source proving these requirements, but in future, nuclear plants are seen as a possible alternative which would reduce the overall carbon dioxide emissions from oil sands operations. "The people of Canada are saying: 'We need to clean up our carbon dioxide, we have to be responsible,'" said Heunset.
Initial nuclear applications in the oil sands industry would probably see a nuclear plant simply provide large volumes of carbon-dioxide free electricity to local producers, said Hunt, but nuclear power could theoretically provide steam and electricity for plant equipment as well as for producing hydrogen via high-temperature electrolysis.
EA's redesigned website states: "Energy Alberta will be a profitable energy provider at the lowest cost, utilizing proven nuclear technology to supply low cost steam, electricity and hydrogen to oil sands operators."
A business case for EA's use of nuclear power is expected for around May 2008. Heunset said that his company would be choosing a site and talking to communities over the next two months. Hunt said areas near to Fort McMurray in the north of Alberta would probably be under consideration.
WNN: Not 'if' but 'when' for nuclear oil sands
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