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Applications filed to build eight new reactors in Ontario

While province's plans call for two, electricity producers say they want to keep their options open

KAREN HOWLETT

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

May 8, 2007 at 4:35 AM EDT

TORONTO -- The two companies that operate nuclear power plants in Ontario are seeking the green light to build up to eight new reactors, a far more ambitious plan than that touted by the McGuinty government.

Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said last year that a large portion of the $40-billion it plans to spend addressing the province's looming electricity shortage would be earmarked for refurbishing existing nuclear reactors. He said only two new reactors would be built.

However, Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation have each applied to Canada's nuclear safety regulator to build four new reactors. Company officials played down their expansion plans, saying they merely give them the option of building new reactors or refurbishing existing ones.

But the spectre of up to eight new reactors is fuelling concerns among nuclear-energy opponents that the province will be much more dependent on nuclear power than previously believed.

Yesterday, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission announced that it will ask the federal Environment Minister to refer Bruce Power's proposal to build and operate up to four new nuclear reactors to a review panel. The privately owned consortium operates the Bruce Nuclear Station on Lake Huron.

"With the potential addition of four nuclear reactors and the refurbishment of existing reactors, the Bruce Nuclear site could have up to 12 reactors operating all at once, making it one of the largest nuclear facilities in the world in terms of power produced on a single site," the regulator says in explaining its decision.

The regulator has not yet ruled on the application submitted by Crown-owned OPG.

Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive officer of Bruce Power, said his company's application to build up to four new reactors is "entirely consistent" with the government's position.

"Once all the economic assessments have been done, it may make more sense to replace rather than refurbish," he said. "So this is all about forward planning."

Steve Erwin, a spokesman for Mr. Duncan, said the companies are making a precautionary move, "in case there's stuff that can't be refurbished," by seeking approval to build up to four times as many new reactors as the government has stated in its 20-year plan unveiled last year.

Greenpeace activist Shawn-Patrick Stensil said yesterday that he thinks Bruce Power and OPG would simply prefer to build new reactors as opposed to refurbish existing ones, a prospect that would leave the province dependent on nuclear power for another 80 years.

"Both OPG and Bruce Power are attempting a bait-and-switch," Mr. Stensil said.

Mr. Duncan has said the government plans to have nuclear energy supply about 30 per cent of Ontario's electricity needs by 2025, down from about 40 per cent today as the province moves toward renewable energy and conservation.

He has asked OPG to look at refurbishing four of its aging reactors at its Pickering B station. But he has acknowledged that it might not be feasible to refurbish the units in all cases.

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