Bruce Power sees four reactors in Alberta

Globe and Mail: SHAWN MCCARTHY - March 13, 2008


OTTAWA _ Bruce Power says it wants to build as many as four nuclear reactors in northwestern Alberta to meet the province's growing electricity needs _ and it is not committed to choosing Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s ACR design.

The company _ a private-sector consortium that operates the Bruce nuclear site in Ontario _ completed on Wednesday the purchase of Energy Alberta, a start-up company that was working with AECL to bring nuclear energy to a province that is run on fossil fuels.

In a release Wednesday, Bruce chief executive Duncan Hawthorne said the company has filed an amended request to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to approve its plan to construct up to 4,000-megawatts of nuclear power at Peace River, Alta.

"We recognize this is just one of many steps in a multi-year process of extensive community consultation and technical study, but we're excited to officially get under way," said Mr. Hawthorne, who was touring the communities near Peace River.

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Previously, Energy Alberta had asked to approve to provide 2,000-megawatts from the site. The Alberta company had initially proposed to construct a reactor to power oil sands development, but changed the plan to sell the electricity directly to the provincial grid.

Energy Alberta had committed to a partnership with AECL. But, in its filing to the federal regulator Wednesday, Bruce Power said it would take a "technology neutral" approach, meaning it will consider AECL along with competitors like France's AREVA SA, or Mitsubishi Corp.'s Westinghouse unit, or the General Electric Co./Hitachi Ltd. group.

The Alberta government has expressed skepticism about the need for nuclear power in the province, which relies on coal-fired plants to generate 50 per cent of its nearly 12,000-megawatts electric-generating capacity, and natural gas for 40 per cent. "We understand that, for any arrangement, we'll have to work with the Alberta government to do anything," Bruce Power spokesman John Peevers said.

The booming province has seen electricity demand grow by 29 per cent since 2000, and expects to need an additional 5,000 megawatts of generation capacity by 2017.

Bruce Power is hoping that nuclear power will gain a competitive advantage from rising natural gas prices and growing demand for the fuel from oil sands operators, as well as the environmental concerns surrounding coal-fired electricity.

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