New nuclear plant goes to Darlington: Three companies asked to submit bids by October

Simcoe Reformer: Keith Leslie - June 17, 2008

Ontario's Liberal government has decided to build two new nuclear reactors, the first in 15 years, at the site of the existing Darlington nuclear plant east of Toronto with an eye towards generating electricity by July 2018, Energy Minister Gerry Phillips announced Monday.

Three nuclear companies -- Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., American giant Westinghouse and Areva NP of France -- have been asked to submit bids by October, Phillips said.

A final decision on which company -- and which technology -- will be made by the end of the year, he added.

The province plans to build the new reactors as part of a $26-billion nuclear replacement and refurbishment program, but Phillips insisted he couldn't put a price on the two new units until after the competitive bidding process is finished.

"I think the public expects that we are going to, on their behalf, get the best possible deal," he said.

"We're asking all three of them to sharpen their pencils and come forward with the best possible deal and this is the best approach. We're going to see a pretty aggressive competition for this."

Phillips said the goal was to have the successful bidder take on most of the risk of cost overruns, but admitted Ontario's electricity ratepayers would also have to absorb some of the risk if the government hopes to keep other costs in line.

"If the vendor assumed 100 per cent of the risk for unforeseen things, there's an awful large premium to be paid for that," he said.

"They will give us firm costs on reasonable parts of the project. There will be opportunities for change where no reasonable person could expect to have anticipated that change."

The New Democrats pointed out that the cost of constructing nuclear plants is soaring around the world, with projects coming in at double their original estimates or even higher. They said Ontario should abandon nuclear power and focus on renewable energy sources.

"You have to figure in that these plants are going to come in at a much higher cost than any of the estimates, and that's going to have huge negative impact on our economy," said NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns.

"We have a manufacturing sector that's struggling and it can't take on the burden of these huge growing costs for nuclear power."

The Progressive Conservatives said the Liberal government had driven up the cost of the two new reactors by waiting through its entire first mandate to make a decision that everyone knew would have to be made.

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