Nanticoke plans withdrawn

Simcoe Reformer: Monte Sonnenberg, - July 24, 2009

Plans to build two nuclear reactors in Nanticoke are off the table, done in by a recession that has decimated demand for electricity in Ontario's manufacturing sector.

Bruce Power of Tiverton announced yesterday that it is pulling the plug on a three-year, $30 million environmental assessment in the Nanticoke Industrial Park.

Last fall, Bruce Power announced it was interested in building two reactors on 2,000 acres of vacant land west of the U.S. Steel plant. If approved, the $10 billion project would have generated nearly 3,000 megawatts of electricity and 1,000 full-time jobs for 60 years.

However, the business case that existed for the project last year has evaporated with the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs across southern Ontario. The demand for new electricity simply isn't there and is not expected to materialize any time soon. Indeed, Bruce Power has put some of its reactors in Tiverton on low idle in recent weeks because demand for base power is so weak.

"The reduction in demand was the key factor," Bruce spokesperson Murray Elston said yesterday. "You have to be sure the product you're selling is in good demand. The economy was the big factor for us."

Reaction across Haldimand and Norfolk is a mix of disappointment and relief.

Norfolk Mayor Dennis Travale described the proposal last fall as an "opportunity." Yesterday, he said he was "disappointed" by the news but not surprised. Travale said it doesn't make sense to build reactors if there is no need for them. Travale expects this situation to persist for the foreseeable future.

"Everyone expects this situation to continue until the province comes up with a program to restart manufacturing in Ontario," he said.

Haldimand Coun. Leroy Bartlett, of Selkirk, says many Ward 1 residents will also be disappointed. Many were looking forward to the opportunity of good-paying jobs now that U.S. Steel has shuttered its plant in Nanticoke and the Nanticoke Generating Station, which employs 600 people, is slated for closure in 2014.

Bartlett knew something would happen quickly with the Bruce Power proposal when George Smitherman, energy minister in the McGuinty government, announced that the province would not move forward with new reactors at the Darlington station due to skyrocketing costs.

"I said that is either really good news for Haldimand County or really bad news," Bartlett said.

"We didn't know how that would affect Haldimand; whether the Bruce project would in fact be fast-tracked or withdrawn. Personally, I had a bad feeling about it. I'm disappointed this has happened, but in a way it's probably for the best. This was a no-win situation for Haldimand and Norfolk. We're going through a tough time -- all of Ontario is going through a tough time."

For his part, anti-nuclear advocate Jim Elve, of Waterford, is "absolutely elated" with Bruce Power's announcement.

Elve, spokesperson for Grand Erie Energy Quest, has been an outspoken critic of the nuclear industry in recent months.

He has been especially vocal about the lack of long-range plans for the disposal of nuclear waste.

Elve expects Norfolk to see a resurgence in new home construction in Port Dover and surrounding area now that Bruce Power has withdrawn.

"This has been putting a damper on the kind of economic activity we've been enjoying," Elve said.

We've had unprecedented growth in the Port Dover area, and this was putting a roadblock in the way of that."

In a statement yesterday, Bruce Power president and CEO Duncan Hawthorn said the plan now is to refurbish the reactors currently in service in Tiverton rather than building new ones.

"These are business decisions unique to Ontario and reflect the current realities of the market," Hawthorn said. "For more than five years we've examined our options, and refurbishing our existing units has emerged as the most economical."