Some Bruce reactors will likely be replaced, chief executive says

The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo) PAT HALPIN - November 8, 2007


Bruce Power's chief executive believes there's good chance at least some of Bruce B's four nuclear reactors will be slated for replacement when the time for refurbishment comes around.

''It's better than 50 per cent likely,'' Duncan Hawthorne said about his view on the so-called new-build project.

That proposal is now in the early stages of an environmental assessment designed to gauge the impact of the project on the environment and social fabric of the surrounding community.

''This is a massive project for us; a massive project for the community. So it makes perfect sense to keep checking,'' Hawthorne said about the current round of consultation on the environmental assessment.

Bruce Power is already doing a $5.25-million refurbishment at generating station A that will restart two mothballed units and extend the life of the plant to 2036. It's planning now for refurbishment or new build at Bruce B that could start in 2012. The new build option could be done instead of -- or along with -- refurbishment of the four existing units.

Rebuilding all four reactors at Bruce B is a $10-billion to $13-billion project that would take 10 years of construction and require a workforce of 4,300, according to Bruce Power's figures.

''We could potentially be the first nuclear plant built in North America in 30-plus years. It's a massive investment decision,'' Hawthorne said.

The environmental assessment for the proposal includes study of different reactor types than the current Candu models now on site. Five models are being reviewed by Bruce Power along with Ontario Power Generation and the province. A recommendation is expected in the spring.

There are pros and cons to all five of the types under consideration, and Hawthorne isn't in a hurry to get to a final decision.

''There's no need to rush to make a decision today,'' he said. ''The (environmental assessment ) is still ongoing. It's not held up by the fact that we haven't chosen a technology.''

What does need a decision soon is whether Ontario will invest in new nuclear reactors.

There's strong growth in the nuclear industry around the globe, said Hawthorne, who is also chair of the World Association of Nuclear Operators.

Demand for energy and concern about climate change are fuelling interest in new reactors and upgrades for existing ones. Hawthorne warned that growth in the nuclear industry might mean Ontario could face a shortage of expertise by the time it decides on a new-build project and looks for the skilled trades and engineers to do the job.

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