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Tory's plans for nuclear power draw sparks from Grit minister

The Ottawa Citizen: Andrew Thomson - September 23, 2007

TIVERTON, Ont. - The Progressive Conservatives would immediately increase Ontario's nuclear production and tackle potential electricity shortages, John Tory said yesterday, drawing a heated response from the energy minister who defended his Liberal government's plan to bolster supply.

"I believe strongly this is the right thing to do," Mr. Tory said, touting nuclear energy as safe, affordable and free of greenhouse gases while speaking to reporters near the Bruce "A" nuclear generating station on Lake Huron.

"We've got to own up to the fact we have to do it to keep the economy strong and the environment clean."

He later told supporters in Port Elgin that: "We're not going to have the approach (Dalton) McGuinty did where he wrings his hands."

Mr. Tory's preferred option would be publicly owned plants operated by the private sector, mirroring Bruce Power's operation of several components at the Bruce station.

The Conservative platform quotes a 2006 assessment by the Ontario Power Authority that the province's electricity shortage could rise from 1,650 megawatts in 2007 to more than 30,000 megawatts by 2027 if nuclear stations and reactors aren't upgraded within the decade.

The Liberals responded last year with a $45-billion program that includes two new nuclear reactors to compensate for lost electricity from the planned closure of four coal-fired generating stations.

Mr. Tory said he believes the province can support more new reactors and would push for a more expedited review process, which can last several years.

"Mr. McGuinty put a cap on the amount of nuclear power we can have, for example, rather than asking how much we need as we go about replacing coal," Mr. Tory said.

Energy Minister Dwight Duncan, running for re-election in Windsor-Tecumseh, denied there was a looming electricity shortage.

The McGuinty government's 20-year energy plan was based on extensive expert consultation, he said, leading to more renewable power and 3,000 additional megawatts of additional capacity at the Bruce and Pickering stations.

"He's just nuts," Mr. Duncan said of the Conservative leader's warning. "There's no discrepancy. Mr. Tory has no credibility on this at all."

Any changes to a nuclear facility are subject to an environmental assessment by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Mr. Duncan said the process is underway on the proposed two new reactors, independent of Queen's Park.

"Mr. Tory doesn't seem to understand that the whole (review) process is federal," he said.

The NDP has pledged to avoid "nuclear mega-schemes" altogether and focus on alternative energy sources. The Green party would phase out nuclear plants by 2025 and prohibit any new construction or refurbishments to existing facilities.

Mr. Tory also promised yesterday to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 60 per cent by 2050, boosting environment spending by up to 40 per cent.

His tour through rural southwestern Ontario ended at a barbecue in Strathroy,

outside the yellow-brick farmhouse of local supporters.

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