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Nuclear storm brewing over Nanticoke

The Hamilton Spectator: Rob Faulkner - November 1, 2008

Ontario does not endorse what it calls the "speculative" Bruce Power bid to build a new nuclear plant next to the Nanticoke coal-fired generating station on Lake Erie, which is to be shut down in 2014.

Ministry of Energy spokesperson Sylvia Kovesfalvi said the province is sticking to an energy strategy in which it will only invest in nuclear plants in communities where nuclear plants already exist.

Despite lobbying, Haldimand and Norfolk lost out to Darlington in Durham Region as site of a new nuclear plant announced in June. The counties even wrote Premier Dalton McGuinty for permission to do a federal environmental assessment on a Nanticoke nuclear plant.

So, it was with raised eyebrows that observers heard Bruce Power say it filed a site preparation licence with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission which, if accepted, will start a federal EA process.

"I find it puzzling as well because I understood that the province was deciding on its own sites and calling for requests for proposals," said NDP energy critic and Toronto area MPP Peter Tabuns.

"So the role of Bruce Power in all of this is murky at best," he said, noting that because Ontario owns the power lines, any plant is unable to sell power without approval.

"You don't think of a large corporation just going out and, for the fun of it, announcing that they are going to build a nuclear power plant in southwestern Ontario. These things are extraordinarily expensive," Tabuns added.

But Bruce Power president and CEO Duncan Hawthorne did say yesterday that his company cannot build a new nuclear plant without Ontario's approval. He couched it in terms of a private company weighing its options.

"Ultimately, we understand that if a plant is to be built here, there has to be agreement between ourselves and the province of Ontario," he said, adding that Bruce Power is not in talks with the province now.

He said that, as the EA raises options for plans and funding sources, talks with Ontario will occur. The EA will take three years, construction five or six years and a plant could start to operate in 2018.

"The provincial government are the people who have to make the decision," Hawthorne said. "This is not an attempt to circumvent the provincial government."

Ontario wants to maintain its 14,000 megawatts of power from nuclear to the year 2025. With existing nuclear plants aging, they must be refurbished or replaced.

Some question the demand for any new nuclear power in Ontario, which has three plants with 16 reactors, many of which are either not operating or being refurbished.

Shawn Patrick Stensil, who works on nuclear issues for Greenpeace Canada, said the "big question" is whether Ontario should spend billions on nuclear plants it may not need.

He said predicted energy demand will be affected by declines in the economy and by conservation efforts; he says renewable energy is being under-valued due to the high cost of nuclear facilities.

"It's a huge build," he said of Ontario's nuclear refurbishing plan, which he pegs at a cost of $40 billion. "In front of us, we have an opportunity to replace some of this technology with cheaper, cleaner, more socially acceptable energy choices."

rfaulkner@thespec.com

905-526-2468

Bruce Power runs eight reactors

Bruce Power is a partnership between TransCanada Corporation, BPC Generation Infrastructure Trust (BPC), an investment entity of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), Cameco Corporation and two unions: the Power Workers' Union and the Society of Energy Professionals.

The consortium is Canada's only private nuclear generator and the source of 25 per cent of Ontario's electricity. It employs 3,700 people.

It operates eight nuclear reactors on two sites, located on Lake Huron between Kincardine and Port Elgin. The 2,300 acres are big enough to hold the Toronto Zoo, Canada's Wonderland, Exhibition Place, Ontario Place and the African Lion Safari.

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