Bruce Power trying to grow


Do proposed new nuclear projects in Alberta, Saskatchewan and most recently the Nanticoke area in Ontario mean Bruce Power has given up on new energy generation in its Bruce County backyard?

The short answer is no. But don't hold your breath waiting for announcements any time soon.

Bruce Power's reactor development proposals represent a commitment to growth and expansion planning, company spokesman John Peevers said Monday.

"In economic development you cast a lot of lines and every once in a while, you catch something," he said. "We've always been a company that's keen on growing and expanding. That really was the story for 2008, we're trying to expand our borders a bit and grow the company."

Despite intense lobbying, privately owned Bruce Power lost out to the government-owned Ontario Power Generation in a bid to run the first two new reactors to be built in Ontario in almost 20 years.

Provincial government and OPG officials are still working on details of that project, to be built at OPG's Darlington nuclear station near Oshawa, the site of the province's four newest reactors, which date from the early 1990s.

The Ontario government's preferred location for the new reactors was announced last June along with a guarantee that the province will require a minimum of 6,300 megawatts from Bruce for the foreseeable future. That's basically the output from eight reactors.

The company could refurbish reactors at the site or replace them, Peevers said.

But Bruce Power has also shown interest in projects elsewhere.

This fall, the company filed applications with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for potential projects in Saskatchewan and at Nanticoke. That's on top of a Peace River, Alta., station proposed to serve the oilsands territory in northern Alberta.

"This site is still our first priority," Peevers said from the company's Bruce County headquarters. "We're still confident that, if not new build, it's going to be refurbishment of Bruce B and we've tried to keep the options open for both."

The Peace River project has the potential to reduce air emissions from oilsands development by substituting nuclear for coal as a source for electricity.

The Saskatchewan proposal cites potential for about 1,000 megawatts of new nuclear power in the Lloydminster- Prince Albert area. Bruce Power put out a statement in November that described the Saskatchewan operation as part of an alternative energy centre to include wind, solar and hydrogen technology.

Nanticoke is the site of a large government- owned coal-fired generating station to be shut down as part of provincial policy to eliminate such plants.

Development at Nanticoke comes with powerful endorsements from community leaders in the Haldimand-Norfolk region. It also has the advantage of existing transmission capacity, something that could be a problem for development beyond the current Bruce A and Bruce B generating stations.

Bruce County is home to one of the largest nuclear power developments in the world and faces limited transmission capacity for future expansion. But Peevers said the site can handle further development and company proposals for Bruce.

"When you look at nuclear sites, having a willing host community is one of the biggest assets you can have and I think you can argue that there's no place in Ontario or Canada, probably the world, that has more support than we do," he said.

The Citizens for Bruce C committee collected more than 12,000 signatures from area residents in early 2008 on a petition of support for Bruce Power's new build proposal. On Nov. 4, an environmental impact statement about the plan was referred by federal regulators to a three-person review panel for six months of public comment and future hearings.

Chairman Louis LaPierre and panelists André Harvey and Moyra J. McDill are to judge the potential environmental impact of projects at Bruce, which are expected to generate as much as 4,000 megawatts of electricity.

The Citizens for Bruce C group hopes to generate more community support for the plan, co-chair Dave Trumble said in an interview.

Trumble is a veteran shift control technician at Bruce Power and president of the Grey Bruce Labour Council. He chairs Citizens for Bruce C along with Kincardine businessman Doug Storrey and Bruce Power Pensioners' Association president Doug Mullaly.

"There's no slippage of the desire to see new build come here as quickly as possible," Trumble said. "We went out to the community and said we should be the first new build and we asked the community to support that and they did."

"Now that the EA (environmental assessment) has been released they should be prepared to come forward and talk to the hearings that will be set up and take it to the next level," Trumble said.

Not everyone supports the plan for new nuclear construction at Bruce. The environmental impact statement released in July and posted on the company's website predicts potential impacts on fish and wildlife from warm water discharge to Lake Huron and the infilling of eight hectares of MacPherson Bay.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has awarded a total of $175,000 to five applicants in support of their participation in the environmental assessment process. That includes the Power Workers Union, which can be expected to express support for the plan. The remaining five interveners, however, are all long-standing nuclear objectors: Citizens For Renewable Energy, Northwatch Coalition for Environmental Protection, Greenpeace Canada and Eugene Bourgeois.

"The Bruce Power new build environmental assessment is the furthest one along," Peevers said of the company's expansion plans for the site. But he's not expecting decisions any time soon.

"Maybe by year end we'll have a decision from the panel," Peevers said of the environmental review. "And it will be a while before we get through other regulatory hurdles."

"It's going to be a while before any shovels hit the ground," Peevers said.

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