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Warnings about a new nuke plant

The Toronto Sun: June 17, 2008

As expected, the province announced yesterday it will build a new nuclear plant in Darlington beside its existing one.

Darlington I was a fiasco. It cost $14.4 billion and was completed in 1993 -- 576% over budget and 10 years behind schedule. We cannot afford a repeat of that disaster with Darlington II.

Ontario's $60 billion, 20-year energy plan includes $26 billion for nuclear power, which will continue to supply 50% of our power needs.

Make no mistake. Cost overruns on Darlington II comparable to Darlington I could literally bankrupt us.

Meeting deadlines is also crucial. Premier Dalton McGuinty has promised to close Ontario's coal-fired power plants by 2014, which supply 16% of our power.

Even if Darlington II is operational as planned by July 1, 2018, keeping the lights on is going to be tricky, considering the 3 1/2-year gap between 2014 when the coal plants close and July, 2018 when Darlington II is scheduled to come online.

 

Further, if the absurdly long, on-again, off-again approval process for Darlington I, which drove up costs, is repeated for Darlington II, taxpayers will be on the hook for tens of billions of dollars of new debt for electricity.

That's in addition to the tens of billions in old debt rung up by the now-defunct Ontario Hydro, for which we're still paying.

Finally, national pride must not decide the winner among the three companies bidding to build Darlington II -- AECL Canada, U.S.-based Westinghouse and French nuclear giant, Areva.

The winner, to be announced in November, must have the most credible plan to deliver the project on time and on budget, plus, be willing to share the risk of cost-overruns with taxpayers.

It must also ensure most of the work goes to Ontario companies and employees. (The province wants at least 50% of the contract's value spent in Ontario.)

The bottom line is that we cannot afford to repeat the mistakes made with Darlington I at Darlington II.

All parties in the legislature -- since they all contributed to that disaster -- must commit to that.

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