Ont. nuclear energy priorities are wrong, says Greenpeace

Canwest News Service: Jordana Huber - November 5, 2008

TORONTO - Estimates used to formulate Ontario's nuclear energy plan were a "fantasy" according to a Greenpeace report released Wednesday that warns of rising costs and higher greenhouse gas emissions unless the province moves towards more green energy.

Greenpeace energy campaigner Shawn-Patrick Stensil said the cost to build planned nuclear reactors has more than doubled over the past three years and the global crisis in the markets is only making the rising costs "more of a financial nightmare."

He said the province needs to re-evaluate its energy strategy and should start by replacing the ageing Pickering B nuclear station with green alternatives-such as wind and solar energy.

"The government has got its priorities wrong," Stensil said. "Right now they've set the plan up around making space for nuclear and crowding out renewables."

Stensil said the cost estimates for the new reactors to be built at the Darlington nuclear facility, now sit somewhere between $10 and $16 billion up from $6 billion.

The final estimates won't be known until the spring but history shows further increases are "inevitable", Stensil said. He said a nuclear project in Finland is three years behind schedule and billions over budget.

Stensil added the province has underestimated future greenhouse gas emissions by "drastically" overestimating the performance of aging nuclear plants. Under its current plan, the province will miss its 2014 greenhouse gas reduction targets by a third or 26 megatonnes, he said.

He suggested the province could help address the "energy gap" it faces as reactors go offline by investing in green solutions that could be developed faster and more cost effectively than nuclear stations.

On Tuesday, the government pushed its Dec. 31 deadline for final bid proposals to build the Darlington reactors until early next year citing the continued volatility in global markets. Next year, the province will also decide whether to replace or refurbish the Pickering B nuclear station as part of its $26 billion plan to update its aging nuclear infrastructure.

Infrastructure and Energy Minister George Smitherman said no decisions have been made on whether to refurbish Pickering B but suggested the state of the aging facility was one of the reasons it is important to renew the province's nuclear fleet.

"They're old. They're small. It's outdated technology," Smitherman said in the legislature. "I think that there are serious challenges with nuclear technology that first began construction in the 1960s."

He said the "single biggest" contribution the province can make to fighting climate change is its plan to close coal fired plants by 2014.

While the province is investing heavily in renewable energy, nuclear power is "built into the fabric" of the province's electricity plan making up 50 per cent of base-load supply, Smitherman said.

"Having reliable base-load supply is one of the necessary features to have ambitions with respect to renewables," Smitherman said.

Also on Wednesday, Ontario's Chief Energy Conservation Officer released his annual report calling for energy conservation officers to be appointed in Ontario businesses, academic and health care institutions.

Peter Love said tapping "energy champions" to be accountable for energy efficiency within organizations would ensure conservation is considered at all levels.

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