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[cdn-nucl-l] Ontario poised to build nuclear plants
Ontario poised to build nuclear plants
Mon 03 Nov 2003, Byline: Kate Jaimet
Source: CanWest News Services; Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA - Ontario's Liberal government will build new nuclear plants, the
president of Canada's state-owned nuclear power company predicts.
``I think you'll see the McGuinty government come out with the suggestion
that new build take place,'' said Robert Van Adel, president and CEO of
Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, said in an interview.
Van Adel said he briefed both Premier Dalton McGuinty and Energy Minister
Dwight Duncan before the election about the possibility of building new
nuclear plants and got "a generally positive sense'' from the politicians.
"In all of those discussions, refurbishment of nuclear plants and even new
build have not been ruled out,'' Van Adel said.
Although Ontario's energy minister did not comment on the prediction, if it
comes true, it will be the first time in more than a decade that a nuclear
reactor has been built in Canada.
It is also sure to be controversial in a province with a vocal anti-nuclear
lobby and a history of nuclear delays and cost overruns.
The country's newest nuclear facilities - the four reactors at Ontario's
Darlington nuclear plant - came on line in 1993 and cost $14 billion to
build, much more than the original 1973 estimate of $2.5 billion.
Three older nuclear reactors - one at the Bruce Station and two at
Pickering - were taken out of commission in the late 1990s and are still not
functioning, despite a $1.2 billion cost overrun.
An internal AECL document, released by the company to CanWest News Service,
acknowledges the problems.
"Public trust and confidence in nuclear energy is eroding, and Ontario's
nuclear program is under scrutiny,'' the document, written before the
provincial election, states.
But industry executives say that new nuclear plants will not be plagued with
the same problems as the old, first-generation models.
"Darlington is a very historic issue. But that bears no relation to the
experience that AECL has had in Romania, in Korea, in China, in building on
budget and under schedule,'' said Allan Kupcis, chair of the Canadian
Nuclear plants are extremely expensive to build: about twice as expensive as
coal and four times as expensive as natural gas, according to a 2001 paper
published in the trade journal Nuclear Engineering International.
However, coal produces smog and greenhouse gas emissions, and McGuinty has
already vowed to shut down the province's coal fired plants.
And nuclear plants are cheaper than a gas-fired plants over the long run,
because uranium is much less expensive than natural gas, said Phil Prince,
President and CEO of the Canadian Energy Research Institute, an independent
"A large hydro operation is probably the cheapest source of electricity over
time. It would be marginally cheaper than nuclear,'' said Prince. "The
problem with hydro, is there's not much left (to develop) in Ontario.''
Environmentalists, who fear the possibility of an Chornobyl-like accident
involving a nuclear plant or nuclear waste, are urging the government to
invest in energy conservation and renewable energies like wind and solar
"I think McGuinty would be absolutely insane to pour millions of taxpayers'
dollars into this outdated and dangerous nuclear technology,'' said Jo
Dufay, campaigns director for Greenpeace Canada.
But new, green energy sources are not yet cheap or reliable enough to take
over the huge job of generating the province's baseload energy, said Prince.
And with the Liberals' promise to shut down the coal-fired plants, and the
fleet of existing nuclear plants reaching the end of their lifespan in the
next two decades, the government is under pressure to either drastically
lower demand, or build new sources of energy, quickly.
"Right now, solar is relatively expensive and so doesn't really figure in
the mix very highly,'' Prince said. "If you got some big breakthrough it
could make a big difference.''