A burning desire for power
Feb. 12, 2006. 09:12 AM TYLER HAMILTON
Driving eastbound on Highway 401, just a few kilometres past Darlington nuclear station, Craig Simpson points out the car window to a massive smokestack in the distance, a lonely marker along the windblown shore of Lake Ontario.
567 hectares (1,400 acres) of barren property owned by Ontario Power Generation (OPG). Beside the 208-metre smokestack appears the imposing, ghost-like shell of a power station constructed during the mid-1970s but never put into service.
Wesleyville, approved for construction at the height of the Middle East oil crisis, was supposed to be a 2,000-megawatt oil-fired plant, planned in anticipation of surging electricity demand. At capacity, it would have pumped out enough electricity to power 750,000 homes.
Within a few years, the half-built station was mothballed and written off as a $265 million "Oops!" - a white elephant ultimately shouldered by Ontario taxpayers.
Since then, the partly constructed site has sat virtually idle. OPG, which inherited most of the property under the 1999 reorganization of Ontario Hydro, uses the station to store spare parts and equipment, and even automobile dashboards for nearby General Motors.
A few small businesses in neighbouring Port Hope lease out space in surrounding buildings, while local fire and police departments occasionally use the property for training exercises.
"Really, this is just a site waiting to be developed," says Jim Burpee, senior vice-president of energy markets with OPG, while leading a tour of the area. "It's a little bigger than Darlington. So this is huge."
Perhaps the most unique feature of Wesleyville is its partially excavated underground caverns, designed to store several years of oil supply to protect the province from price volatility. Simpson says those caverns would be ideal for holding by-product ash, which could be given away - or even sold - as an additive to asphalt.
Time is running out. The province is starving for more electricity. The Ontario Power Authority says the province needs 15,000 megawatts of new generating capacity over the next 20 years.
Wesleyville could end up the home of another nuclear facility on the scale of Darlington<SNIP>