Toronto Sun
March 20, 2012
Jonathan Jenkins

No new nuclear power if it doesn’t make fiscal sense: Bentley

TORONTO – New nuclear reactors won’t be built in Ontario unless it’s good for the bottom line, Energy Minister Chris Bentley said Tuesday.

“We’re working very hard on the question of any new build,” Bentley said. “We’re working very hard to make sure if we make a decision, it’s in the best interests of Ontario ratepayers and taxpayers.”

The province’s Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP), first published in 2007 and updated since, calls for the construction of two new, 1,000 megawatt reactors at the Darlington Generating Station.

The government has chosen AECL to build the reactors but suspended the process in 2009 after balking at the $26 billion price tag.

AECL has since been bought by SNC Lavalin but Bentley wouldn’t say whether there’s been any progress on lowering the cost of the project.

“We’re taking all the time we need on this one,” he said.

The LTEP called for 50% of Ontario’s electricity to continue to be supplied through nuclear generation, and the province is still pursuing that goal by refurbishing reactors at Darlington.

A $600-million contract was let to SNC Lavalin last week to begin planning the refurbishment at Darlington and a similar project to restart two dormant reactors at the Bruce power station is nearing completion — despite an unexpected delay in restarting one of the units after a leak.

But the financial pressure that caused Ontario to suspend the new build at Darlington has if anything, gotten worse in the past three years and electrical demand has fallen, opening a window for the province to dump its nuke plans and improve its ailing balance sheet.

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance seized on that point Tuesday when it released a study showing Ontario could save billions by foregoing the project and ditching the 50% nuclear standard.

“The government of Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan calls for the re-building of the Bruce B and Darlington Nuclear Stations and the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Darlington despite the fact that our electricity needs could be met at a much lower cost with a combination of water power imports from Quebec; additional energy efficiency investments; and natural gas-fired combined heat and power plants,” the report says.