The Observer
May 22, 2012
Cathy Dobson

Nukes driving up power bills: critic

The head of one of Ontario’s largest green energy lobby groups came out swinging against nuclear power in Sarnia Tuesday.

Nuclear energy is responsible for a 45% increase in the province’s energy bills, compared to a 6% increase from green energy initiatives since 2006, said Jack Gibbons, chairman of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA), which claims to represent six million Ontario residents.

“We need to create a coalition of citizens to persuade Premier Dalton McGuinty and (Conservative Leader) Tim Hudak to say no to a nuclear program,” he told about 20 people attending a sustainability seminar at Lambton College.

Powerful special interest groups have convinced the premier that Ontario should invest $33 billion in new nuclear projects, Gibbons said. “And Tim Hudak is committed to a huge nuclear spending program too.”

That money would be better spent on renewable energy options that cost much less and don’t carry the same environmental risk, he said.

Gibbons said he doesn’t believe the plan to rebuild or refurbish 10 nuclear reactors over the next 18 years will come in on budget. He predicted the $33-billion program will balloon to $80 billion.

“Nuclear may have low greenhouse emissions but the cost is very, very high,” he said.

Nuclear energy also comes with the risk of accidents, the cost of decommissioning old reactors and the storage of radioactive waste, all adding to the cost.

One kilowatt hour of electrical power from McGuinty’s nuclear plan will cost 19 to 37 cents, according to the OCAA.

That compares to the much lower expense of wind power that costs 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour or water power imports from Quebec, which would cost Ontarians 5.8 cents per kilowatt hour.

Gibbons said the Alliance was established to convince Ontario leaders to phase out coal-fired plants and is working toward 100% electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

In the meantime, the OCAA favours combined heat and power generation plants that use relatively clean natural gas to produce electricity and heat.

Gibbons had high praise for the TransAlta combined heat and power plant in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley as well as a similar plant at Sarnia’s Imperial Oil site.

“You are a leader in terms of combined heat and power,” he said. “We view that as a good transition option since natural gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels.”

Gibbons said the McGuinty government should be encouraging construction of smaller co-generation plants everywhere, like the one at the London Health Sciences Centre.

Plants like that provide low-cost, efficient electricity and keep the lights on when blackouts occur on the grid.

“Combined heat and power plants alone can replace all nuclear plants but the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has dropped the ball on them,” said Gibbons.

He urged Sarnians to join his group’s lobby against new nuclear projects at a time when the province is facing high debt.

“It doesn’t make sense to invest that money in nuclear power and cut back on things like health and education,” he said.