November 27, 2014
Ontario Energy Board won’t probe Bruce nuclear overhaul
Opposition, Ontario Clean Air Alliance wants to see public scrutiny of the multi-billion-dollar plan to overhaul six reactors at the Bruce nuclear generating station.
The multi-billion-dollar plan to overhaul six reactors at the Bruce nuclear generating station won’t be submitted to the Ontario Energy Board for scrutiny.
Nuclear critics had called for public examination of the project, expected to cost in the range of $15 billion.
An energy official confirmed Wednesday that energy minister Bob Chiarelli won’t send the issue to the energy board for hearings.
Jack Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance said the energy board should examine at the project in public.
“This would be the hugest private-sector deal in Ontario’s history,” he said in an interview.
Peter Tabuns, energy critic for the New Democrats, agreed.
“I don’t think it’s something that should be negotiated behind closed doors and stamped in the premier’s office,” he said.
“The public have to be shown a business case for going down this route.”
The contract is currently being negotiated between Bruce Power — the private consortium that operates the station under lease — and the Ontario Power Authority. Bruce Power produces about 30 per cent of Ontario’s electricity.
The reactors are owned by Ontario Power Generation, whose sole shareholder is the province.
The energy official said that protecting ratepayers by minimizing risk is a “top priority” for the province. Officials from the ministries of energy and finance are observing the negotiations.
“It is too early to speculate about when an agreement might be reached but once it’s appropriate any arrangement will be made public,” the energy official said.
The province has laid out seven principles it will follow in nuclear refurbishments in its long-term energy plan.
They include minimizing risk and holding Bruce Power accountable for schedules and prices. The principles also say there must be realistic “off-ramps” in case the project goes astray.
Gibbons and Tabuns argued that the public needs to be able to see what’s proposed and ask questions before an agreement is signed.
One question: Whether the deal would push up electricity prices, and by how much.
Another: How badly the power is needed, or whether it could be obtained elsewhere. Currently, Ontario frequently has surplus power, some of which is exported at a loss. At times the province has to pay neighbouring jurisdictions to take it.
Tabuns also said he’d like to question whether having a private company operating the plant is the right thing.
“We have not been well served by private ownership and operation of our hydro system,” he said.
“I think it’s time to question that in the kind of forum that the OEB can provide.”
Serge Imbrogno, Ontario’s deputy minister of energy, told a recent committee hearing that in the past it was the job of the power authority to do the due diligence when negotiating with Bruce Power.