Nuclear is a recipe for failure

The slowest and costliest response to climate change

In the 1950s, people believed that nuclear power was a miracle solution that would keep our lights on at little or no cost. They couldn’t have been more wrong. It turned out that highly complex nuclear plants, with all their safety and radioactive waste concerns, were extremely expensive to build and operate. Ontario has been no exception to this rule: Huge cost overruns on nuclear projects essentially bankrupted the old Ontario Hydro. It was taxpayers and electricity ratepayers in Ontario who absorbed the huge debts rung up on these projects through “debt retirement charges” and other measures that pushed up electricity rates.

Say no to a new reactor in the GTA.  Dangerous, costly and unnecessary.

Canada’s biggest urban area is no place for an untested and dangerous new nuclear reactor.  Solar, wind and waterpower imports from Quebec can keep our lights on at less than half the cost than power from this proposed reactor.  It’s time to say “no thanks” to this bad plan.

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All we need to do is look at the electricity rates paid by our neighbours in Quebec and Manitoba to see how Ontario’s big bet on nuclear has left us with unnecessarily high electricity rates. Ontario’s residential electricity rate is 50% higher than Manitoba’s and 90% higher than Quebec’s. And its only going to get worse.

Right now, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is in the midst of spending billions of dollars on rebuilding aging reactors (our reactors have never met operational promises either) at the Darlington Nuclear Station. OPG has acknowledged that it will need to charge 13.7 cents per kWh for power from these reactors to pay for this expensive rebuild. Compare that to the 5 cents per kWh Quebec wants to charge us for clean waterpower or the continually dropping costs for wind and solar power that are now ranging between 4-7 cents per kWh.

The projected cost of power for a new reactor being proposed by Ontario Power Generation for its Darlington Nuclear Station just east of Toronto will be more than twice what we could pay for wind and solar energy or power from Quebec. This new reactor would also use unproven technology that still produces dangerous radioactive waste and would be located in Canada’s biggest urban area.

The Pickering Nuclear Station is located even closer to millions of people and it has recently been revealed that North America’s third oldest nuclear plant is operating without accurate information on the safety of its critically important pressure tube system. Pickering must be shut down until Ontario Power Generation can prove it is safe to operate a plant well past its design lifetime.

Having failed to meet its promise and with costs only rising, nuclear technology is in decline worldwide and hype about new smaller reactors is just that – hype. These are nothing more than unproven paper concepts that risk taking us off on another costly diversion when we have plenty of safer and more cost-effective options available right now.

Nuclear is not a climate solution

We need two things to deal with rapidly worsening climate change: speed and impact. Nuclear power can deliver neither.

First nuclear plants take a long time to plan and build. Getting a nuclear plant built in a decade is considered an accomplishment. Compare that to the weeks or months it takes to erect a wind turbine or deploy solar panels. The one thing new nuclear projects are known for is costly delays and problems. We have waited far too long to take effective action on climate change. We simply can’t afford to wait for snail-like nuclear projects to address the problem.

The second big problem with nuclear as a climate solution is cost. Nuclear is now the highest cost ways to keep our lights on, which is why nuclear plants are either closing or begging for subsidies worldwide. We get far less “bang for our buck” from nuclear than from renewable energy or energy efficiency when it comes to reducing climate pollution. With less than a decade left to slash emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, betting on slow, expensive and often unreliable nuclear technology is not the answer.

Now OPG is proposing to build a new reactor at the Darlington Nuclear Station in the GTA. Power from this reactor will cost an astronomical 16.3 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).  This makes no sense at a time when solar and wind projects are delivering power for 3-7 cents per kWh and Quebec is offering to sell us waterpower at 5 cents per kWh.  As well, OPG is planning to use untested technology that only exists on paper — there are no examples of this technology in commercial operation anywhere.  And, of course, because we have no long-term storage solutions in place for the radioactive waste this reactor will continue to produce, its waste will continue to be stored in temporary facilities on the shore of Lake Ontario.  This project is a dangerous and costly distraction from what we really need to be doing to address climate change — increasing efficiency, expanding renewable energy and cooperating with Quebec.