Facts about nuclear costs, performance and readiness

On Tuesday, October 25, 2022 the federal government announced a $970M low-interest loan via the Canadian Infrastructure Bank to Ontario Power Generation to build a new reactor at the Darlington Nuclear Station in the GTA on Lake Ontario. There is currently a lot of spin around unproven, untested new nuclear technology. Facts are in shorter supply. Here are some to be aware of:

1. According to Lazard, the levelized cost of energy from a new nuclear reactor is 13.1 to 20.4 cents per kWh. This compares with 2.6 to 5.0 cents per kWh for onshore windand 2.8 to 4.1 cents per kWh for utility-scale solar.

2. According to the Canadian Small Modular Reactor Steering Committee, the cost of power from a small modular nuclear reactor at Darlington would be 16.3 cents per kWh.

3. By integrating our wind and solar generation with Hydro Quebec’s reservoirs (which can act like a battery), we can convert our intermittent wind and solar energy into a firm 24/7 source of baseload electricity for Ontario.

4. According to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), we can increase our transmission links with Quebec by 7,500 megawatts (MW) using existing Hydro One transmission corridors. These potential new transmission links are 25 times greater than the size of Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposed new Darlington reactor (300 MW).

5. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is nowhere near having a long-term solution for highly radioactive fuel waste. There is “vehement” opposition to its preferred plan of burying waste in Ontario’s north among Indigenous organizations, including the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

6. Meanwhile, OPG continues to store Darlington’s radioactive wastes in conventional commercial storage buildings on the shores of Lake Ontario despite a call from the International Joint Commission’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board for OPG’s storage facilities to be hardened (i.e., above-ground, attack-resistant, reinforced concrete vaults) and located away from shorelines to prevent them from being compromised by flooding and erosion caused by climate change.

7. According to an Oraclepoll Research survey, 82% of GTA residents are opposed to the building of a new nuclear reactor in the GTA before we have a permanent safe storage facility for nuclear waste.

8. Ontario is not on track to meeting even its weak climate targets. Canada needs immediate and deep reductions in its greenhouse gas pollution to reach its 2030 targets. But the history of nuclear reactors is long delays and huge cost overruns.

a. Olkiluoto 3 reactor in Finland which began construction in 2001 is expected to commence commercial operation in December 2022.

b. The Hinkley Point nuclear plant in Britain is now scheduled for completion in June 2027, a decade later than originally planned. The project is also massively over budget.

c. The Vogtle 3 and 4 reactors in Georgia were scheduled to be in-service in 2016. The anticipated start dates are now late 2022 and mid 2023. They are $16 billion over budget.

9. There is nothing “modular” about the reactor OPG is proposing for the Darlington site. It is an American-Japanese design with no working prototype. It will be custom built from the ground up.

10. The reactor proposed by OPG has not been approved for use in Canada or the United States.

According to energy expert, Amory Lovins, “the more urgent climate change is, the more we must invest judiciously, not indiscriminately, to buy cheap, fast, sure options instead of costly, slow, speculative ones. Only this strategy saves the most carbon per dollar per year. Anything else worsens climate change.”

Please ask Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, why he believes that federal taxpayers should subsidize the cost of building a new nuclear reactor in the GTA when energy efficiency, wind and solar energy, and Quebec waterpower can reduce Ontario’s greenhouse gas pollution at less than half the cost without creating radioactive nuclear wastes that will last for hundreds of thousands of years?

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