Apparently, the government of Ontario is reconsidering its decision to build more nuclear power plants, due to concerns about cost overruns and the status of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL). The province was previously planning to spend $26 billion over the next few decades, expanding and refurbishing nuclear reactors.
Apparently, the Ontario government has rejected foreign bids from France’s AREVA and the American Westinghouse corporation, but doesn’t have sufficient confidence in AECL to commit for sure at this stage. They want guarantees from the federal government, in order to proceed.
I am torn on the question of whether to support nuclear power. It is certainly more appealing than additional coal power, when all the risks of each are taken into account. That being said, nuclear has always benefitted from large direct and indirect subsidies. It isn’t clear whether that public money would be better spent on alternatives, such as renewable generation, an improved electrical grid, energy storage, or demand management. I also have serious doubts about the competence of AECL, as well as our government’s effectiveness in regulating and managing it. It would have been nice for a foreign corporation with domestic support from its own government and taxpayers had taken on some of the risk associated with the new projects, rather than leaving it all in Canadian hands.
As an aside, Canadian nuclear regulators have discovered that Canada’s existing CANDU reactors are more dangerous than previously appreciated. In the event of a coolant leak, the chain reaction inside them actually speeds up, instead of slowing down. This could lead to dangerous overheating if a serious leak isn’t followed by a rapid shutdown.