Ontario rethinking new nukes

2009-06-30

in Canada, Economics, Geek stuff, Politics, The environment

Bridge sculpture at the University of Ottawa

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.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

. June 30, 2009 at 10:44 am

Ontario drops plans for 2 new nuclear reactors
Last Updated: Monday, June 29, 2009 | 2:42 PM ET
CBC News

Citing ballooning costs and its responsibility to the taxpayers of the province, the Ontario government says it is indefinitely mothballing plans to build two new nuclear reactors at the Darlington power station.

“We still believe that in our energy supply mix to have new nuclear units to replace some of our aging fleet is very prudent for Ontario. But we will not purchase any such units at any cost. The cost must be right for the people of Ontario,” said Energy Minister George Smitherman on Monday morning.

Ontario Suspends Nuclear Procurement

June 29, 2009 11:20 AM

Queen’s Park — The Government of Ontario today announced that it has suspended the competitive RFP to procure two replacement nuclear reactors planned for the Darlington site. Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman indicated that the government remains committed to the modernization of Ontario’s nuclear fleet.

“Emission-free nuclear power remains a crucial aspect of Ontario’s supply mix,” Smitherman said. “Unfortunately, the competitive bidding process has not provided Ontario with a suitable option at this time,” he added.

Jun 29, 2009
Pembina Reacts: Nuclear Procurement Delay Must Give Green Energy Act Time to Produce Results

Media Contact: Cherise Burda

“The Pembina Institute applauds the Ontario government’s decision today to suspend the procurement of two new nuclear plants at Darlington. However, the delay should be long enough to give time and space for the Green Energy Act to produce results,” says Cherise Burda, the Pembina Institute’s Ontario Policy Director.

“Today’s delay which was made on the basis of pricing, should not be resolved through more federal subsidies by lowering AECL’s bid. More government bail-outs are not the answer. Green energy has proven that it is cost effective and companies can hold their own without massive subsidies. Let’s put our investment in a green energy future and get green energy jobs into action instead.”

R.K. June 30, 2009 at 5:07 pm

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.

I thought the CANDU design was supposed to be unusually safe, compared with light water reactors.

Milan July 3, 2009 at 1:48 pm

I had also heard that, though this recent information calls it into question somewhat.

. July 7, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Costs kill Ontario’s new nukes

Posted 10:59 AM on 29 Jun 2009
by John McGrath

It all started so well. Almost exactly three years ago, Ontario’s government announced the construction of two new nuclear reactors to replace ageing parts of our current power supply. Despite the drawbacks of being announced in the middle of summer vacation season and happening in Ontario, it nonetheless made news around the world. This was probably the furthest that any proposal for nuclear building had gotten in the 21st century, and it was kind of a big deal: The Washington Post said it “put Canada at the leading edge of what the nuclear industry calls a ‘renaissance’ of support for nuclear power.”

The usual suspects touted Ontario’s nuclear ambitions as a sign that nuclear power was hip and cool again. See—even the Canadians are doing it!

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Earlier in the spring, there were persistent rumours that, after getting bids from the major nuclear players, Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman was suffering from “sticker shock”. Throw in a major global recession, and a provincial government that his already mired in a scandal for wasting taxpayer’s money by the millions, and it was starting to look bleak for the our shiny new reactors. It certainly didn’t help that the Federal government decided to throw a monkey wrench into things.

. July 8, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Nuclear dawn delayed in Finland

By Rob Broomby
BBC World Service, Olkiluoto, Finland

When it is finished, Finland’s Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) nuclear reactor will be the biggest the world has ever seen, the excavation site alone is the size of 55 football fields.

It was to have been a pilot project for bigger, better, cleaner, Generation III reactors, which would lead the charge back to nuclear power in a continent which had gone cold on atomic energy after the accidents at Chernobyl and Thee Mile Island.

But hopes of an early nuclear dawn on the Baltic coast are fading – the May start up date came and went and the OL3 is now not expected to begin pumping out electricity until 2012 – three years later than planned and about $2.4bn dollars (1.7bn euros) over budget.

. July 14, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Cost of new nuclear in Ontario? Anywhere from $7,400 to $10,800 per kilowatt, depending on your appetite for risk
July 14th, 2009

I have a story in today’s Toronto Star that pegs the price of two 1,200 megawatt ACR 1000 reactors from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. at $26 billion, including all balance of plant costs. That would put the cost at $10,800 (Canadian) per kilowatt, far beyond previous projections. Really far. The story was based on information supplied by sources close to the bidding, including one directly involved on a bidding team. It also found that the Areva bid — involving two 1,600 EPR reactors — came in at $23.6 billion, or roughly $7,400 per kilowatt. It was deemed non-compliant, however, likely because Areva wouldn’t guarantee the price (which explains the lower price, maybe?)

. July 24, 2009 at 11:54 am

Bruce Power pulls plug on two planned nuclear stations

Company says Nanticoke, Port Elgin-area stations are no longer needed because of plunging electricity demand in Ontario

MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT

From Friday’s Globe and Mail Last updated on Thursday, Jul. 23, 2009 10:45PM EDT

Bruce Power has pulled the plug on an ambitious plan to construct two new nuclear power stations in Ontario.

The company says the stations, which it had hoped to build at Nanticoke on Lake Erie and at its existing nuclear complex near Port Elgin on Lake Huron, are not needed because of plunging electricity demand in the province.

The cancellations follow a decision late last month by the Ontario government to shelve a plan to build a new nuclear plant. The province cited the high cost of constructing the station as part of the reason for its decision.

. August 1, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Nuclear summer

By Susan Riley, The Ottawa Citizen
July 31, 2009

The much-heralded nuclear “renaissance” appears to have stalled this summer, at least temporarily — not because of unsettled questions over the disposal of radioactive waste, or fear of nuclear accidents, but because the costs of building new reactors is proving prohibitive.

That, at least, was Premier Dalton McGuinty’s explanation for his government’s recent decision not to proceed with two new reactors for Ontario’s Darlington facility. They were expected to cost $6 billion; the final tally from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, the winning bidder, was rumoured to be closer to $26 billion.

Shortly after, Bruce Power, the private company that operates two nuclear facilities for the McGuinty government, announced that it was pulling the plug on new installations at Nanticoke on Lake Erie and Port Elgin on Lake Huron. It has decided to refurbish existing reactors rather than buy new ones.

Again, the concern was economic. Incredibly — given the brownouts of recent memory and apocalyptic talk of future energy shortages — Ontario is enjoying an electricity surplus. The recession, and cool weather this summer, have diminished demand and new gas-fired stations and wind farms have increased supply — but the trend predates this year.

. September 3, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Ontario shuts 4 coal-fired units
Sep 03, 2009 11:22 AM

Ontario is shutting down four coal units, two at Nanticoke and two at Lambton Generating Station, by 2010 in a move the World Wildlife Fund says will make the province a leader in fighting climate change.

Ontario promises to eliminate coal-fired generation by the end of 2014. Along with the closure of the Lakeview Generating Station in 2005, the province’s coal capacity will be reduced by 40 per cent.

Coal plants will close as Ontario brings other energy producing sources such as wind power, modern gas fired units and refurbished nuclear units online, Deputy Premier George Smitherman told reporters this morning.

“We are determined to eliminate coal fired generation from our energy supply mix,” Smitherman said at the Ontario Power Generation offices on University Ave.

. September 7, 2016 at 12:10 am

OPG ready to go with Darlington refurbishment

After six years of planning and preparations Ontario Power Generation (OPG) says it is “ready to execute” refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear power plant and remains within the CAD 12.8 billion ($9 billion) estimate for the project, which is to start next month.

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