Environment, energy watchdogs howl at Bruce Power chief’s new nuke hint

Peter Geigen-Miller
London Free Press
June 14, 2001

There’s no way another nuclear power plant will be built in Ontario, a Sierra Club of Canada official vowed yesterday after Bruce Power’s chairperson hinted one was in the works.

“If they ever try to site another reactor anywhere in Canada . . . they’ll have a huge fight on their hands and won’t be able to build it,” John Bennett said yesterday.

He was reacting to a speech in which Bruce Power chairperson Robin Jeffrey spoke of perhaps building another nuclear plant in the province.

Bruce Power is the British firm leasing the two Bruce nuclear power stations from the province, a deal finalized in May.

Jeffrey said in an interview yesterday there are no plans to build another nuclear plant. But he did not rule it out if market conditions were favourable and construction costs could be reduced.

He said nuclear power is gaining acceptance, with U.S. plants being bought and sold and the possibility of new plants back on the agenda.

But Bennett said the industry is just testing public opinion.

Norm Rubin of Energy Probe, an energy industry watchdog, said economics make building a new nuclear plant almost impossible.

“Even if you can continue to make a buck acquiring nuclear generating stations at five cents on the dollar – as British Energy has done so far – it’s a heck of a leap . . . to think you could come out ahead by paying the real price of building one,” said Rubin. “The history of nuclear power in Ontario has always been that real plants lose money and theoretical plants make money hand over fist.”

Dave Martin, the Sierra Club’s nuclear consultant, estimates lifetime costs for a nuclear plant are double the price of a high-efficiency gas-fired power plant.

“They have a very big hill to climb . . . to make a nuclear plant competitive,” he said. “They will have to cut at least half the costs.”

Jeffrey said to attract investment, new reactors will have to be much cheaper and quicker to build than current plants.

The industry will also have to demonstrate the safety of nukes and solve the problem of what to do with their radioactive waste.

He said Bruce Power’s priorities are to get the Bruce B plant running at capacity and to restart a couple of Bruce A reactors. That would add 2,000 megawatts of generating capacity, he said.

Jeffrey said it’s too early to discuss where a new nuclear plant might go.

Martin said the sprawling Bruce site and the Darlington plant on Lake Ontario are possibilities.

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