Nuke sector on upswing?

LAUREN KRUGEL, The Canadian Press
Ottawa Sun
March 7, 2008

Two Canadian mega-projects in works, but critics still battling

CALGARY — With two nuclear mega-projects planned for Alberta and Ontario, the sector is showing signs of growth for the first time in decades, but critics warn those sorts of major projects are fraught with risk.

On Thursday, Ontario power firm Bruce Power said it wants to build Western Canada’s first nuclear power plant near Peace River, Alta. The proposed $10-billion facility could produce enough electricity to power two million homes by 2017.

And a major new nuclear plant planned for Ontario could to power all the homes and businesses in Toronto, Canada’s most populous city, with a capacity of up to 3,500 megawatts.

“It’s certainly an exciting development. It’s a bold development,” said Norman Rubin of the Energy Probe think tank. “The financial risks are killers to this from an investment point of view, so what’s especially exciting about this is the possibility that governments won’t have to backstop this.”

Rubin warns the nuclear industry has a dismal record of keeping projects on budget and on schedule and that once the plants are built, they are prone to breakdown.

“There are two kinds of nuclear generating stations in the world. There are the future theoretical ones, which are wonderful. And there are the real world ones which break your heart and destroy your wealth and run the risk of leaving you in the dark if you actually depend on them,” he said.

Another huge issue is going to be getting enough skilled workers to build the planned nuclear mega-projects, especially in Alberta’s already squeezed labour market, Rubin said.

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