TORONTO, Feb. 9 /CNW/ - News reports indicating Ontario Power Generation (OPG) will not rebuild the four Pickering B nuclear reactors is another blow to the future of the Canadian nuclear industry and could provide an opportunity for expanding green energy, if the McGuinty government allows it, says Greenpeace.
"Choosing not to risk billions of dollars of public money rebuilding the Pickering reactors is the right decision although proposals to continue running Canada's most dangerous nuclear station as long as possible are a significant concern," said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear specialist with Greenpeace. "In light of a decision to close Pickering, any decision to proceed with rebuilding the Darlington reactors would be folly and block the future expansion of green energy."
Greenpeace was responding to a Toronto Star report today that Ontario would eventually close the four Pickering B reactors due to high cost but would refurbish the Darlington reactors.
"Pickering's eventual closure would open up space on the electricity grid and give the McGuinty government the opportunity to increase its baseline targets for green energy by allowing green energy to replace Pickering," said Stensil. "Right now, nuclear energy blocks grid access for green energy and is the biggest long-term barrier to expanding green energy."
Greenpeace has long opposed the McGuinty government's nuclear plan to spend $26 billion to maintain nuclear at 50 per cent of Ontario's supply, which deprives green power of the grid space it needs to grow over the long-term. The McGuinty plan has underestimated nuclear costs, over-estimated the growth of electricity demand and given short shrift to green power and conservation.
"What Ontarians need to see now are the true costs of running Pickering past its end date and rebuilding Darlington, that will show the lack of wisdom in continuing to rely on nuclear plants," said Stensil. "We also need to see the safety studies to know what the risks will be."
Ontario suspended its purchase of two new CANDU reactors last summer when the cost topped $26 billion-$20 billion more than estimated and equal to the projected cost for the government's full plan of building new reactors and rebuilding all existing ones.
"Ontario's electricity planners got it wrong in 2006 when they told the McGuinty government it would cost just $6 billion to rebuild Pickering or replace it with a new reactor. Closing Pickering is the first step in turning around the Titanic. The McGuinty government must give the space opened up by Pickering to green energy developers," said Stensil.
A decision to not rebuild Pickering would also show things are going from bad to worse for the Canadian nuclear industry in 2010, which was plagued by cost over-runs, reactor cancellations and embarrassments in 2009. Unlike other reactor designs, CANDU reactors require extensive repairs at mid-life that make them uneconomical compared to other reactor designs. New Brunswick is now threatening to sue the federal government over the 16 month delay in repairing the Point Lepreau reactor.
"This news report foreshadows the death of CANDU. Who in his right mind would spend billions on a reactor that would cost even more billions to repair at midlife? CANDU can't compete against other expensive reactor designs let alone green energy," said Stensil.
While Greenpeace supports closing Pickering, it is concerned that the risks of accidents will increase if Ontario Power Generation were allowed to run the reactors longer than planned because it has decided it can't afford to spend billions needed to repair the station.
"Operating an aging reactor after its shut down date is like driving on bald tires. It might not be a problem in perfect driving conditions but do you want to take that risk?" said Stensil.
SOURCE Green News
For further information: For further information: Alex Paterson, Media & Public Relations, (416) 524-8496; Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Energy Campaigner, (416) 884-7053