Energy policy needed before lights go out
Nuclear plants will be worn out by 2018
Bruce Power calls for industry overhaul
Toronto Star - November 27, 2003
by John Spears
The nuclear generating units that produced 58 per cent of Ontario's
electricity last year will all reach the end of their normal operating
lives by 2018 if they're not extensively overhauled, the chief executive
of Bruce Power warned yesterday.
On top of that, the new Liberal government maintains it's still aiming to
close all the coal-burning plants in the province by 2007, Duncan
Hawthorne said in a speech to an electricity industry group.
That puts a further squeeze on Ontario's supply of power.
"I do believe we'll fix this, and we will find a way to make investment
credible," Hawthorne stressed in an interview.
But he said the state of Ontario's aging or dirty generators make it
urgent for the province to start thinking about policies to refurbish or replace them.
Hawthorne was speaking to the Association of Power Producers of Ontario,
formerly the Independent Power producers Society of Ontario.
Ontario's energy minister, Dwight Duncan, has said adding more generating
capacity in Ontario is at the top of his priority list. But he's also
about to receive a possibly damning report on the floundering attempts to
restart the mothballed Pickering A nuclear station, which is three years
behind schedule and more than $1 billion over budget. One of four units
was restarted in September, but shut down due to an equipment failure two
Duncan is due to receive the report next week.
Hawthorne said Ontario's other nuclear units currently operating don't
have a long lifespan.
The normal life cycle for units at Ontario Power Generation's Pickering B
station runs until about 2009 to 2012, he said.
OPG's newer Darlington station will start to wind down in 2016 unless
there's a major overhaul, he said. It's the same story for Bruce Power's
Bruce B plant near Kincardine, which exits around 2018 without a major
overhaul. Two newly refurbished units at the Bruce A station have even
"If you look at that, by 2018, 2020, there's nothing left," Hawthorne said.
The schedule of potential closings adds urgency to the situation because
if Ontario decides to build a new nuclear plant — a policy decision that
hasn't been made — it would have to be started almost immediately to be
ready by 2011, Hawthorne said.
Nuclear plants make up about 40 per cent of Ontario's generating capacity.
But because they run all day, all year, except for maintenance shutdowns,
they produce a proportionately larger share of Ontario's electricity.
Other plants, such as coal and gas-burning plants, operate only when
demand is heavy.
Filling the gap left by Ontario's coal plants won't be easy, Hawthorne
said. Renewable energy sources, such as wind power, can't realistically
fill the void; the number of waterways suitable for hydro-electric
generation is limited; and natural gas supplies are tight. That's why
governments have to think now about filling the gap left by coal and the
aging nuclear plants, he said.
"If you leave it to the market, you'll get short-term decision making,"
Refurbishing or building new nuclear plants takes a long time and requires
long-term financing, so the government has to create an environment for
long-term investments if it wants to stick with nuclear energy, he said.
Dave Goulding, chief executive of the Independent Electricity Market
Operator, has also called on the province to make up its mind about the
future of nuclear power. Goulding estimates the province needs to build or
overhaul 15,000 megawatts of generating capacity over the next 15 years to
replace plants due for closing.
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