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Private power operators backed

Toronto Star - March 30, 2004
by John Spears


Ontario Power Generation Inc. should consider leasing more nuclear facilities to private-sector operators if they can do a better job, says John Manley.

The former federal finance minister, who headed a panel that just completed a report for the Ontario government on OPG's future, spoke yesterday to the Canadian Club.

"There should be no inhibitions in OPG against using private-sector partners either as lessees of facilities or as joint ventures or other partners in order to get the best possible result out of their generating assets," Manley said.

He was responding to a question from the audience about the generally positive performance of the Bruce nuclear station, operated by privately owned Bruce Power under an 18-year lease from OPG.

"We see Bruce as a model that's worked, and we contemplate it expanding, whether it's Bruce or other potential partners that would help produce a better result," Manley said. "Our view is that the responsibility of the company (OPG) ought to be to get the best possible performance out of the assets."

OPG management should be rewarded for that, even if it means concluding an outside operator might do a better job, he said.

Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive of Bruce Power, asked after the speech whether his company would consider operating other nuclear plants, replied: "We've said before we're interested in any opportunity that might arise."

Manley, also questioned after his speech, said any search for possible private nuclear operators should examine companies in addition to Bruce Power.

Manley's panel said Ontario is likely to need nuclear power for the foreseeable future. The province is due to lose 7,500 megawatts of generating capacity — about one-quarter of total capacity — by 2007, the provincial government's deadline for closing all coal-burning plants.

The province lacks suitable sites for major new hydroelectric projects, he said, while natural gas is becoming less plentiful and more expensive. Conservation can blunt growth in demand, but can't reverse it.


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