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Accept nukes, McGuinty says

Argues Ontario will go dark without some new reactors
Energy minister is to announce `specific' details today

Toronto Star - June 13, 2006
by Robert Benzie and Rob Ferguson

Premier Dalton McGuinty says Ontarians have no choice but to accept the new nuclear power reactors his government will announce this morning.

On the eve of the province's long-expected announcement outlining Ontario's future power supply mix, McGuinty said yesterday it is a matter of keeping the lights on.

"Fifty per cent of our generating capacity at present comes from nuclear and we will not duck this issue. Governments have done that in the past, I refuse to do that," the premier told reporters after an event at the University of Toronto's Hart House.

His comments came after the Toronto Star first disclosed confirmation of the new reactors in yesterday's editions.

The premier said the government's response to last December's 1,100-page report by the arm's-length Ontario Power Authority on the supply mix would not pull punches.

The OPA recommended Ontario refurbish or build new nuclear plants over the next 20 years to generate 12,400 megawatts of electricity. Such an undertaking could cost $35 billion to $40 billion and mean a dozen new or rebuilt reactors.

"We're going to put in place a plan that will be aggressive. It will carry us through to 2025. It'll be revised every three years in keeping with the process," said McGuinty.

"But we'll be aggressive with respect to renewables, with respect to conservation, and with respect to new generation. I've said before, when we're talking about new generation there are no quick fixes here," he said, acknowledging he could pay a political price for his decision in next year's provincial election.

"There are all kinds of great political reasons for running away from this. But we will not do that."

Canadian Press reported yesterday that six new sites will be considered for reactors with the possibility of at least one new plant with twin reactors.NDP Leader Howard Hampton charged that the "$40-billion nuclear mega-scheme is another Liberal letdown."

While Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory acknowledged a need for more nuclear facilities in Ontario, he said McGuinty has dithered on the issue "in an appalling manner."

Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said he will be "very specific" today at Queen's Park when he outlines Ontario's nuclear plans, alternative generation ideas and conservation initiatives. Duncan declined to say whether Ontario would favour federal government-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., which builds the CANDU reactors already in use here, over foreign-owned firms.

Nor would the minister say whether the province's own Ontario Power Generation, which runs reactors in Darlington and Pickering, or British-owned Bruce Power, operator of the nuclear plant in Tiverton, would get the nod over other companies not yet here.

The government can expect heavy opposition, warned Shawn-Patrick Stensil of Greenpeace.

"It might be trench warfare in the end, but we're prepared to do that," he told a news conference held by environmental groups.

The groups said the government is making a huge mistake with a plan relying heavily on nuclear power and other major generating plants instead of dramatically boosting efforts on conservation and renewable energy.

They are "the only way to keep the lights on without frying the planet," said Keith Stewart, a climate change adviser with the World Wildlife Federation. Stewart noted he's having a solar hot water heating system installed at his home for $5,700 — the kind of upfront cost he says the province should subsidize.

Environmentalists say McGuinty is trying to fool people with claims more nuclear energy is the only option because it will take at least 10 years of public hearings, environmental assessments, other approvals and construction before any new plant is up and running.

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