In 2005, the nuclear lobby promised its new reactors designs would be cheap enough to revive the moribund nuclear industry. Today’s announcement by Energy Minister George Smitherman that he’s suspending the procurement of new reactors is yet another sign that the so-called nuclear revival is more media spin than reality.
At his press conference, Smitherman reportedly said that the bids he received from AREVA, Westinghouse and Canada’s Atomic Energy of Canada Limited were ‘billions’ of dollars too high. No kidding. In 2005, the Ontario government was told that a new nuclear station beat out the competition at a low cost of $ 6 billion. Financial estimates today peg the cost at about $ 15 billion.
What’s Smitherman’s solution? He’s asked the federal government to lower – pay for - the bid price of AECL’s prototype Advanced Candu reactor. Smitherman wants the Canadian tax-payer to bailout Ontario’s nuclear plan.
Canadians shouldn’t be forced to buy Ontario a reactor and Harper should say ‘no’ to Smitherman. Saying no to a nuclear bailout would not only save the federal tax-payer billions, but force Ontario to look at cheaper and less risky energy options like renewables, conservation and decentralized supply – all things Smitherman claims to support.
Last month, Canada’s largest environmental organizations asked the government to do just this. In an open-letter Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, the groups told the Premier there was good reason to drop his nuclear plans: the cost of nuclear plants has more than doubled and electricity demand is falling.
What’s more, the government’s recently approved Green Energy Act could spur a green energy revolution if given the space. The biggest barrier standing in the way of developing green power in Ontario, however, is his government’s 2005 decision to reserve 50 per cent of the electricity grid for nuclear generation.
Canada’s environmental movement asked the Premier to take down this next barrier to expanding green power by replacing Pickering nuclear station with green power when it closes in 2014 – well before any new nuclear plant could ever come online. The Pickering decision will be the next test of where the government is going on green energy.
Todays’ decision to suspend buying new reactors – even if it is to extort cash from the federal government – is a confirmation that new nuclear plants aren’t economic. New nuclear plants won’t be viable without a massive bailout from the federal government. They should not be built.
Today’s announcement is also a sign the so-called nuclear revival may be dead on arrival.