Monday, October 03, 2005

Alberta oilsands companies consider nuclear power

canadaeast.com - TP Canadian Business

Ralph Klein has said no but firms are talking to AECL to help power costly processing plants

Canadian Press

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is dismissing nuclear power for the time-being, but several companies involved the province's northern oilsands may already be considering reactors for their operations.

Dale Coffin of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. said his company has had discussions with a number of oilsands companies in Fort McMurray.

Mr. Coffin said location of a potential nuclear plant as well as the plant size are already being considered.

"The interest is certainly there,'" he said.

Curiosity in nuclear power is a result of soaring natural gas prices.

The gas is used to generate electricity and steam, both used to separate oil from the oilsands.

Despite the interest, Alberta Energy spokeswoman Cathy Housdorff said Mr. Klein has said there will be no nuclear energy in Alberta right now.

"He wants to explore other options before that," Mr. Housdorff said.

Alberta currently does not have a nuclear power plant.

Dan Woynillowicz, policy analyst with the Pembina Institute, said Albertans would be unlikely to support nuclear power use due to the possible risks.

"We don't have existing legislation that would guide if and how that type of development could occur in this province," he said.

Mr. Coffin said one proposal is for a huge nuclear plant that will be capable of powering a number of operations.

The proposal has a serious drawback, capability for steam delivery is within 10 to 15 kilometres distance.

Oilsands operations in northern Alberta are spread out over more than 100 kilometres.

``It has to be closer to the oilsands plant and the large scale (nuclear plant) would be too large for just one single project," said Greg Stringham, vice president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Mr. Stringham said he was told by nuclear experts they are looking at a new technology to make smaller nuclear reactors that can service individual oilsands plants.

"But they told me that's a good 10 to 15 years away. They may have a faster breakthrough they just have to get into it," said Mr. Stringham.

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