Friday, December 09, 2005

Report set to endorse nuclear power - Report set to endorse nuclear power

Dec. 9, 2005. 01:00 AM

Premier Dalton McGuinty's government is about to go on a nuclear power building binge.

When the Ontario Power Authority delivers its long awaited "supply mix" report today, it will come as no surprise when it recommends that Ontario's thirst for energy can best be quenched with nuclear reactors.

The OPA was created by the government to make recommendations that will ensure an adequate, long-term supply of electricity in Ontario.

The 1,100-page report, commissioned by McGuinty, is the first stage of the OPA's 20-year Integrated Power System Plan, expected to start in the summer of 2006.

The Toronto Star has learned, however, that the report does not specifically state how many new nuclear reactors are needed, but rather recommends a range of the number of megawatts of power that should be supplied by nuclear power.

Critics say the Liberals have all but led this so-called arm's-length agency by the nose toward nuclear power, which supporters say is the only plausible answer to the province's energy crisis.

Ontario Power Generation's 15 operating reactors, which currently supply half the province's power, are expected to reach their life expectancy by 2020. The province needs at least 25,000 megawatts of new supply over the next 15 years.

Ontario has a poor track record when it comes to nuclear plants, new or refurbished. They usually go over budget and well past deadline.

Perhaps most notorious was the Darlington nuclear plant east of Toronto. Originally budgeted at about $4 billion, it eventually cost three times that when it started up in the 1990s.

At Queen's Park, there have been accusations of cronyism because a number of the premier's former advisers are lobbying for the nuclear industry.

"This government has already sold its soul to the nuclear industry," Hampton told reporters yesterday.

David MacNaughton, McGuinty's former principal secretary, is lobbying for Atomic Energy Canada Ltd., which is eager for more nuclear plants, while Bob Lopinski, the premier's former director of issues management and legislative affairs, is working for Hill and Knowlton where he is a lobbyist for Bruce Power.

In October, the McGuinty government signed a deal in which Bruce Power ? Ontario's largest independent electricity generator ? will put up $4.25 billion to refurbish Units 1 and 2 at its nuclear generating station complex near Lake Huron. It will in turn sell the power back to the province.

Progressive Conservative Party Leader John Tory questioned the OPA's independence, given its membership includes former Liberal leader Lyn McLeod and party fundraiser Jan Carr.


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