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Ontario announces backwards plans to rebuild Pickering nuclear

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In AWARE News Network
Feb 2nd, 2024
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Another backroom bonanza for nuclear interests

In yet another backroom deal bonanza, the Ford government has signed off on a plan to rebuild four 40-year-old nuclear reactors at North America’s third-oldest nuclear plant – the Pickering Nuclear Station in the eastern GTA.

The government is offering no information on how much this dubious plan will cost in total, but lots of happy talk about its ability to get these ancient (and outdated) reactors rebuilt on schedule. Of course, that schedule anticipates the patched-up reactors coming back online over a decade from now, which is a strange way to deal with a supposedly pressing need for increased electricity supply. And it sure won’t help this province’s lame efforts to address climate change as it relies more and more on polluting gas power to fill the gap.

There is not a chance that the cost of power from these rebuilt reactors will be competitive with the current cost of solar and wind power. And given that solar and wind power costs just keep dropping, this plan is going to look like an even worse bargain for the people of this province a decade from now.

Which explains why the Ford government has not required Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to put forward its proposal in any sort of competitive procurement process, like what it requires for truly cost effective solar and wind projects. Once again it is backroom deals and cost secrecy – the hallmarks of nuclear projects in this province.

We’re also sure to hear lots of talk about how Pickering can provide “firm” baseload power. This, of course, is just more Model T thinking from a government that is firmly stuck in the past. There are numerous ways to cost effectively store renewable energy, from batteries and thermal storage, using Quebec’s huge water reservoir system or turning EVs into power storage devices.

The Pickering Nuclear Station is a dangerously outdated facility surrounded by more people (within 30 km.) than any other nuclear plant in North America. Its deadly radioactive waste is stored in conventional commercial warehouses on the shores of Lake Ontario, the source of drinking water for millions of people. And that waste isn’t going anywhere for decades – if ever.

Now the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has to sign off on the reckless idea of continuing to operate these reactors that are already operating well past their engineering best-before date. Sadly, hopes that this toothless regulator will finally wake up and say this plan is simply too risky are slim.

A smart government would be focusing on tripling Ontario’s wind and solar capacity and reaping the benefits of low-cost climate-friendly power that doesn’t create radioactive waste or endanger millions of people. That’s what BC and Quebec are doing. Great Lakes offshore wind power alone could meet all of Ontario’s current power needs.

Instead, we see another bad idea cooked up in backrooms for the benefit of powerful interests. Not a good look, Mr. Ford.

Please send Premier Ford, Energy Minister Todd Smith, Opposition Leaders and your MPP a message demanding full cost transparency for this project and a release of the IESO’s assessment of the viability of this project.

Thank you!

Angela Bischoff, Director

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