The Ontario government is making a bid to build the province’s largest nuclear power project in more than 30 years. Photo courtesy of Bruce Power

The Ontario government is making a bid to build the province’s largest nuclear power project in more than 30 years.

To move forward, the project needs environmental approval from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, meaning even if it is approved, it won’t be opening any time soon.

“A large-scale new nuclear reactor project is expected to require a lead time of a decade or more from Impact Assessment commencement to deployment,” the Ontario government said in a press release.

On Wednesday, the Ontario government announced it is starting planning on a new nuclear generation project, which would be 4,800 megawatts (MW), at its Bruce Nuclear Generating Station site, which sits on the shore of Lake Huron. 

“Our government’s open-for-business approach has led to unprecedented investments across the province, from electric vehicles and battery manufacturing to critical minerals to green steel,” said Todd Smith, minister of energy. 

“With our plan already in place to meet demand this decade, we are starting the pre-development work to identify future generation options, including reliable, affordable and clean nuclear energy, that will power our province into the future.”

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission – Canada’s federal nuclear power regulator – said they’ve yet to receive an application from Bruce Power.

“The CNSC is committed to providing opportunities for the public and Indigenous communities to participate fully in Commission proceedings and will do so if and when an application is received,” said the Commission in a statement to Canada’s National Observer.

As of 2019, about 60 per cent of Ontario’s energy mix was from nuclear, with 24 per cent from hydro and eight per cent from wind. The current generating station at Bruce Power, one of the largest in the world, has a capacity of around 6,600 MW. The government said the need for electricity is rising in the province and that it needs nuclear to meet the demand.

In a press release, Bruce Power said the process will “take several years to complete, involving significant public input and consultations with Indigenous communities,” and that it is “committed to continuing co-operation and engagement” with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.

Following the announcement, Ontario Greens Leader Mike Schreiner called out Premier Doug Ford for “squandering a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make low-cost renewables the foundation for Ontario’s transition to a fully electrified, decarbonized future.”

In 2019, Ford spent over $200 million to cancel green energy projects. While nuclear energy doesn’t use fossil fuels to generate electricity, opponents say energy sources like solar and wind are cheaper, don’t produce harmful nuclear waste and can be deployed much quicker than nuclear.

“Global investors are flocking to renewables because they are the lowest-cost source of electricity generation,” said Schreiner.

“But as usual, Doug Ford is backing the wrong horse and leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for his expensive mistakes, costing us better jobs and investment in Ontario’s economy.”

Canada has been struggling for the past decade to find a place to dispose of nuclear waste already created by existing and past reactors. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization, a Canadian non-profit tapped to address the disposal of used nuclear fuel, will select a site to store Canada’s nuclear waste roughly 500 feet underground in a deep geological repository in 2024.

South Bruce, the region where the nuclear power generator sits, is one of two proposed site locations, along with Ignace, Ont., located 250 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

In April, Lester Anoquot, former chief of Saugeen First Nation who lives near the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, said a solution must be found for nuclear waste. But he worries about the environment, future generations and whether there will be meaningful dialogue about the development of the repository.

— With files from Matteo Cimellaro 

Cloe Logan / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative

By Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 06, 2023 at 16:12

This item reprinted with permission from   Canada's National Observer   Ottawa, Ontario
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