Ontario backs away from plans to buy new nuclear reactors – by Adam Radwanski (Globe and Mail – October 10, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

Ontario’s government will shelve plans for a major new investment in nuclear power, according to industry and government sources.

Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals have decided against spending upwards of $10-billion to buy two new nuclear reactors as had been planned when Dalton McGuinty was premier, and will commit only to refurbishing existing ones, the sources told The Globe and Mail.

The decision appears to be the latest blow to the nuclear industry, which is already facing a decline in international demand, safety concerns after 2011’s earthquake-induced meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima plant, and the emergence of comparatively cheap natural gas. As the most nuclear-reliant province in Canada and the only one with plans to acquire new reactors, Ontario had been held up as a source of hope for prospective builders, including Candu Energy Inc., the once-mighty division of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited that is now a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin.

As a result of the change in plans, nuclear power – which accounted for 56 per cent of Ontario’s total energy supply in 2012 – could end up with a somewhat smaller share of the supply mix. At the same time, the decision reflects stagnant demand due largely to the struggles of the province’s manufacturing sector.

Ruling out a nuclear procurement in the foreseeable future, rather than just putting one off as Mr. McGuinty did when a potential deal fell through four years ago, also appears aimed at serving Ms. Wynne’s political goals.

Under fire for soaring hydro prices, particularly since an Auditor-General’s report showed that the bungled cancellation of a pair of gas-fired power plants could cost more than $1-billion, the Liberals want to be able to show future cost containment when they release a new long-term energy plan in the next couple of months.

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