Greens want Ontario nuclear costs reviewed

By Jonathan Jenkins, Queen’s Park Bureau. Read the original article at The Toronto Sun.

TORONTO – Ontario’s Green Party is asking for an independent review of all nuclear costs in Ontario.

“Protecting our pocketbooks from nuclear cost overruns is clearly not a priority for the McGuinty government,” Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said in a news release.

“Every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone over budget. It’s an irresponsible waste of our money to pay $26 million for the nuclear industry to study their own costs.”

Energy Minister Chris Bentley revealed Wednesday that Ontario Power Generation has contracted to pay Westinghouse and SNC-Lavalin’s Candu Energy $26 million for detailed budget plans and construction schedules for two, 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors.

The two companies will have until next summer to complete the estimate, which OPG says is common practice on such a large and complicated job.

Ontario isn’t committed to go ahead with the work and is still deciding whether it needs the extra power generation, Bentley said.

Schreiner called the $26 million fee for estimates “outrageous” and said the province should immediately halt any work on building new reactors until an independent study of the costs is done.

Ontario suspended plans to build the two new reactors in 2009 after costs estimate from three companies — Westinghouse, Candu and Areva — came in far above what the government had been expecting.

But now that Bentley is restarting the process by paying Westinghouse and Candu to submit estimates, New Democrat energy critic Peter Tabuns called the expense “just crazy”.

“Giving people tens of millions of dollars just to prepare a bid on a contract, I just don’t think is reasonable,” Tabuns said. “OPG is a big sophisticated organization with its own staff. They can do their own analysis.”

Ontario now has a surplus of electrical generation and running what it has is very expensive, Tabuns said. Building more nuclear now — even if it’s just to replace aging units at Pickering — risks blowing the budget.

“Why would we go back to a mid-twentieth century technology?” he said. “Whatever they put forward (on cost), double it. If they’re saying $10 to $14 billion, then it’s probably going to be $20 to $30 billion.”