9 good reasons why we need public review of a Bruce Nuclear deal

Angela Bischoff —

The Ontario Power Authority and Bruce Power are secretly negotiating a multi-billion dollar deal to rebuild four aging reactors at the Bruce B Nuclear Station. Here are 9 good reasons why Premier Kathleen Wynne should send any agreement to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) for a full public review:

1. The Bruce B contract would be the largest private sector contract ever signed by an Ontario government, worth $60-$111 billion that householders and businesses would pay. Is Bruce B the cheapest available power?
2. Electricity demand in Ontario is falling. Since 2005 Ontario’s total annual electricity demand has fallen by 10%, despite the fact that our GDP has grown by 8.5%, and it appears likely that our electricity demand will continue to fall as our electricity productivity continues to rise. Will we need Bruce B power?
3. Ontario has a rising supply of renewable and gas-fired generation, including the TransCanada gas-fired power plant in Napanee. Will Bruce B power be needed?
4. Ontario already has a surplus baseload problem. Bruce Power claims its nuclear units are now capable of cutting back generation when demand falls.  But in reality the company is running its reactors full tilt, either venting the excess steam into Lake Huron or producing unneeded power and exporting it to the US at a loss. Will a Bruce B deal make these problems worse?
5. The cost overruns on nuclear projects have always been passed on to electricity consumers and taxpayers.  Despite government assurances that nuclear projects must minimize “commercial risk on the part of ratepayers and government”,  93% of the work on the proposed  Darlington re-build project is not subject to fixed price contracts, with the provincial treasury and ratepayers liable for inevitable cost overruns.  Will it be any different at Bruce where ratepayers have already picked up billions of dollars in cost overruns on previous projects?
6. We can meet some or all of our electricity needs at a lower cost with additional investments in energy conservation and efficiency.  According to the government’s Conservation First policy, Ontario will pursue all cost-effective energy conservation and efficiency resources before investing in new supply.
7. We can meet our electricity needs at a lower cost with water power imports from Quebec. The cost of upgrading transmission infrastructure to fully exploit Quebec imports would be a fraction of the cost of re-building nuclear reactors.
8. According to the Long-Term Energy Plan, the existing Bruce B reactors will not come to the end of their lives until 2022 and beyond.  There is a very good chance that renewable energy options like wind, solar, biogas and biomass will be lower cost electricity supply options by 2022. Quebec’s existing hydro-electric storage capacity could also be used to transform wind and solar from intermittent to “firm” base-load electricity resources.  Is this the right time to commit to Bruce B power?
9. We don’t know by how much a Bruce B contract would cause our electricity rates to rise. Surely we should know this before a deal is signed.

Please send Premier Wynne a message urging her to follow through on her commitment to run “the most open and transparent government in Canada” by sending any Bruce deal to the OEB for review.

These are important questions that the Ontario Energy Board’s procedures are designed to answer — before any contract is signed.

You can also read our open letter to Premier Wynne outlining our questions about a Bruce deal.

Angela Bischoff is Outreach Director of Ontario Clean Air Alliance