Have the wheels fallen off the Nuclear Renaissance in Canada?
The Ontario government has announced that it’s suspending its competition for new nuclear reactors because only the AECL bid met its requirements but even so their price was much too high.
Media reaction was muted and at first many including me assumed the suspension to be a political ploy on the part of Ontario government to induce the federal government to subsidize its new nuclear plants. In fact, many approving noises were made in the media, mainly making the point that there’s no particular need to rush to a decision. This because electricity demand is declining in Ontario due to the recession (but for how long?), additional generation facilities (including refurbished nuclear stations) are due to come on line in the next few years and the delay will give us time to see how other supply choices work out.
However, rumours (or more likely deliberate leaks) are now emerging that the bids received were very high. One report said that the AECL bid was $26 billion for two ACRs. That in my view is absurdly high.
So what are the facts? As regular readers of this blog will guess, the aspect that annoys me most about the Ontario competition is the continuing secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding the whole process.
For example, we need to know such things as:
- Why were the AREVA and Westinghouse reactors rejected?
- Did the evaluators consider the ACR technically superior to the other two reactors?
- What were the prices quoted for each of the reactors?
- What does the Ontario government consider a reasonable price as compared with the AECL bid price?
General answers to these questions and others must be forthcoming. After all the citizens of Ontario have spent a lot of money on the answers although of course we’ll never know how much. We don’t need to know a high level of detail. Nevertheless, we must be told enough to have confidence in the soundness of the judgment that was made.
In the end it may be that the prices of new nuclear plants have simply become so high that few jurisdictions can afford them. If Ontario can’t afford new reactors then the same must hold for New Brunswick, Alberta and Saskatchewan. In that case there will be no Nuclear Renaissance in Canada which would be a shame since we need this energy option but not at any price.