The Darlington Refurbishment Plan

A plan is a plan. What kind of a plan? It’s a plan. A plan is a plan. And when you have a good plan, it’s because it’s planned

OK so I’ve revised Jean Chretien’s famous quotation by substituting the word “plan” in place of his word “proof” to illustrate my point that politicians say the strangest things. The one I want to comment on is from the Ontario Minister of Energy Chris Bentley who is quoted in the March 1 Toronto Star describing the newly announced OPG contract to produce a $600 million Darlington refurbishment Plan.

 “They can plan down to 30-minute increments to make sure that when the actual refurbishment work starts, they have the right project at the right price according to the right specifications.”

Really?! This is a totally nutty statement for any large and complex engineering project. The Minister claims that the Plan will protect against cost overruns and this justifies the $600 million price tag. With the obfuscation the Ontario government loves so much it’s not clear what exactly the $600 million includes. For example, is it just for the unbelievably detailed half-hourly Plan or does the total cover items such as training for the refurbishers and mock-up facilities for them to practice on? Is it too much to ask whether it includes a plan for how the $600 million will be spent on developing the Plan? Maybe they have a plan for making the plan for the Plan and so on ad infinitum.

On the other hand I have to give them credit for coming up with a brilliant strategy for avoiding cost overruns. It simply consists of not specifying a total project cost for the refurbishment of the Darlington reactors. Perhaps they don’t know this number or do and want to keep it secret. Either way an unknown target cost makes it impossible to identify a cost overrun. Certainly this “the sky’s the limit” concept totally eliminates any future media carping about expenditures.

As I’ve said before, I’m all in favour of refurbishment projects because they are vital to the survival of our nuclear expertise and infrastructure since new build at home or abroad looks to be a long way into the future. However,  all parties need to be accurate in their statements about refurbishment projects.

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