Alberta will not stand in the way of new nuclear builds, but it will not invest public dollars in power proposals, the province’s Energy Minister Mel Knight said on Monday after a government-sponsored consultation showed that 45% of Albertans prefer that nuclear power plants be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The survey, which polled 4,832 Albertans in July this year, found that 27% thought the province should oppose proposals, while about a fifth (19%) said it should encourage proposals.
In Canada, the federal government has the authority and responsibility for approving and regulating all nuclear facilities and nuclear-related activities. Provincial approvals are also required for any energy project, based on the province’s constitutional responsibility for land and resources. Under Alberta’s electricity generation policy, the province does not select the fuel or location of plants, and the decision to apply to build any generation facility is made by private sector companies.
“Albertans have told us that we shouldn’t be closed to new generation technologies that could provide clean, low-emission power,” said Knight. “At the same time Albertans have identified concerns with nuclear power that potential future applicants will need to fully address.”
The government’s decision follows a proposal by Bruce Power to build a C$10 billion nuclear power plant at Peace River, northwest of Edmonton. Though the proposal has prompted debate and protests, the Ontario-based company announced recently that it may reexamine its plan because of changing market conditions.
“It’s encouraging to see the door remains open for us to demonstrate we can bring value to the province and help Alberta meet its future energy needs without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions,” Bruce Power CEO Duncan Hawthorne said in a statement.
That company this year canceled plans to build two new nuclear power plants in Ontario, because of diminished demand. At the same time, Ontario’s government put off a plan to build a new nuclear plant in that province, citing high costs.
A new reactor hasn’t been built in Canada in 17 years, but nuclear power continues to be a hotly debated issue in several other provinces. Saskatchewan—a province that produces vast amounts of the world’s uranium—reportedly found that most of its residents oppose nuclear power. Its government is expected to issue a policy statement on the issue soon.
Canada’s government, meanwhile, is grappling with nuclear questions such as how it will store nuclear waste in the long term. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the country is taking a different approach from the U.S., where plans to bury waste in the Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository are now defunct.
Canada plans seek to avoid local resistance by asking communities if they would volunteer to host an underground repository, the newspaper reports. Communities are typically provided with extensive information on ecological risks and economic benefits of the repository, thought to cost in the range of C$16 billion and C$24 billion. Communities that are interested then become candidates for extensive technical review.
Sources: Alberta Ministry of Energy, Bruce Power, Christian Science Monitor