Canada’s only private nuclear generating company, Bruce Power, plans to withdraw its application to build two new nuclear power plants in Ontario, opting instead to refurbish existing reactors. The decisions reflect the “realities of the market” and are unique to Ontario, the company said last week.

Bruce Power’s announcement closely follows the Ontario government’s decision to suspend a 10-year multibillion-dollar nuclear upgrade project to replace two reactors at the Darlington site because of pricing and uncertainty regarding the future of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL). About 50% of the province’s electricity is produced by nuclear power, and the Ontario government has promoted its nuclear energy policy alongside its determination to close the province’s coal-fired power plants by 2014 to cut carbon emissions.

Last week, Bruce Power said it would refurbish its Bruce A and B units rather than build new reactors in Bruce Country to supply the region with 6,300 MW of electricity. At the same time, it said it has notified the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Canadian Assessment Agency that it will withdraw its site license applications and suspend environmental assessments in Bruce County and Nanticoke.

“Our focus has always been to find the best way to provide Ontario with a long-term supply of 6,300 megawatts,” said Bruce Power President and CEO Duncan Hawthorne in a statement last week. “For more than five years, we’ve examined our options and refurbishing our existing units has emerged as the most economical.” Hawthorne added that the Nanticoke plant withdrawal had been prompted by a consideration of “Ontario’s declining electricity demand.”

The decision has no bearing on the current process to introduce nuclear energy to Alberta or Saskatchewan, the company said. Both provincial governments are expected to release policy statements regarding nuclear energy’s role later this year.

Bruce Power will now work with investors and the Ontario Power Authority to investigate the feasibility of refurbishing Units 3 though 8 following the successful restart of Units 1 and 2, which will inject another 1,500 MW of baseload generation into the Ontario market.

“While we have chosen to pursue the refurbishment option, I want to thank everyone in Bruce, Haldimand and Norfolk counties who supported us,” Hawthorne said. “The work we have done confirmed both sites held great promise for new build if the market conditions were more favourable. However, the time has come to narrow our focus and follow the route that’s best for us, for Ontario and its ratepayers.”

Source: Bruce Power