In the coming weeks, Ontario is expected to release its latest Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP). Recent media reports suggest that Ontario will not build two planned new nuclear reactors at Darlington and is considering cutting back on planned refurbishments of the operating units at Darlington and Bruce Power. The justification is allegedly to help curb escalating electricity prices. Once again short-term politics appear to be more important than making the capital investments that will secure long-term economic and environmental benefits for Ontario.
To help inform the LTEP review, the Power Workers’ Union and the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries commissioned Strategic Policy Economics Inc. (Strapolec) to assess the economic and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission impacts associated with two supply mix options.
The Strapolec study — Ontario Electricity Options Comparison — concludes that the Retained Nuclear scenario would offer tremendous advantages over the Retained Wind scenario. Keeping the currently planned nuclear capacity would produce $56 billion in direct benefits to Ontario’s economy, $27 billion in savings to ratepayers and $29 billion in direct investment in Ontario. The net benefit of this scenario, compared to the Retained Wind scenario, would be $60 billion. It would also generate $9 billion more in direct employment income benefits, including the creation of more than 100,000 person years of employment in high-value Ontario jobs. Additionally, the Retained Nuclear scenario would reduce GHG emissions by more than 108 million tonnes, compared to the Retained Wind scenario.
In addition to Strapolec’s findings, the economic impacts of carbon pricing on increased GHG-emitting natural gas generation would further tip the scales in favour of nuclear generation.
Not building two new reactors at Darlington to help replace the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station when it closes in 2020 means Ontario will lose 3,000 megawatts of GHG-emission free electricity and will increase its dependence on shale gas imports. Based on a full life-cycle analysis, nuclear power emits 16 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour compared to 469 grams for natural gas.
Ontario imports 99 percent of its natural gas. More reliance on natural gas generation means more risk exposure to price volatility for home heating and electricity costs. While conservation can help reduce growth in demand, it cannot meet the needs of a growing economy and population. Ontarians deserve to know the true cost and effectiveness of the investments that have been made to date.
Ontario hosts much of Canada’s $6 billion-a-year nuclear industry with its 160 supply chain companies and 60,000 direct and indirect high-value jobs.
Ontario’s homes, businesses and industries need affordable, reliable, price-stable, low-carbon electricity to generate economic prosperity.
Building new nuclear reactors and refurbishing the nuclear fleet is the best investment for Ontario’s economy and environment.
By Don MacKinnon
Power Workers’ Union