Darlington plans on hold

29 June 2009

The provincial government of Ontario, Canada has stopped work towards building new reactors. Bids from abroad were not up to scratch, it said, and it did not have confidence in the future of AECL.


The decision is a major surprise in the province which is phasing out coal and faces a huge energy gap. In an attempt to reassure, George Smitheran, deputy premier and energy minister said that "Emission-free nuclear power remains a crucial aspect of Ontario's supply mix."


The procurement project was a component of a 20 year energy plan launched by the Ontario government in 2006. The plan calls for the 14,000 MWe of nuclear capacity that provides half of electricity to be maintained, requiring new build to replace retiring facilities. In addition the plan calls for a reduction in demand of 6300 MWe, a doubling of renewable capacity (including hydro) to 15,700 MWe, an increase in gas-fired generation to handle peak demand and the elimination of coal-fired generation by 2014.


Darlington new build space 2
Darlington: Plenty of room for new reactors (Image: OPG)


Ontario Power Generation's Darlington site was selected as the best choice for expansion and bids were received in the competitive process from Areva of France, Westinghouse of the USA and Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL). The bidding process was even extended by several months to allow for revisions in the light of the financial crisis.


Now, the government has revealed: "Only the submission from AECL was compliant with the terms of the request for proposals and the objectives of the government... However, concern about pricing and uncertainty regarding the company's future prevented Ontario from continuing with the procurement at this time."


A review of AECL recently concluded that it would be more effective if restructured into two main entities: one to market develop the Candu reactors and one to manage national research facilities. The government has yet to announce concrete proposals or plans for AECL's future, but did say there was certain commercial interest in a possible separation.