New plan for Ontario

30 August 2007

An energy plan for Canada's Ontario province would see nuclear power plants providing the bulk of baseload electricity after maximum use of conservation and renewables. Some C$26 billion ($25 billion) would be spent on nuclear generation by 2027.

The integrated proposal, put together over two years by Ontario Power Authority (OPA), is the first such 'comprehensive electricity supply plan' for the province in 15 years. It addresses the government's intention to phase out 6434 MWe of coal-fired generation "in the earliest practicable timeframe," and the complication that nuclear plants are growing older and most could shut down by 2030.

The Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP) places energy conservation first and foremost, projecting that a spend of C$10.2 billion ($9.6 billion) could save about 5000 MWe in demand by 2025. This would limit growth to about 1500 MWe, and demand to around 27,500 MWe. Simultaneously, deployment of 'all feasible' renewables could double their capacity to around 16,000 MWe at a cost of C$15.4 billion ($14.6 billion).

Nuclear's role would be to provide up to 14,000 MWe of baseload capacity, which would operate on full power almost all of the time and provide the bulk of electricity. OPA's plan forsees 10,249 MWe coming from a combination of new plants and refurbishments of existing units to extend their operating lives. OPA said that
 2018 could see the start of operation of 1400-3400 MWe of new nuclear capacity, depending on the mix of new build to refurbishment. Colin Hunt of the Canadian Nuclear Association told World Nuclear News the mix itself essentially came down to the decision whether or not to refurbish four reactors at Pickering B, which would otherwise close down between 2014 and 2017.

OPA wants to use natural gas-firedpower plants to operate flexibly to cover peaks in demand and bridgethe gap between baseload nuclear power more intermittent renewablesonce coal is removed from the mix. Investments totalling C$3.6 billion($3.4 billion) would be required for this. In addition, C$4 billion is neededfor electricity transmission upgrades, C$3 billion of which is forenhancements to facilitate renewables.

The cost of this huge program of investment in the province will ultimately fall to consumers, who will be affected by bulk power price increases from 5 to 7 Canadian cents per kWh. OPA said that this cost could be offset for consumers who "aggressively conserve."

The IPSP is to be reviewed every three years.

Refurbishment and replacement

At present Ontario has 16 operating nuclear power plants, which provide up to 12,595 MWe. They are all AECL Candu units, which require refurbishment after about 25 years of operation. Two units at Pickering A have undergone that work already and enjoy working lives extended out to 2018 and 2022; two at Bruce A are being refurbished now.

Bruce Power announced on 29 August that it had decided to invest an extra C$1 billion ($950 million) to fully refurbish Bruce A unit 4, replacing its fuel channels in addition to its steam generators. This overhaul would see the unit operate until 2036 rather than just 2017. Bruce A unit 3 is undergoing the same work.

Bruce Power has also conducted studies into a possible Bruce C plant which could host four new 1000 MWe reactors. An application for a licence to prepare the site for a new plant was submitted to regulators in August 2006 and it is thought possible that the reactors could start up in 2014.

Further information 

Ontario Power Authority: The Integrated Power System Plan for the Period 2008-2027

WNA's Canada's Uranium and Nuclear Power information paper