29 June 2009

Ontario Cancels New Nuclear Power Plant Plans

Via Karen Howlett at The Globe and Mail, we learn that Ontario has suspended its plans to build some new nuclear power plants. The leading bid was from AECL. There have been rumblings that Atomic Energy Canada Ltd., which is a crown corporation, may be privatized by the federal government. This sort of leaking about the corporation's future probably isn't helping them land any sales. I suspect part of these funds will (have to) be restored to refurbish the existing reactors since they are going to need it to continue operating in the future. Ontario is about 50 % nuke powered; the only other nuclear plant in Canada is located in New Brunswick.

My long-standing belief is that civilization will need to build another generation of nuclear power plants to supply base-load electrical power. I've also long felt that nuclear power is more expensive, notwithstanding subsidies, than renewable sources like solar or wind will become. Initially the renewables will have to be backed by hydro where available, and natural gas everywhere else. This will eventually result in a big arbitrage opportunity for anyone who can buy cheap wind or solar power and resell it in the future, i.e. electricity storage, and make money on the margin. However, very few large thermal power plants are getting built anymore in North America or Europe, whether they be nuclear or coal powered. The experience of nations like Finland with new nuclear is not comforting.

Not replacing base-load power on schedule will accelerate the take-over of solar, wind, and natural gas but probably also result in some expensive power bills as supply and demand breaks into this natural monopoly. Using natural gas for base-load isn't the wisest use for what should be our future long-distance transport fuel, IMO.