Ontario Energy Policy

Nuclear Power in Canada Appendix 1

In 2003, the Liberal government led by Dalton McGuinty came to power pledging to phase out coal-fired electricity generation by 2007. The Lakeview Generating Station was shut down at the end of April 2005 (its capacity at the time was 1,140 MWe), but plans to close the remaining four coal-fired plants have been repeatedly pushed backa. Four further units were closed in October 2010, and the current plan is to completely phase out the use of coal by the end of 2014b.

A major energy review by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) reported in December 2005 that the province needed to spend C$83 billion on refurbishing its electricity supply over the next 20 years, and expand the contribution of nuclear power so that its share remained at 50% of supply.2 Nuclear was acknowledged as having less environmental impact than gas and operated at lower cost. Public opinion polls showed significant support for nuclear power, with 72% in favour of refurbishing old plants and 52% supporting new build.

In June 2006, the Ontario government confirmed that new nuclear capacity will be an important part of its 20-year plan to tackle looming electricity shortages. It directed the OPA to proceed with its plan to overhaul the province's generating capacity, ensuring reliability of supply with stable prices. This required maintaining nuclear capacity of 14,000 MWe. Some C$40 billion was expected to be spent on nuclear plant, including probably two new reactorsc, among 24,000 MWe of new and replacement capacity overall.

In August 2007, after extensive public consultation, the Ontario Power Authority released a C$60 billion 20-year plan (the Integrated Power System Plan) to meet power demand to 2027.4 In line with the 2006 government announcement, it involved investing C$26.5 billion in new or refurbished nuclear plant so that total nuclear capacity would be up to 14,000 MWe. Two scenarios for nuclear power related to either refurbishing Pickering B over 2013-16 or not doing so, requiring 1400 or 3400 MWe of new capacity, respectively. Gas-fired power would increase from 22 to 28% of total capacity at a cost of C$3.6 billion. Energy conservation costing C$10 billion was a new feature of the plan, aiming to reduce demand by 6300 MWe. A doubling of renewable energy capacity – adding 10,771 MWe hydro and 4,685 MWe wind – would cost C$15 billion. Carbon dioxide emissions should drop by 60% and electricity costs rise by 15-20%. Projected Ontario generating capacity was anticipated to increase by 8 GWe in 2027 (or 1.7 GWe with conservation measures) from about 30 GWe.

The Integrated Power System Plan involved closing but not decommissioning all of Ontario's coal-fired capacity (maintaining it as emergency backup) by 2014. At the time, the total capacity from the province's four operating coal-fired plants was 6,457 MWe, about one-fifth of the province's capacity.

In March 2008, the government commenced a request for proposals that would lead to additional nuclear capacity of between 2000 MWe and 3500 MWe at the Darlington site. In June 2008, it announced that it was committed to 6300 MWe of capacity from the Bruce site - made up of 3040 MWe from the four Bruce A units, and 3260 MWe of either refurbished or new build capacity.5 In July 2009, Bruce Power pulled back from its proposal to build four new reactors as Bruce C, so refurbishment became the only option there6. At the same time, Bruce Power also decided not to proceed with plans for nuclear build in Nanticoked.

In late 2010, the provincial government released the revision its 20-year energy plan8. The new Long-Term Energy Plan envisages 12,000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2030 out of a total installed capacity of around 41,000 MWe (2010 total capacity: 35,000 MWe), or 48,000 MWe including conservation measures. This would be achieved by modernizing the Darlington and Bruce units and building two new units at Darlington. This level of nuclear capacity would account for 50% of Ontario's electricity supply. The 2010 energy plan projected $33 billion capital expenditure on new and refurbished nuclear capacity to 2030, the latter involving all of the existing plants. The total cost of the new plan came to around $87 billion over the 20 years covered by the plan. The plan called for an update in 2013, which deferred the new construction due to reduced demand forecasts.

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Nuclear Power in Canada


a. After Lakeview Generating Station was closed, four he remaining operating coal-fired plants in Ontario remained: Thunder Bay (306 MWe), Atikokan (211 MWe), Lambton (1976 MWe) and Nanticoke (3964 MWe) – all of which are owned and operated by Ontario Power Generation (OPG). The state-owned utility has a fifth operating fossil-fuelled station, Lennox (2120 MWe), which is dual fuelled by oil and natural gas. [Back]

b. Lambton 1 and 2 and Nanticoke 3 and 4 were closed in October 2010, removing around 2000 MWe of coal-fired capacity1. Two units at Lambton and six at Nanticoke remain in operation. Two additional units at Nanticoke are planned to be closed in 2011. The two operational units at Thunder Bay are to be converted to gas and the Atikokan plant is to be converted to biomass. Coal-fired generation in Ontario is currently planned to be phased out by the end of 2014. [Back]

c. In line with its 20-year electricity supply mix plan3, the government directed Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to begin feasibility studies on refurbishing its four Pickering B units and constructing new nuclear units, which need not be Canadian designs. However, they would need to be supplied on fixed-price, turnkey contracts. Major investment in renewables and energy conservation was part of the plan. The government fast-tracked the plan, exempting it from the need for full deliberation under the province's Environmental Assessment Act, which would have been likely to take five years. However, individual proposals are subject to federal environmental review, a two-year process. (The Darlington plant had a massive cost overrun due to politically-imposed construction delays, and electricity consumers are still paying that off.) [Back]

d. Early in 2008, communities surrounding the Nanticoke coal-fired power station 250 km northwest of Toronto strongly urged the provincial government to consider the area for a new nuclear power plant. It has the advantage of established transmission infrastructure. At the end of October 2008, Bruce Power announced it would conduct an environmental assessment for two new nuclear units in the Haldimand-Norfolk region. Although both the Haldimand and Norfolk councils support the idea of the environmental assessment, as well as 80% of residents according to an Ipsos-Reid poll, the plan was met with a cool reception from the provincial government on the grounds that its policy for expanded nuclear power did not include new sites. George Smitherman, Ontario's Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said of Bruce Power's plans: "It does not have government support in any form."7 In July 2009, Bruce Power withdrew its site licence application and suspended its environmental assessment. [Back]


1. Four OPG coal-fired generating units removed from service, Ontario Power Authority press release (1 October 2010) [Back]

2. Supply Mix Advice Report, Ontario Power Authority (December 2005) [Back]

3. McGuinty Government Delivers a Balanced Plan for Ontario's Electricity Future, Ontario Ministry of Energy (13 June 2006) [Back]

4. Integrated Power System Plan, submitted by the Ontario Power Authority to the Ontario Energy Board (August 2007) [Back]

5. The Integrated Power System Plan for the Period 2008-2027, updated 29 August 2008, Ontario Power Authority [Back]

6. Bruce Power to focus on additional refurbishments at Bruce A and B, Bruce Power news release (23 July 2009) [Back]

7. Nanticoke a potential nuclear site, World Nuclear News (31 October 2008) [Back]

8. Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan: Building Our Clean Energy Future, Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure (2010); McGuinty Government's Long-Term Energy Plan Turns On Clean Power, Turns Off Dirty Coal, Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure press release (23 November 2010) [Back]