Bruce Power suggests the possibility of restarting Bruce “A” Reactors 1 and 2
Bruce Centre Attaches Some Questions to
CEO Hawthorne’s Nuclear Energy Trial Balloon
INVERHURON – February 1, 2003
In suggesting the possible restart of two dormant 750 megawatt (MW) reactors at the Bruce Nuclear Facility, Bruce Power Chief Executive Officer, Duncan Hawthorne, is floating a trial balloon past both Bay Street financiers and the government of Ontario. While the idea of more power running through the Ontario electrical grid would obviously be attractive to many parties, the balloon comes attached to a number of considerations, of which price is only one.
It is somewhat ironic that Hawthorne’s suggestion comes at a time when many Toronto residents are celebrating the January 23, 2003 production of the first kwh of totally green electricity coming from a shoreline wind turbine on Lake Ontario (operated by TREC — Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative).
Bruce A nuclear Reactor Units 1 and 2 have been inoperative since 1997 and 1995 respectively. Units 3 & 4 at Bruce “A” were shut down .in 1998 None of these reactors ever operated up to the level of expectation that drove initial investment in nuclear power. Units 1, 3 and 4 were closed in response to a peer review report noting that many Ontario Hydro nuclear reactors were running at “minimally acceptable” levels.
(Click on this link for a chronological history of the Bruce nuclear site, including information related to the shut-down of these reactors.)
Hawthorne says the restart of Bruce A 1 & 2 reactors would be possible if “a proper business case can be made” and puts the price tag at about $1 billion Canadian. The restart of Bruce A Units 3 & 4 (now under way in the early refueling phase) is slated for completion by the summer of 2003. The projected cost of $400 million Can. has raised some eyebrows considering the huge cost over-runs being experienced in the restart of four Pickering “A” reactors. How solid a figure is $1 billion?
The Bruce Power CEO contends that the resurrection of the Bruce “A” reactor units would help solve the burgeoning electrical power needs of Ontario. As well, and perhaps more important to long term private sector interests, he suggests that the restart would provide both the incentive and the means for the province to take the price cap off electricity before the 2006 deadline set by the government late in 2002. The province has responded by saying it is not considering such an idea at this time.
The Bruce nuclear facility is now owned by the public sector corporation, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), but is operated by a private sector firm, Bruce Power (whose major partners now include the world’s largest uranium producer, Cameco, pension fund manager OMERS and TransCanada Pipelines.) Under the lease agreement, OPG is contractually liable for the planning and costs of decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal at the Bruce nuclear facility. Bruce Power does though make annual payments to OPG to help pay for waste disposal.
Even with the lease arrangement of the Bruce facility operation, OPG still enjoys a monopoly on electrical power production in Ontario that it assumed from its predecessor, Ontario Hydro. But by order of the provincial government, the monopoly must be reduced to no more than a 35% market share within 10 years of market deregulation, which was announced in 2000 and went in effect in May of 2002.
Hawthorne’s suggestion of restarting Bruce A Units 1 and 2 raises a number of issues for consideration.
Bringing 25% more reactors into operation at the Bruce site means more waste will be produced at the Bruce site.
More waste production will increase OPG’s costs to manage the waste, just as the public utility’s market share and its ability to generate profits decreases. Will the annual payments made by Bruce Power to OPG for nuclear waste disposal be sufficient to cover OPG’s increased costs of managing this waste?
More high level waste may be concentrated at one above ground location on the shoreline of Lake Huron at the Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF), operated by OPG and on the Bruce nuclear site. The WWMF already stores low and medium level nuclear waste from all of Ontario’s nuclear power production facilities. It has been recently licensed to also store 18,000 tons of the projected total of some 36,000 tons of high level waste generated at the Bruce site.
Bringing Units 1 and 2 back on line poses a possible security concern, due to the potential increase in the concentration of risk at the Bruce site.
Will the additional tritium releases into Lake Huron have a negative impact on drinking water and/or the local fish populations? For example, whitefish is commercially harvested by the Chippewa of Nawash First Nation. Bruce “A” is located on the shore of Baie du Dore, a known small mouth bass spawning ground. While whitefish spawning had not been observed in Baie du Dore, it was suspected. These suspicions lead to formation of a project called WINGS (Whitefish Interactions with Nuclear Generating Stations), a study by the Chippewa of Nawash First Nations, Ontario Power Generation and the University of Guelph’s Axelrod Institute of Ichthyology at the University of Guelph. The study took place during a period when all of the Bruce A reactors where not in operation. While the results of the study have not been made public, the Rational for the focus on whitefish, published at the W.I.N.G.S web site , states: “Based on knowledge of round whitefish spawning requirements and substrate mapping studies conducted at the BNPD site in 1979 and 1980 (Balesic and Martin 1987) and in Lake Ontario between 1976 and 1981 (Haymes and Kolenosky 1984), round whitefish was inferred to spawn in nearshore areas close to the BNPD site. This inference was later supported by catches of larvae, ripe and post-spawn adults in larval tow surveys, intake egg/larvae entrainment studies, and gillnetting surveys at the BNPD site (Balesic and Kwik 1991)… The fact that the inferred spawning sites of round whitefish were within the area affected by sinking thermal plumes from the BNPD during the period of embryonic and larval phases of development, led to the development of the hypothesis that reproduction and long-term changes in the abundance of round whitefish were sensitive to the operation of the BNPD as a result of cooling water intake effects (entrainment of larvae, impingement of older individuals) or through the physical and the thermal effects of discharge jets on spawning habitat, eggs, and larvae (Wismer 1999).”
Bringing all four Bruce “A” reactors back on line means more tritium in Lake Huron, a consideration for those living on both sides of the Lake and, over time, throughout the Great Lakes Basin.
The Bruce Centre believes these and other factors bear consideration by the citizens and government of Ontario, should an acceptable business case ever be made proposing to restart Bruce A Units 1 and 2.