Before he was elected Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford promised to fire Hydro One boss Mayo Schmidt. “You can take this to the bank. The CEO is gone and the board is gone,” Ford said on April 12. The PCs now say removing Schmidt is not a priority. – Andrew Francis Wallace,Toronto Star
Ontario has the highest electricity cost in North America. Prices are about to skyrocket.
Prices for nuclear power have risen by 84-109% since 2002 and are now many times higher than the market price of electricity in the province. If Ontario Power Generation’s rates are approved, in 2026 electricity will be almost triple (2.8 times greater) today’s price. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance reports, “According to OPG, the price increases are needed to finance the continued operation of its high-cost Pickering Nuclear Station and to rebuild the Darlington Nuclear Station.”
To justify Ontario’s outrageous hydro bills, Ford claims they are because the previous government had signed long-term renewable energy contracts.
Nuclear boosters keep repeating the benefits of “safe, reliable and affordable nuclear energy”. All three claims are false.
The cost of electricity is not a focus for the bureaucrats at OPG. Cost is not in OPG’s mandate. OPG is a nuclear energy booster because it supposedly provides a stable base energy for the grid. Except when it doesn’t.
When nuclear is up and running, Ontario has a huge energy surplus – a surplus that it has to sell below cost or give away.
Nuclear power plants have to shut down annually because of mandatory safety inspections or frequent safety concerns. It takes time to shut down a nuclear power plant; it takes time for the inspections; it takes time to get nuclear up and running again. Then Ontario is forced to import electricity at prices well above average market price.
OPG’s policy, unlike any other viable business on earth, is essentially ‘buy high/sell low’.
After Chernobyl and Fukashima, some of the world’s largest economies have abandoned nuclear power while redoubling their efforts to fight climate change.
Ontario’s response was different. In a token PR gesture, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) ordered OPG to distribute free potassium iodide (KI) pills to reduce the risk of thyroid cancer in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster at the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations. The supply, enough for 1.5 million people, was clearly inadequate for the 4.5 million people in the ‘target area’.
With 10 reactors in the GTA, the distribution area did not even include the entire Greater GTA As a gas, radioactive iodine can travel quickly and is easily inhaled. It did not include Prince Edward County–vulnerable because of the prevailing westerly winds.
Apart from the horrendous cost of decommissioning Darlington and Pickering, there remains the problem of what to do with the nuclear waste. Sierra Club warns, “The International Atomic Energy Agency says “On-site disposal of decommissioning waste is not a recommended practice.” The present plans are to ship it for deep repository storage to either Ignace or Bruce/Huron. However, our “independent” nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), wants to allow on-site disposal of nuclear reactors — facilities that will remain radioactive for thousands of years after shut-down.”
Energy expert Amory Lovins concludes that building new reactors, or operating most existing ones, makes climate change worse compared with spending the same money on more-climate-effective ways to deliver the same energy services. WInd, solar, Air source heat pumps, geothermal and hydro—the very options that Ford is dismantling—are readily available sources of cheap, low-cost renewable energy
Ford should immediately dismantle the Pickering Nuclear Station after it closes in December 2024. Electricity users could save anywhere from $1.1 to $7.4 billion per year by avoiding expensive reactor rebuild plans. Instead, improve efficiency. Import low-cost water power from Quebec. It doesn’t make sense to pay 16.5 cents per kWh for nuclear power when Quebec water power is available for one-third the cost.
Still in the conception stage, Ford has bet on the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to save his bacon. It will be ten years or more before we see proof of concept demonstrations. But we need immediate, drastic and unprecedented reductions of greenhouse gas now.
The Canadian Environmental Law Association says that renewables – not small modular nuclear reactors – are the solution to climate change.
But Ford remains a nuclear booster.