The energy minister of Ontario, Dwight Duncan, has announced that state-owned Ontario Power Generation (OPG) will go ahead with the C$900 million ($690 million) refurbishment of the laid-up Pickering A unit 1.

“Ontario faces a looming electricity supply gap. The return to service of this unit is the shortest lead-time major-supply project available in Ontario, and is crucial to ensure a clean, diverse and reliable electricity supply in coming years,” Duncan said in a recent speech. The Ontario Ministry of Energy said the restart of the 540MWe PHWR could be completed within 15 months.

Referring to the cost and schedule overruns of the Pickering A4 restart, Duncan said: “The lack of transparency and accountability at OPG under the former government led to a serious waste of money – we will do things differently.” He continued: “I am not willing to write OPG another blank cheque. I have directed OPG to report regularly to the public on the progress of this project, and we have an independent auditor in place to help ensure the project stays on track.”

In December 2003, the Pickering A Review Panel, chaired by former federal cabinet minister Jake Epp, issued a report that found mismanagement on the part of OPG and a lack of oversight by the previous government. In response, Duncan appointed a new board of directors, chaired by Epp, and accepted the resignations of a number of senior OPG officials. A shareholder declaration was also passed to ensure that major decisions by OPG are approved by the provincial government.

“There are many differences in our approach to the unit 1 project this time around,” Epp said. “The project is ready to go and our third-party auditors will continue to monitor the progress of the restart. OPG is satisfied that every precaution has been taken to ensure that the refurbishment stays on track.”

The government is due to decide whether to restart two remaining nuclear units at the Pickering A plant after it receives a report on the unit 1 project in October. Epp said: “If you want to put a lot of your supply into gas, you have to compete on price, the volatility of price, and you have to compete with a lot of gas installations in North America with a supply of gas which, at best, is holding its present level.”

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