Plans by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to restart two mothballed reactors have been abandoned on cost grounds. The state-owned utility has decided not to go ahead with plans to refurbish Pickering A units 2 and 3 following management recommendations. Instead, it will devote its resources and expertise to maximising the performance of its ten existing nuclear units, notably the Pickering A units 1 and 4, which have recently been returned to service.

“For several months we have studied the economics of the Pickering A units 2 and 3 return to service, including third party reviews. We don’t see a sound business case,” said OPG president and chief executive Jim Hankinson. He stressed, however: “The return-to-service project is technically feasible and the units could be operated safely for several years.” Units 2 and 3 have been maintained in a safe shutdown state since December 1997. Over the next two years the fuel and heavy water will be removed and the units will be put into a long-term layup state.

OPG returned Pickering A unit 4 to service in 2003 and unit 1 is now undergoing commissioning. The refurbished unit 1 is expected to be in service in October at a projected cost of about C$1 billion ($833 million).

Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty said the decision by OPG has no bearing on the government’s interest in using nuclear power to help meet the province’s energy needs. McGuinty’s government was elected on a pledge to eliminate coal-fired generation by 2007 but has recently revised that deadline to 2009. Coal currently generates 6400MWe for the province but plans are in place to install 2350MWe of hydro, gas and wind. Energy conservation is also expected to play a role in offsetting the coal shutdowns, but the province still faces potential shortages.

David Butters, president of the Association of Power Producers of Ontario, told NEI that the real decision Ontario faces is not one of restarts: “Ontario will still have to deal with a nuclear fleet which will ultimately need to be replaced and the real question is when a decision will be made on new nuclear build.”

  • OPG has reported that it made a profit of C$63 million ($52 million), or ¢25 a share, in the three months to 30 June, compared to last year’s loss of C$42 million ($34 million), ¢16 a share.