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Ontario outlines long-term energy plans

The government of Ontario has reconfirmed its support for the Canadian province’s nuclear sector in its long-term energy roadmap. The plan focuses on energy affordability, innovation and customer choice in the province, which already generates over 90% of its electricity without producing greenhouse gases.

The 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) – subtitled Delivering fairness and choice – was published on 26 October after a consultation and engagement process involving industry, indigenous communities and organisations, businesses and private citizens. The previous LTEP was published in 2013.

“Ontario is committed to ensuring our electricity is clean, reliable and affordable,” Minister of Energy Glenn Thibeault said. “The 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan outlines our investments to date and how we plan to continue building an energy system with fairness and choice for people across the province.”

The new LTEP forecasts that electricity demand will be relatively steady over the planning period. It includes initiatives to maximise the use of Ontario’s existing energy assets, only securing new capacity when it is needed. Ontario’s electricity generation was 90% free of greenhouse gas emissions in 2016.

It recognises the refurbishment of existing nuclear power plants as the most cost-effective option for meeting the province’s baseload generation needs. Plans were laid out in the 2013 LTEP to refurbish a total of 10 nuclear units between 2016 and 2033 – four units at Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Darlington plant and six units at Bruce Power’s Bruce plant. Together, the two plants provide around half of the province’s electricity needs.

The plan also recognises the need to continue operating OPG’s Pickering nuclear power plant until 2024 to provide baseload electricity during the Darlington and initial Bruce refurbishments. The continued operation of Pickering would reduce the use of natural gas to generate electricity, saving up to CAD 600 million ($467 million) for electricity consumers and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least eight million tonnes, the plan notes.

OPG said the LTEP’s recognition of its progress on the Darlington refurbishment and the value of the continued operation of Pickering was “good news” for the company and its host communities.

“The LTEP foresees a huge leap in the electrification of the transport sector in Ontario. OPG’s clean energy mix is the perfect platform for providing the power needed to accomplish this,” the company said.

Bruce Power CEO Mike Rencheck said the company was “encouraged” by the government’s ongoing trust, with stable government policy important to enable the company to make long-term investments such as the life-extension programme.

“By extending the life of the Bruce site, Ontario will have the stable, reliable, low-cost and clean energy foundation needed to further pursue modernisation and decarbonisation of the province’s electricity system and economy,” he said. “Nuclear will provide the backbone Ontario needs to meet and exceed its emissions targets, while benefitting families and businesses as a low-cost, reliable source of electricity through 2064.”

Innovation

The LTEP also notes opportunities from nuclear innovation such as small modular reactors, nuclear fuel research, and the role that nuclear could play in the large-scale production of hydrogen as an alternative to hydrocarbon fuels.

“Ontario is keenly interested in collaborating with the federal government, universities and industry partners to continue its support of the nuclear industry for both energy and non-energy applications,” it notes.

It also recognises the role played by province’s nuclear power plants in producing medical isotopes, especially cobalt-60 which is used in cancer therapy as well as imaging, sterilisation and surgical procedures. The province currently produces 70% of the world’s supply of the isotope at the NRU research reactor at Chalk River, and the Pickering and Bruce B plants. Bruce Power has established a new long-term supply of medical-grade cobalt from Bruce B that will help replace the supply from the NRU, which is due to close in March 2018, while Ottawa-based health-sciences company Nordion is exploring the use of the Bruce A and Darlington reactors to expand the production of cobalt-60, the report notes.

The minister of energy has now issued directives to Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator and the Ontario Energy Board to develop implementation plans to meet objectives outlined in the LTEP. The agencies are required to prepare the plans based on the directives and submit them for ministerial review by 31 January.

Source: World Nuclear News

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