Darl. Hearings: Angela B. (March 31st)

I'm posting Angela Bischoff's presentation to the Joint Review Panel - with her permission.

Presentation to the Darlington Joint Review Panel - Mar. 31, 2011 – Angela Bischoff

Thank you to the Panel, and all the participants in the room and online for hearing my presentation today. My name is Angela Bischoff and I work with the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. We are a coalition of health and environmental organizations, faith communities, municipalities, utilities, unions, corporations and individuals working for cleaner air through a coal phase-out and a shift to a renewable electricity future.

I organized an event last night at a club in downtown Toronto called Nuclear in the Spotlight. 100 people came out to learn what’s happening now in Fukushima, to share our fears, and quite literally, to celebrate the end of the nuclear age. We learned about how the industry and governments lied to us following the Chernobyl catastrophe, and how they’re downplaying the risks associated with Fukushima. We learned about the contamination of the pacific ocean bordering Japan, and how there is no safe dosage of radiation, meaning that supposedly diluting toxic radioactive elements in the ocean or in the atmosphere is no consolation. And we learned that private investors worldwide are pulling their investments out of nuclear projects, and governments around the world are now questioning their continued massive subsidization of new nuclear projects.

Meanwhile, here in ON, our gov’t continues in its dogged commitment for 50% nuclear, which of course means that green technologies will be relegated to the sidelines, capped. There will be little place on the grid for renewables to grow. This would explain why there has been no public assessment of alternatives to this proposed Darlington new build project. Politics is trumping precaution and even economics. Usually, in environmental assessments, need and alternatives are included the process, but not here. This is unacceptable.

With that, I’m going to proceed to speak to issues of cost and alternatives. I will assert that this project is not about providing Ontarians with cost-effective clean electricity supply, but rather is a desperate attempt to save Canada’s nuclear industry.

Project Cost

In the 60’s thru the 90’s, Ontario Hydro’s profits from its water and fossil power generating stations subsidized the losses of its nuclear reactors. In fact, the cost of producing nuclear electricity was 7 times that of producing water power. In 1999, as a result of the cost overruns and the poor performance of its nuclear reactors, Ontario Hydro was broken up into five companies. All of its generation assets were transferred to Ontario Power Generation (OPG). However, in order to keep OPG solvent, $19.4 billion of Ontario Hydro’s debt or unfunded liabilities associated with electricity generation facilities was transferred to the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation (an agency of the Government of Ontario) as “stranded debt” or “unfunded liability.”

Since 1999, Ontario consumers and taxpayers have paid almost $20 billion to service that debt (of $19.4 billion), yet we still owe almost $15 billion. This has not proven a good financial investment.

OPG is now proposing to re-build the reactors at its Darlington Nuclear Station. According to OPG, the Darlington Re-Build will have a capital cost of $8.5 to $14 billion. But every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone way over budget. On average, the real costs of Ontario’s nuclear projects have been 2.5 times greater than the original cost estimates. Therefore, if history repeats itself, the real cost of the Darlington Re-Build will be $21 to $35 billion, or 19 – 37 cents per kilowatt hour.

Furthermore, and the reason of these hearings, the cost of the proposed new-build projects at Darlington came in at $26 billion for 2 reactors. This gave the Energy Minister “sticker-shock” and the procurement process was postponed. The provincial gov’t then passed the buck to the federal gov’t, asking them for subsidies. In other words, Premier McGuinty is asking taxpayers in Vancouver and Halifax to subsidize new nuclear reactors in Ontario. To their credit, the Harper gov’t hasn’t budged on this request. Indeed they’ve taken it a step further and put AECL up for sale, for which there are no bidders. The future of AECL is at stake with this new-build project, and that’s why I say politics is trumping precaution.

Alternatives

Fortunately, there are numerous less costly, less risky and more sustainable ways to meet our electricity needs. The lowest cost option to meet our energy needs is energy efficiency. By reducing our demand for grid-supplied electricity, energy efficiency investments will make it easier for us to obtain 100% of our grid-supplied electricity from renewable sources.

Since the summer of 2006 our peak demand for electricity has fallen by 7%; and it is forecast to fall by a further 6% in 2011. Nevertheless, our electricity consumption per person is 35% higher than New York State’s. And therefore we still have a huge untapped energy efficiency potential which we must aggressively pursue. At a cost of 2.3 – 4.6 cents per kilowatt hour, energy conservation and efficiency are a bargain.

On the supply-side the lowest cost option to meet our electricity needs is to simply stop wasting natural gas. Virtually every home, building and factory in Ontario uses natural gas to provide just one service, namely, heat. It is much more efficient to use these same molecules of natural gas to simultaneously produce two services, namely, heat and electricity. This is what combined heat and power plants do.

Combined heat and power plants can have an overall energy efficiency of 80 to 90% which is much better than the 33% efficiency of a nuclear reactor. And as a result of their very high efficiency, combined heat and power plants can meet our electricity needs at a cost of approximately 6 cents per kWh. That is, less than 1/3 the cost of a new or re-built nuclear reactor.

In terms of renewable electricity, Ontario’s lowest cost source of renewable electricity is water power imports from the Province of Quebec.

Last year Hydro Quebec’s exports to the U.S. exceeded the total output of our Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. However, our imports from Quebec were miniscule. This doesn’t make sense.

There are two important facts to note with respect to Hydro Quebec’s electricity exports. First, in 2009, the average price of Quebec’s export sales was 6.5 cents per kWh. Second, according to the National Energy Board Act, Ontario has the right to import electricity from Quebec at the same price that the Americans are paying.

Therefore it doesn’t make sense to invest tens of billions of dollars in nuclear power when we can import renewable electricity from Quebec at less than 1/3rd the cost.

I’d like to draw your attn. to the report I’d attached with my written submission called Power Options: A review of ON’s options for replacing aging nuclear plants. It was produced by the OCAA in 2009. It states: Over the next 12 years, ON will need to replace 60.4 billion kWh of electricity produced by nuclear generators that will have reached the end of their productive lives by 2021. This report finds that decreased electricity demand, thanks to increased conservation efforts, could eliminate the need to replace 47% of the nuclear power generation that will have reached the end of its service life by 2021. According the OPA, the cost of reducing demand by investing in energy efficiency is approx. 2.7 cents per kWh.

Wind power when integrated with Hydro Quebec’s hydro-electric generation resources has the potential to provide ON with sufficient firm, reliable renewable electricity to replace 100% of end-of-service-life nuclear power generation by 2021. The cost of electricity from large-scale land-based wind farms in southern ON is 9.6 – 13.5 cents per kWh.

Natural gas-fired CHP plants could also provide 100% of our required replacement power by 2021 at a cost of 6 cents per Kwh.

All these electricity options are compared with new nuclear which comes in well over 20 cents per kWh.

To Conclude

If approved, this nuclear new-build project will lock Ontario into nuclear reliance for decades, denying us the swift and necessary transition to the renewable energy age that this era of climate change and declining resources demands.

The proposed project should not proceed without a full public review and assessment of all project costs against other energy options.

For all these reasons, I request that OPG’s proposal to build additional reactors at the Darlington site be rejected.

Thank you all for your time.