Thursday, September 15, 2005

McGuinty Goes Nuclear

Well, our illustrious premier isn't likely to build bridges with the environmental movement anytime soon:

Billions of dollars will be spent to build new nuclear plants in Ontario if a review of the province's tight energy supply concludes they're necessary, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.

Mr. McGuinty said he's prepared to agree on construction of multibillion-dollar nuclear plants if that's what it takes to quench the province's increasing thirst for energy.

The premier said he's awaiting a Dec. 1 report from the newly created Ontario Power Authority, which is reviewing what needs to be done to address concerns about the province's energy supply.

“Should the OPA recommend nuclear as being an indispensable part of a diverse supply of electricity, then we will build new nuclear in this province,” Mr. McGuinty said.

The fact that McGuinty's even considering building nukes means he's finally come face to face with a political reality: Ontario loves to consume power, won't spend big bucks for it and isn't particularly interested in long-term conservation. And if you want cheap electrical power, then you can't afford to cross off the nuclear option.

Mind you, Ontario's track record with nuclear technology isn't exactly one to inspire confidence, as the anti-nuke movement likes to remind people:

The Toronto Environmental Alliance said it was “appalled” to hear Mr. McGuinty open the door to more nuclear plants, which it warned would leave a huge financial and environmental debt.

“We're very concerned because the (electricity) system is still very much in the hands of the people who built our last nuclear plants, and got us into the mess we're in today,” said alliance spokesman Keith Stewart.

“The McGuinty government should not be repeating the mistakes of the previous provincial government, which put us massively in debt, and left us with nuclear plants that don't work very well and we're all paying for right now.”

Unfortunately for the anti-nuclear movement, this is a weak argument to use against this particular government, because its premise is that Ontario's nuclear problems were a result of poor management. Governments tend to regard poor management as a problem that can be fixed simply by replacing the managers. McGuinty would probably say that the existence of the OPA fixes Stewart's problem. Not to mention his little red wagon.

Of course, there's still a ways to go before Hydro sends for Homer Simpson:

Energy Minister Dwight Duncan noted that months of review will be necessary before the province gives the go-ahead to any nuclear projects.

“There are going to be a series of other questions after (the report is released), starting with private versus public, starting with OPG's role, and then doing all the calculations and arithmetic around what projects would and wouldn't be feasible,” Mr. Duncan said.

In other words, government bureaucracy could still potentially slow down contruction of any new nuclear facilities. But at least the option's now on the table, which it wouldn't've been four years ago.