The Ontario government is making a bid to build the province’s largest nuclear power project in more than 30 years.

To move forward, the project needs environmental approval from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, meaning even if it is approved, it won’t be opening any time soon.

“A large-scale new nuclear reactor project is expected to require a lead time of a decade or more from Impact Assessment commencement to deployment,” the Ontario government said in a press release.

On Wednesday, the Ontario government announced it is starting planning on a new nuclear generation project, which would be 4,800 megawatts (MW), at its Bruce Nuclear Generating Station site, which sits on the shore of Lake Huron.

“Our government’s open-for-business approach has led to unprecedented investments across the province, from electric vehicles and battery manufacturing to critical minerals to green steel,” said Todd Smith, minister of energy.

“With our plan already in place to meet demand this decade, we are starting the pre-development work to identify future generation options, including reliable, affordable and clean nuclear energy, that will power our province into the future.”

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission – Canada's federal nuclear power regulator – said they’ve yet to receive an application from Bruce Power.

“The CNSC is committed to providing opportunities for the public and Indigenous communities to participate fully in Commission proceedings and will do so if and when an application is received,” said the Commission in a statement to Canada’s National Observer.

As of 2019, about 60 per cent of Ontario’s energy mix was from nuclear, with 24 per cent from hydro and eight per cent from wind. The current generating station at Bruce Power, one of the largest in the world, has a capacity of around 6,600 MW. The government said the need for electricity is rising in the province and that it needs nuclear to meet the demand.

To move forward, the project needs environmental approval from the federal Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, meaning even if it is approved, it won’t be opening any time soon.

In a press release, Bruce Power said the process will “take several years to complete, involving significant public input and consultations with Indigenous communities,” and that it is “committed to continuing co-operation and engagement” with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.

Following the announcement, Ontario Greens Leader Mike Schreiner called out Premier Doug Ford for “squandering a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make low-cost renewables the foundation for Ontario’s transition to a fully electrified, decarbonized future.”

In 2019, Ford spent over $200 million to cancel green energy projects. While nuclear energy doesn’t use fossil fuels to generate electricity, opponents say energy sources like solar and wind are cheaper, don’t produce harmful nuclear waste and can be deployed much quicker than nuclear.

“Global investors are flocking to renewables because they are the lowest-cost source of electricity generation,” said Schreiner.

“But as usual, Doug Ford is backing the wrong horse and leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for his expensive mistakes, costing us better jobs and investment in Ontario’s economy.”

Canada has been struggling for the past decade to find a place to dispose of nuclear waste already created by existing and past reactors. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization, a Canadian non-profit tapped to address the disposal of used nuclear fuel, will select a site to store Canada’s nuclear waste roughly 500 feet underground in a deep geological repository in 2024.

South Bruce, the region where the nuclear power generator sits, is one of two proposed site locations, along with Ignace, Ont., located 250 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay.

In April, Lester Anoquot, former chief of Saugeen First Nation who lives near the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, said a solution must be found for nuclear waste. But he worries about the environment, future generations and whether there will be meaningful dialogue about the development of the repository.

— With files from Matteo Cimellaro

Cloe Logan / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative

Updates and corrections

| Corrections policy
July 6, 2023, 10:30 am

This article has been updated to include comment from the CNSC.

Keep reading

This would be about the only nuclear expansion that can make sense: an already-lost site, just adding on to existing plants. It's just possible this won't lose money, about the only nuclear project I'd day say that about these days.

There is a need for "base-load" power that renewables cannot provide, not without dramatic improvements in LDES. Until very large, insanely cheap batteries prove themselves, there's an issue. Last Dec 22, the days in Alberta were under 8 hours long, and there was heavy cloud, -40C temperatures, and almost no wind. Alberta has wind capacity for 20% of generation, solar for 6%, and they were at a total of 2% that night. The province was 96% on gas, for the 12GW of power needed. Which would have been 15GW with heat pumps instead of gas furnaces.

Frankly, Alberta and Saskatchewan need that base-load more than Ontario does; Ontario is nearer to vast wind and hydro options in Quebec and Manitoba both. But nobody is going to talk about nuclear at an entirely new site, and Alberta UCP could no more stand nuclear competition for carbon more than it likes wind.

Nope. Sorry. Still not convinced.
First, I'm losing patience waiting for anyone out there to enter GRAPHENE into energy storage discussions. True, it remains in devlopment, BUT anything that positively checks boxes such as cost, availability, sustainability, etc., miraculously gets attention when there is the will.
Second, all these numbers about power usage needs in Alberta describe usage in times when people continue to live the way they have become habituated to living - mindless of waste or want - versus - need. Demand WILL decrease when people make the paradigm shifts in behavious that are so desperately required now.
And finally, the most important issue making nuclear sources unsustainable is the waste!! Until that is addressed, nuclear is as much a dead end as fossil fuels are.
Thank you.

In his book “No Miracles Needed” engineer Mark Jacobson shows how various means of energy storage can solve the issue of base power. Nuclear power is NOT needed, is hazardous in the present, and its waste is a danger to future generations, as well as being about the most expensive option.

In “How Big Things Get Done”, Bent Flyvbjerg lists 25 project types in order of their mean cost overruns; the worst three are nuclear storage, Olympic Games and nuclear power. The best three are solar power, energy transmission, and wind power. This is a superb book which anyone involved in projects, large or small, should read and take seriously.

Form Energy (iron-air), Ambri (liquid metal) and Invinity (vanadium flow) are batteries that are now off the lab tables and into the commercial marketplace. All use abundant and affordable minerals and metals and no rare elements. All are non-lithium and do not explode or catch fire. All are scalable to massive sizes suitable for district and grid stability. All are affordable. And there are other energy storage technologies vying for a place on the grid.

Why deep geothermal seems to be in perpetual last place in the investment portfolios and the press on renewables is inexplicable. It has enormous potential.

Oil companies build pipelines. So does the federal government. TMX crossed provincial boundaries "in the national interest" with a post-challenge blessing from the Supreme Court of Canada based solely on federal jurisdictional rights. That project may have set a gigantic legal precedent for a boundary-hopping national smart grid sending renewable electricity from one coast to the other in milliseconds, and possibly to the third eventually. Place very large battery packs and interties to local grids at regular intervals along the corridor and you have one of the most dynamic energy projects that could catalyze the full electrification of the domestic economy and bring overseas heavy manufacturing home.

The critics of nuclear have regurgitated the knocks against it for years. I am somewhat ambivalent because Canadian NP has a very good safety record, doesn't spew all kinds of carbon-based oxides into the already overly-laden atmosphere and ocean chemistries on a daily basis, and we really need the power. However, its cost is the first agenda item on the critic's list (with waste disposal a close second) that has great legitimacy. Even if some kind of newfangled waste-eating SMR model was developed and built at the existing plants to generate power for a couple of decades while rendering down the radioactivity over and over, you're still faced with a huge price tag.

I'd rather see four or five million solar roofs backed by regional and rural wind fed into the local and national grids with enormous battery storage capacity, net (two-way) metering and wholesale trading across several time zones. Geothermal would be perfect for electrifying heavy industry concentrated in nearby local jurisdictions.

Federal energy policy needs a lot more imagination and less vested interest. And that is possibly the best antidote for expanding provincial silos, closed energy fiefdoms and provincial politicians wasting the public's financial resources to place firewalls around their little empires.

I've been following Form Energy intently since they announced. Their first battery factory got the first-shovel dug by none other than Joe Manchin. We'll know how they perform at scale in about two years.

But their target is $20/kWh. If you can't find some base-load in Alberta through deep geothermal (for which I also have fingers and toes crossed), then there just isn't enough Pumped-Hydro storage. I added up all the reservoir area available 400m above the Ghost Lake station, for instance, and it's barely a gigawatt-hour.

To get through another "late December 2022" event, with no wind across 1000km of prairie and no sun, you'd need hundreds and hundreds of gigawatt-hours of storage. At $20M/GWh for Form Energy batteries, that's several billion dollars worth of batteries.

The "no miracles" book depends on a vast increase in the electrical grid - but for the Alberta case, it would be a heroic expansion indeed, running lines 1000km to where the wind was blowing. A great start would be to vastly increase the power links between hydro-rich BC and the prairies, though BC will be strained by the all-electric future, too. "Site C" used to be unnecessary - now it's not going to be enough for all the cars and heat pumps.

You don't suggest nuclear unless the alternatives are over ten billion dollars. Since last December, I rate Alberta and Saskatchewan in that category. This is all just bar-table talk; nobody is expanding nuclear past Bruce. But we'd better pray that the deep-enhanced-geothermal works.

Nuclear expansion in Ontario was predictable. I mean, it's a stupid idea, which means you can expect Doug Ford to do it, right?

CNO, you continue to get the basics of your energy reporting wrong and, consequently, you are misinforming your readership.

Please correct these simple mistakes which serve only to show that you don't really know of what you write. This is simple, low-hanging fruit.

"As of 2019, about 60 per cent of Ontario’s energy mix was from nuclear, with 24 per cent from hydro and eight per cent from wind."

It is NOT "60% of Ontario's energy mix".

It is "60% of Ontario's electricity generation".

It is difficult, to impossible, to find any Canadian source of an energy statistical summary as useful and easy to read as the energy flow diagrams produced by Lawrence Livermore National Lab. They are excellent and extremely useful. Ask yourself why the Canadian federal govt isn’t replicating them.

But, here’s an attempt from 2012 (one can look for the Ontario-specific diagram which shows primary energy sources).

Please start paying attention to the precision of your energy reporting!

>Ask yourself why the Canadian federal govt isn’t replicating them.

Watch Oppenheimer. LL gets an endless river of funding because they research nukes.

It won't be opening any time soon! That's a joke and it is not because of impact assessment regs.
2040 I predict, 2x over budget, maybe 3, and many years late

It won't be opening any time soon! That's a joke and it is not because of impact assessment regs.
2040 I predict, 2x over budget, maybe 3, and many years late
Doug don't get it. Renewables generation provides the least expensive electricity.
Hydro Quebec can provide the battery with its hydro! And know nuclear waste! Like other neoliberal Premiers, anti green as their donors cannot screw the public purse as much. Plus renewables would create far more jobs