Nuclear delay called risky

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Ontario's suspended plans for a new nuclear power station at Darlington risk the province's ability to keep the lights on, critics warn.

Several groups said they were disappointed in Energy Minister George Smitherman's surprise decision to pull the plug on the plan, while opposition parties charged the Liberals wasted valuable time on an atomic wild goose chase.

"These guys just can't get their act together," said Progressive Conservative energy critic John Yakabuski (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke).

"It's the energy equivalent of the eHealth spending scandal, spend a lot of money and get nothing done.

"

Smitherman said a bid from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to build the plant, slated to open in 2018, was "many billions" too high and would have made the electricity coming from the plant prohibitively expensive. He called on AECL to "sharpen their pencils substantially" and left the door open for a deal at a better price.

But the Ontario Chamber of Commerce said it was "dismayed" by Smitherman's gambit, in which he called on the federal government to help bankroll a deal with Crown-owned AECL while the province takes advantage of a lull in electricity demand because of the recession.

"New nuclear generation is vital for this province as we look for clean, safe, reliable and cost-effective electricity while reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, said chamber president Len Crispino.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said in Washington that Ottawa will determine whether the province moves forward with nuclear power.

"The ball's in their court; they have to decide whether they want to sit down and talk to us," McGuinty told The Canadian Press.

Two other bidders, Areva SA of France and Westinghouse Electric of the U.S. said they would keep in touch with the Ontario government on their bids, which were deemed by Smitherman as not compliant with the province's requirements on transferring the risk of cost overruns to the builders.

New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth) said the Liberal government's three-year flirtation with new reactors had wasted valuable time that could have been spent on cleaner, greener alternatives.



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