Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pinawa considered for site of nuclear power plant

The Winnipeg Free Press
Saturday, February 14, 2009
OTTAWA -- Pinawa may be in line for a nuclear renaissance.

The town of 1,500, 177 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, is in discussions with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to build a nuclear power plant on the site of AECL's Whiteshell Laboratories.

Dale Coffin, a spokesman for AECL, said it's very much in the early discussion stage but said the idea of putting up a nuclear power plant in Pinawa is a good one.

"From our point of view, Pinawa is already a licensed site, there are already experienced people working there, abundant water nearby and it's close to the United States and transmission lines," said Coffin.

"There are some very positive features there already."

The Pinawa nuclear lab, established in the 1960s, was closed in 1998 and its research activities transferred to AECL's lab in Chalk River, Ont.

It once employed more than 1,300 people but is down to about 300 now, most of whom are involved in decommissioning the lab. But the site still has a nuclear licence, with a new one just granted for another 10 years.

Pinawa Mayor Blair Skinner, who has been pushing to get the lab site turned into a nuclear power generator for several years, said having that licence would make getting a nuclear power plant approved for the site a lot easier.

He estimates a nuclear power plant would provide about $5 billion to the local economy from the construction and between 500 and 900 permanent jobs over the lifetime of the plant, which would be about 60 years.

"There would be an enormous economic benefit," said Skinner.

Manitoba Hydro president Bob Brennan said the Crown corporation isn't interested in building a nuclear generator because it has enough capital projects in the works with hydro-electric dams. But he said that doesn't mean Hydro would not be interested in helping use its grid to transmit power generated by a nuclear station if someone else built it.

"We'd be happy to work out some sort of agreement for the transmission of it," Brennan told the Free Press this week.

Ontario is in need of massive amounts of new electrical generation and has generally dismissed hydro power in favour of nuclear generation.

Whether the power that might be generated from a nuclear site in Pinawa would go to Ontario or to other markets including the U.S. or Saskatchewan and Alberta would have to be determined.

Skinner plans to continue talks with AECL and even reach out to others in the nuclear community at a number of conferences in Ottawa, Regina and Calgary later this year.

"We are open to any scenario," he said.

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