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Study: OPG's nuke rebuild to slash emissions compared to alternatives

Refurbishing nuclear units run by Ontario's government-ownedpower generator will have the same effect as taking 2 million cars off theprovince's roads compared with alternatives, according to a study.

Ontario PowerGeneration Inc.'s rebuild of its 3,512-MW facility on LakeOntario will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 9.6 million metric tons per yearbetween 2024 and 2055, the report by consultant Intrinsik EnvironmentalSciences found. The report compared continued operation of Darlington withalternatives, such as natural gas-fired generators, if the province had chosento shut the facility. The company, known as OPG, commissioned the study.

Darlington supplies about 20% of the electricity needs ofCanada's most-populous province, OPG said in an Oct. 5 statement. The companyhas embarked on a staged refurbishment of the plant's reactors that will cost C$12.8billion by the time it is completed in 2026. The report anticipates that OPG'sPickering nuclearplant will continue to operate through 2024. The company decided in 2010 not torefurbish that plant.

"Clean energy from nuclear power will continue to playa major role in Ontario's future economic and environmental success, thanks inlarge part to the refurbishment of Darlington and the continued operations ofPickering," OPG CEO Jeff Lyash said in the statement. The governmentestimated that consumers will save about C$600 million if Pickering operatesuntil 2024.

Ontario's provincial government has been moving toless-emitting power sources in a plan that includes the closure of itscoal-fired generators and incentives for renewable energy projects. A consumerbacklash against surging power prices prompted the government in September toannounce a plan to provide rebates equal to the amount of provincial tax onelectricity bills.

The study assumed that if both Darlington and Pickering wereclosed, natural gas generators would provide approximately 75% of the lostcapacity between 2025 and 2036. The total reduction in greenhouse gas emissionswith the continued operation of Darlington would be 297 megatonnes ofCO2-equivalent between 2024 and 2055, the report said.