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Ottawa pledging $50M for Bruce Power nuclear plant expansion

The federal government is spending $50 million on preliminary work for an expansion of the Bruce Power nuclear plant — Ottawa’s first major investment in expanding a large nuclear plant in decades.

The money will come from the Clean Electricity Pre-development Program, a Natural Resources Canada fund that supports preparatory work on large clean electricity projects.

That work will include launching Indigenous consultations, getting regulatory approvals and preparing the construction site.

Natural Resources and Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith are making the official announcement today.

Ontario announced last July it intends to add a third nuclear generating station to Bruce Power.

Bruce Power plans to expand its existing plant, located on the rim of Lake Huron in Tiverton, Ont., to add 4,800 megawatts of output — enough to power 4.8 million homes. The expansion will nearly double the output of the plant, which is already one of the largest nuclear generating stations in the world.

The expansion would be Canada’s first new large-scale nuclear plant construction in 30 years.

A source told CBC News the project is a “major priority” for Ontario, which is seeking to decarbonize and expand its electricity grid. Demand for electricity in the province is poised to soar due to a growing population and the auto sector’s transition to electric vehicles.

Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith speaks during a news conference at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in Pickering, Ont., on Jan. 30, 2024.
Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith speaks during a news conference at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in Pickering, Ont., on Jan. 30, 2024. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The source said Wilkinson and Smith have been working closely on “shared objectives” to expand the electricity grid, which includes expansion of nuclear power generation.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government is betting big on nuclear. Last year, the province unveiled plans to add more small modular reactors to the one already in the works at Darlington, and plans to refurbish the Pickering plant. 

In a 2023 interview, Smith told CBC News that Ontario needs to expand nuclear production to ramp up electricity production.

Ottawa signals increasing openness to nuclear 

The federal government has suggested it’s open to using nuclear energy to green the national grid.

The federal government announced earlier this week it had updated its green bond program to include some nuclear projects.

Last year’s budget also made nuclear projects eligible for a generous new clean energy tax credit, something the Canadian Nuclear Association called “clear and strong” support for nuclear energy.

Last April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada is “very serious” about reviving nuclear power.

“As we look at what baseload energy requirements are going to be needed by Canada over the coming decades, especially as we continue to draw in global giants like Volkswagen, who choose Canada partially because we have a clean energy mix to offer … we’re going to need a lot more energy,” he said. “We’re going to have to be doing much more nuclear.”

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