Ontario Liberals flying blind on nuclear reactor file, NDP says

The provincial government is plowing ahead hastily with refurbishing nuclear reactors without knowing the cost, NDP Leader Andrew Horwath charges, saying the Liberals have "learned nothing" from the $1.1-billion gas-plant controversy.

Horwath charges Liberals 'haven't learned' from $1.1-billion gas-plant fiasco

The Ontario NDP says the provincial government has 'learned nothing' from the $1.1-billion electricity gas-plant controversy and is plowing ahead with plans to upgrade nuclear reactors without knowing the cost. 2:47

The provincial Liberal government "learned nothing" from the $1.1-billion cost of killing two gas plants and is ready to refurbish nuclear reactors without knowing the final price, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath charged Wednesday.

'Apparently the sky is the limit when it comes to the price'  – NDP  Leader Andrea  Horwath  on proposed nuclear refurbishments

The Liberals recently abandoned plans to build two new nuclear reactors, after spending $180 million in preparatory work, but said they would refurbish existing reactors at the Darlington power station east of Toronto to extend their service life until 2055.

"The procurement for it is going to take place in stages, and the final cost is not known at this particular point in time," Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said.

The NDP released a statement from the Ministry of Energy showing "a final timeline and cost will not be known until the regulatory and technical scope is determined" and contracts are signed, sometime in 2015.

"We were shocked when the minister responded to our request by saying, 'We're spending $950 million on contracts we've already signed but we can't tell you what the final cost is going to be,' " Horwath said. "That is frightening."

It's hard to believe the Liberals are prepared to waste more money on the electricity file after the auditor general reported the costs of their decisions to cancel gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga could top $1.1 billion, added Horwath.

"They haven't learned their lesson when it comes to cancelling power plants, when it comes to planning for new nuclear and now this refurbishment plan, where apparently the sky is the limit when it comes to the price," she said.

"You cannot go into a project like this, which is going to cost literally billions and billions of dollars, without having some kind of target, otherwise there's no attempt whatsoever for cost containment."

Cost containment promised

However, Chiarelli said the province was looking to negotiate contracts, as it did for the refurbishment of reactors by Bruce Power, where the developer is on the hook for any cost overruns, not taxpayers or hydro ratepayers.

"We are not committing without having cost figures, cost containment, and without having as much risk on the contractor, on the developer, as possible," he said.

Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli says the provincial government is looking to sign a contract that would hang any cost overruns for the nuclear work on the contractor. (CBC)

The issue came to a head during question period in the legislature, with MPP Lisa MacLeod, the Progressive Conservative energy critic, saying the Liberals have had an "absolutely disastrous" last two weeks on the energy file.

The Tories even introduced a motion calling on the Liberal Party of Ontario to pay back $950 million for the decisions to cancel the two gas plants prior to the 2011 election.

But Premier Kathleen Wynne was lying in wait with examples of mismanagement by previous Tory administrations, including the "fire sale" of Highway 407, a toll expressway.

"Will the party opposite find a way to pay back the billions on the 407, the hundreds of millions on the Eglinton subway and the stranded hydro debt?" asked Wynne. 

Both the Tories and New Democrats have warned electricity rates in Ontario will have to rise to cover the cost of the Liberals' decisions to kill the two gas plants.

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With files from CBC News


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