Sunday, April 23, 2006

Why 1973 is like 2006 -- Tuesday, February 27, 1973

British Columbia is still nuclear free after 33 years.

Hansard -- Tuesday, February 27, 1973: "MR. BROUSSON: The last spring session, I'm sorry. Mr. Chairman, this winter the Premier has been heard to say that he has some kind of a hang-up with nuclear power. He's been reading some learned tomes which now have further convinced him that there will be no nuclear power in British Columbia, he says -without discussion, without stating his reasons, without further examining the matter.
I was privileged last June, Mr. Chairman, to have a very thorough and a very exhaustive trip - I would say a very exhausting trip - through the Pickering nuclear plant just east of Toronto, run by Ontario Hydro. I would recommend this particular trip to the Premier and to anybody in this Legislature who is interested in this subject, before they go out and make statements about whether nuclear power is good, bad or indifferent. I think this is a worthwhile study to be made.
This particular plant will consist of four reactors, each one 540 megawatts, so that the four, when they're finished, will total 2,160 megawatts of power. In that one power plant, Mr. Chairman, you will have slightly more than one-half of B.C. Hydro's total generating capacity - in that one power plant in Pickering, about 20 miles east of Toronto.
Reactor No. I has been going now for about a year and a half. It was shut down during my visit because it was having at the end of its first year a routine check of the turbine blades. One of the interesting things about this visit was to see the turbine completely stripped down and spread around the power house, while the blades and the other internal workings were being examined to see what condition it was in after its first year of operation. The report on that first year's operation was just 100 per cent. They were delighted with the results they found.

Reactors No. 2 and 3 at that time had been operating on full-rated load for many, many months. I saw the chart which showed that they'd been on 98 to 99 per cent of full-rated power for many, many months, That's reactors 2 and 3. Reactor 4 was at that point still under construction. As a result, I had the privilege of walking through the entire internal area of the reactor and seeing the internal workings of it, the safety regulations, how it was constructed, the various things that were going to be done to make it safe.

Interjection by an Hon. Member.

MR. BROUSSON: I've got the figures all here in this file, if you want to look at it, through you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, the Ontario Hydro is doing virtually all of the construction costs of Pickering. There certainly has been federal government involvement in some of the others. The figures are all in this file for you.

If what I saw at Pickering in this development is an experiment, as Mr. Williston used to call it, I wonder what he would consider to be conclusive evidence. If the Premier has a hang-up about it, I think he should go and look at it and see exactly how it works and learn something about it from the people who have designed it and who are building it.

HON. MR. BARRETT: What about the wastes?

MR. BROUSSON: I don't mind saying that I was tremendously impressed by Pickering and by what I've been able to learn of it since. I would personally be prepared to start planning a nuclear plant for Vancouver Island right now. This is a project that would take at least five years to plan and construct. So, even if we started now, it would be 1978, 1979 perhaps, before it would be ready to go on line.

. I know there are problems, Mr. Chairman. But I think the greatest problem we have in terms of nuclear power in British Columbia are fear and ignorance. In my view, we can be very proud of the Canadian achievements in this field. We have probably the finest nuclear power system in the world - the Candu system. It's certainly the safest. The major concern is that eventually, modern science being what it is, there are probably going to be improvements that will make this plant old-fashioned sooner or later. But I don't think that's any reason why B.C. shouldn't be a part of going forward in the nuclear age today.

For one thing, Mr. Chairman, B.C. Hydro needs to develop a nucleus of knowledgeable people in this field. Right now there are only one or two people in the entire staff of B.C. Hydro who are really knowledgeable from a technical point of view of nuclear power generation. I think B.C. should do its share in training people in this field, and that B.C. Hydro should have a nucleus of people who have some knowledge of it.

I'd like to, as I mentioned, Mr. Chairman, look briefly at some of the major points that are problems in this regard. First, danger from accident. I believe that the safety controls that we have under the Candu system - C-a-n-d-u - which is the name for the Canadian system - are completely adequate and safe. I say without fear of contradiction that Canada has the safest nuclear power system in the world.

Danger from radiation has been one of the things that have been suggested as problems. Our standards at present are exactly the same as the safety standards of the United States. But the actual escape of radiation in the water or through the air at Pickering and others has proven to be only about I per cent of those standards. In other words, we could raise those standards by 100 times and still be within the practical operating limit of Pickering.

Thermal pollution has been listed as one of the dangers, one of the problems. Well, it can be a problem in some places. I suppose if you're building a nuclear power plant in Florida and places of that kind - perhaps Hawaii, southern California - where the waters are warm, this may be a serious problem, But it's certainly not true on the Pacific coast of British Columbia. In fact, it's very clear from the basis of scientific knowledge becoming available that there are advantages to come from this in terms of oyster farming and a number of other potential benefits, Perhaps the most nagging and serious problem at the present time is that of waste disposal. This is not one of immediate urgency. For, at the very least, the first 13 years of a Candu nuclear power plant, the waste can be contained completely within the premises in what is called the spent fuel bay, which is approximately the same size as an Olympic swimming pool, only deeper. The waste fuel is canned - put into heavy-duty cans - and kept under water securely. The U.S. does have some real problems, some serious problems, because they enrich their fuel by 100 times compared to the Canadian system. The American fuel is enriched uranium. Ours is natural uranium. That factor of 100 makes a great deal of difference to the danger of the spent fuel.

There's no question, Mr. Chairman, that in the long-term future we have to provide for this. I've got abiding faith in our technology to solve this problem. In the short-term, in the foreseeable future, in terms of a few small power plants, this is not any kind of a problem at all.

As far as cost, our system of heavy water and natural uranium does cost a little more than the United States'. But the fuel is cheaper because we use natural, not enriched, uranium. The fact is that our long-term operating costs are less but our first cost is a little higher. As a result of that first cost, we get a safer system.

If you assume a 71/2 per cent interest rate, which is higher than the last issue of Hydro parity bonds, and retire the capital cost over only 30 years, the operating cost of a Vancouver Island nuclear power plant has been estimated to be 63/4 mills per kilowatt hour for a 1979 start-up. Yet some estimates for a natural gas thermal plant on Vancouver Island under the same conditions are 9.1 mills, approximately 30 per cent more.

It's clear that natural gas is not going to come down in price; whereas the materials needed for a nuclear plant - which in the case of the Canadian system are the heavy water, estimated to be 2/10 mill per kilowatt hour and the natural uranium, about 9/10 mill per kilowatt hour - are certainly going to be resistant to the inflation and the rising cost of other kinds of fuel.

The final problem that the Canadian system does have is heavy water. The source of this is perhaps the biggest immediate problem for the Canadian system. There is a serious shortage at the present time. By 1977 there could well be a surplus, on the basis of plants that are under construction and will be on stream by 1977. And 1977 is well before we are going to be needing it in British Columbia.

So to summarize, Mr. Chairman, it's clear that a Canadian nuclear power system is safe, economic and practical. Least a beginning in its use should be made in British Columbia in certain selected areas. Vancouver Island, for the reasons I suggested, is an ideal place for it.

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