Are federal Conservatives set to support Ontario Liberals’ nuclear expansion?

Word has it that the prime minister and Ontario premier have been talking about heavy water and uranium. Specifically, they have discussed the prospect of the feds providing financial support for the purchase and commissioning of at least two CANDU reactors, probably at the Darlington generating station on Lake Ontario east of Toronto.

The Conservatives apparently think that a major sale will make the crown corporation Atomic Energy Canada Limited, and its CANDU technology, attractive to a prospective buyer. Better to use public money to facilitate a lucrative sale (presumably the windfall would outweigh whatever dollars Harper promised McGuinty) than to stand back and let deeper-pocketed light water competitors Areva or General Electric underbid AECL.

If the rumour is true, then Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty will make Ontario’s power generating sector better than Kyoto compliant, and put the entire province within easy reach of becoming the first advanced industrial economy to achieve the critical Kyoto target. Eat your heart out, California.

No doubt this will expose the federal Conservatives and Ontario Liberals to vicious tongue-lashings from most of the mainstream environmental movement. But if they present their deal properly, Harper and McGuinty should be able to fend off this criticism. The greens will have a hard time arguing against the sheer size of the emission reductions nuclear will bring about.

And now that the anti-nuclear tide is finally receding in Europe (where the latest go-around between Russia and its former satellites has convinced everyone that relying on Siberian natural gas is not the best energy policy), Canada should lead the way to putting nuclear energy back into the Clean Development Mechanism. This would boost AECL’s overseas prospects, especially in China and India.

Who knows, Harper might rethink his belief that Kyoto targets are unattainable.

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