Disbelief, disarray in Ontario anti-nuclear circles as pension fund announces intention to increase share in nuclear power plant

Less than a week ago, the Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement System (OMERS), a pension plan, announced it will increase its share in Bruce Power. Bruce Power is a partnership that runs the Bruce nuclear plant, the biggest clean energy producer in the Western Hemisphere. OMERS’s representation in the partnership is by way of Borealis Infrastructure, its infrastructure investment arm. Borealis has $10 billion invested in various infrastructure concerns. It currently shares a majority-partner position in Bruce Partner with two other outfits, Cameco and TransCanada; two electricity-sector unions are minority parnters. Bruce Power has in its 10+ years of existence put up over $7 billion into the upkeep of the plant. Borealis’s slice of Bruce Power could, pending approval, increase by nearly half a billion dollars: the intent is to pick up Cameco’s share. This would make it the majority partner.

Why would a hard-headed infrastructure investment fund commit so heavily to a nuclear plant?

Because that plant currently provides over 6,300 megawatts, which works out to more than 32 percent of Ontario’s electricity. It is a huge part of Ontario’s electricity system. At a rate of roughly 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, Bruce Power will earn roughly $380,000 per hour today. It will continue cranking out massive amounts of electricity hour after hour, day after day, week after week. So its partners can look forward to earning hundreds of thousands of dollars every hour, for literally thousands of hours at a time. That’s why Borealis wants to increase its share in the partnership that runs the Bruce Plant. From the point of view of an investor who wants to make money, the plant is a cash cow.

The people of Ontario should be happy about this. As I mentioned, Bruce Power’s electricity sells for an average of six cents per kWh. It is nuclear power, so each of the 6.3 million kWh it produced an hour ago came with with no carbon emissions. Low-carbon, and cheap—Bruce Power’s huge electrical output is a big part of the reason Ontario is a Quadrant IV jurisdiction on the Electric Power Carbon-Price Matrix.

There are those in Ontario, however, who are not happy about Borealis’s announcement. They include those who have been professionally engaged in telling the public that nuclear power is expensive and that we should be investing in wind power instead. This though wind entrepreneurs will not become involved in Ontario electricity unless they are paid at least eleven cents per kWh, nearly twice the rate that Bruce Power gets.

At a stroke, the Borealis announcement proves them wrong. Borealis is in the business of making money in infrastructure projects. Its intention to increase its stake in Bruce Power says that it is very confident that the plant can continue to make huge amounts of zero-carbon, low-cost electricity—and huge returns on investment—for many years to come.

The detractors know that this simply undercuts them. How can they justify selling expensive unreliable wind power to Ontario when there is a plant that can sell inexpensive reliable power? They cannot compete in a fair market, and they know it.

This did not stop the anti-nuclear crowd in Ontario from trotting out, when they heard of Borealis’s intent to increase its share in Bruce Power, the usual litany of inaccuracies and historical distortions that for them pass as reasons to abandon nuclear power. One such litany was presented in QP Briefings, a paywall-protected publication targeted to Queen’s Park decisionmakers. The author of the article, an economist and former senior provincial bureaucrat, fulminates and sputters but cannot muster a coherent attack on the technology. He just plain doesn’t like that nuclear occupies such a big position in Ontario electricity. And though he leads off the article by paying the usual lip service to the need for nuclear power to fight climate change, he ends by saying that fossil should replace nuclear. Hopefully nobody takes this slapdash, tendentious nonsense seriously.

Nobody should shed any tears for profiteering anti-nukes. The people of Ontario are getting a good deal from Bruce Power. They are getting 24/7 reliable power that is good for the environment, and that is affordable even to struggling single mothers and seniors. That is all that matters.

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