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TORONTO (Reuters) - Bruce Power LP said Friday it was considering building a new nuclear station in Nanticoke, Ontario, to meet a looming power shortage in the province -- drawing swift environmental pushback and a lukewarm reaction from government.
The nuclear power operator said the plan for two reactors in the industrial town on the north shore of Lake Erie would help Ontario offset the effects of a government effort to phase-out coal-fired power plants, which supply close to a fifth of the province's power, by 2014.
"Ontario needs affordable, reliable and clean energy as we move forward to address one of the greatest challenges of our time -- climate change," said Duncan Hawthorne, Bruce Power's president and chief executive.
The company said it would conduct an environmental assessment over the next three years to detail the potential impact of the 2,000 to 3,000 megawatt project, with construction taking another five or six years.
The plan, which would offset between a third and a half of Ontario's coal-fired power production, quickly raised the hackles of environmentalists concerned about nuclear waste.
"We have 30,000 tons of high level radioactive waste in Ontario that no one knows what to do with. This plan would mean making a new radioactive waste dump," said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, an energy campaigner for Greenpeace.
Stensil added that Bruce's timeline would bring the reactors into service years after the government's planned phase-out of the province's coal plants -- meaning Ontario would likely need to delay its deadline.
"We have better options," Stensil said.
Ontario Energy Minister George Smitherman said on Friday the plan did not have the provincial government's support.
"The initiative at Bruce is the initiative of a private company seeking to influence downstream government policy that does not bear the approval, support, encouragement of the government of Ontario in any form," he said.
Canada has some 18 nuclear reactors in operation, providing nearly 15 percent of the nation's electricity. The last new reactor brought into service was in 1993, though power producers have several other proposals on the books.
Bruce Power is also studying the possible construction of new reactors at its Bruce nuclear station on Lake Huron, about 270 km (168 miles) northwest of Nanticoke, that would add 4,000 MW of electricity by about 2016.
That would account for more than 60 percent of Ontario's 6,400 MW of coal-fired generation.
Bruce Power is a partnership among Cameco Corp, TransCanada Corporation, and BPC Generation Infrastructure Trust.
Government-owned Ontario Power Generation, owns and operates the existing 3,920 MW Nanticoke generating station, the largest coal-fired plant in the country, and is looking into converting the station into a biomass plant.
OPG is also developing plans to build new nuclear reactors at its Darlington nuclear station, on the shore of Lake Ontario, east of Toronto.
Reporting by Scott Disavino, Scott Anderson and Richard Valdmanis; editing by Rob Wilson