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INTERVIEW - Canadian Oil Sands Nuclear Plant Seen for 2016

Date: 05-Mar-07
Country: CANADA
Author: David Ljunggren

The Energy Alberta Corporation says it wants to place a C$5.5 billion (US$4.3 billion) Canadian-built Candu twin reactor plant in northern Alberta to provide the massive amounts of power needed to extract oil from the sticky sands.

"One reactor (would be) in 2016 and the second one would be in 2017 ... We're taking it to where we feel there's less resistance (from the public)," corporation director Wayne Henuset told Reuters.

"We hope to site it and talk to the communities in the next two months," he said in an interview on the sidelines of a nuclear industry seminar.

Two further reactors are planned for a later unspecified date. Henuset said the potential customers for the power were all major oil companies, but he declined to give details.

Most of the power used by firms in the oil sands is generated by burning natural gas, which Henuset said was a waste of a valuable fuel and also generated greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Once a site for the twin reactor has been identified the corporation then needs approval from regulatory authorities -- a process that can take years.

"I think our government understands right now that that's unacceptable ... the people of Canada are saying 'We need to clean up our carbon dioxide, we have to be responsible'," said Henuset, calling on Ottawa to send a clear message to regulators that the process needed to be speeded up.

Canada's Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn told Reuters in January that, in theory, he liked the idea of nuclear power for the oil sands.

Henuset said Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. -- the government-owned manufacturer of the Candu -- estimated it could build the first reactor in 36 months.

He also said he hoped that nuclear waste from the plant would be stored either on site or in special chambers until it could be reused.

Shell Canada Ltd. Chief Executive Clive Mather told Reuters in January that although he was not ready to buy into the nuclear concept, it could offer a price advantage over time. Shell is a major oil sands operator.

(US$1=$1.17 Canadian)

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