CALGARY, Alberta, March 28 Plans for nuclear
power plants to supply electricity and steam to the Alberta oil
sands should be put on hold until the full repercussions of
using the technology are known, a Canadian parliamentary
In a report on the sustainable development of the oil sands
released this week, Parliament's natural resources committee
steered clear of making a decision on using nuclear energy
before the impact of placing the plants near oil sands projects
Production from Canada's oil sands, the world's
second-largest storehouse of petroleum, is forecast to triple
by 2015 to 3 million barrels a day.
At least one Alberta company has touted building a C$5.5
billion ($4.7 billion) nuclear plant in the oil sands region to
generate steam and electricity, both key to the process that
separates tar-like bitumen from the sand.
Energy Alberta Corp. wants to put a Canadian-designed Candu
twin-reactor plant in the region by 2016. The steam produced by
the facility would be piped to thermal oil sands producers, who
could pump it into the ground to liquefy the bitumen.
The electricity produced could replace natural gas-fired
generation plants, cutting emissions of carbon dioxide.
However, the committee report said that steam could only be
piped up to 25 km (16 miles), while a 600 megawatt reactor
would be capable of supplying an upgrader that produces about
60,000 barrels of synthetic crude oil a day.
It concluded that almost 20 nuclear reactors would be
needed just to meet the production growth planned to 2015.
Smaller reactors, producing 100 megawatts of power, could
be more useful for individual projects, given the limitations
of shipping steam, the report said. It added that other
technologies have the potential to produce power and steam more
cheaply than nuclear plants.
The committee called for government and industry to work
together to find ways to cut natural gas use in the oil sands
but added it "recommends that no decision be made on using
nuclear energy to extract oil from the tar sands until the
repercussions of this process are fully known and understood."
Wayne Henuset, head of Energy Alberta, could not be reached