Bruce Power's rebuilt Unit 1 reactor back online

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Bruce Power’s Unit 1 nuclear reactor is synchronized with Ontario’s energy grid for the first time in 15 years, company officials announced Thursday.

It began generating power just before midnight.

“This is a significant achievement for Bruce Power and another tangible milestone that the restart project is nearing completion,” company president and CEO Duncan Hawthorne said in a statement.

Unit 2 isn’t far behind and should be synchronized with the grid within weeks, he said.

The return to service of the two units — which together will be capable of producing enough electricity to power the cities of Ottawa and London, Ont., combined — would bring the Bruce Power site back to its eight-unit capacity and make the plant the largest nuclear generating facility in the world.

The plant is located about 245 km northwest of Toronto on the shore of Lake Huron.

The company will increase energy output from Unit 1 to the power grid over the next few days, Hawthorne said during a conference call with reporters. The unit will then undergo final commissioning tests, including safety system shutdown testing. Power from the unit is expected to be “commercially available” within the next week to 10 days, he said.

Announced in 2005, the Unit 1 and 2 restart project was originally expected to cost $2.75 billion. Electricity production was to begin in 2009 or early 2010. The project has experienced delays and is now expected to cost more than $4.8 billion.

Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley, in the statement provided by Bruce Power, said the project is “an important step” towards eliminating the use of coal-fired electricity in Ontario by the end of 2014.

Coal output over the past decade has dropped by nearly 90% annually, while Bruce Power has increased its output by 55%, the company says.