By Solarina Ho
TORONTO (Reuters) - The Ontario government is dropping plans to build two new nuclear plants and will focus on refurbishing its aging facilities instead, the Canadian province's energy minister said on Thursday.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said new nuclear stations will not be part of Ontario's formal review of its long-term energy plan, which will be finalized before the end of the year.
"Over the past few months, we have had extensive consultations for the review," said Chiarelli. "There is a strong consensus that now is not the right time to build new nuclear, and refurbishment is where we should be going."
Chiarelli said nuclear energy, which made up 56 percent of the province's energy output last year, would remain an important part of Ontario energy. Local media have reported the proposed new reactors would have cost more than C$10 billion ($9.63 billion).
Candu Energy Inc, a subsidiary of Canadian engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc, was disappointed in the government's decision, said spokeswoman Katherine Ward.
This summer, SNC's chief executive, Robert Card, said an opportunity for a new build would make "a huge difference" but added, "I put that more in the opportunistic bucket than something to count on."
The company is already refurbishing the province's four-unit 3,512 megawatt (MW) Darlington nuclear station, which began operating between 1990 and 1993.
Ontario has 18 reactors, about 20 to 40 years old, operating out of three generating facilities with a combined generating capacity of 12,900 MW.
(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Marguerita Choy)