Since announcing my retirement a few short weeks ago, Lesley and I have been overwhelmed by the show of emotion and messages of encouragement from Bruce Power employees and members of our community. I understand the announcement was a shock for many, but in truth, it has been a consideration on my part for some time. However, it was very important to me that we stay the course and complete the major negotiation that underpinned the operation of our facility until 2064, which we announced last December, prior to moving forward with my retirement from Bruce Power.
Since taking on the role as CEO of Bruce Power, I have been working to assemble a jigsaw that maybe only I had in my mind. The first step was to stabilize the performance of the Bruce B operating units, which at the time were the only ones in operation. If we could not quickly demonstrate our ability to do this it would be very difficult to convince investors and government that we could be entrusted with a larger role in Ontario.
At the same time, it was obvious the community and the workforce had been severely impacted by the closure of the Bruce A units in the mid-90s and it was important to conduct an assessment of the condition of these assets to see if there was any potential for return to service. Our assessment told us Units 3 and 4 could be restarted without major component replacement and in a reasonable timescale.
We then embarked on this work program more or less from the day Bruce Power was formed. This decision had a massive impact on the staff and the community because it signalled a resurrection of this site and sent a strong message that the ‘new guys’ were in for the long term. The decision to work on the Bruce A units also allowed us to retain all staff and actually start hiring new employees and quickly reverse our aging demographic.
Having successfully restarted two of the Bruce A units and improved the performance of Bruce B, we gained a sound reputation from which to make our next big step. The shortage of power in Ontario was very obvious to all and, when the blackout occurred in August 2003, it was the Bruce B units that played a pivotal role in the rebuild of our supply, and many in government acknowledged this. There was also a commitment to the phase out of coal that could not be completed without an increased share of nuclear generation from the Bruce site. The opportunity then presented itself for us to make a case to restart the remaining units at Bruce A, and in October 2005 we entered into a long-term agreement that would allow us to make this large investment. The rebuild and return to service of these units would require us to do things thought impossible with the CANDU design, but people in the industry had told us that for several years and we had always proven them wrong.
The return to service program took longer and cost more than any of us would have liked, and it was a stressful time for me and for everyone working on the project, but we stuck to the task and returned Units 1 and 2 to service. In so doing, we created the world’s largest operating nuclear facility and proved a lot of naysayers wrong.
At this stage, a lot of people assumed I would step down since we had successfully brought the site back to its former glory. However, for me, there was still a missing piece of the puzzle and it would not be completed until we had secured the long-term future of all of our units, and this was successfully achieved on Dec. 3, 2015, when we announced the new transaction that secured our future for decades to come.
Leading this company has been the highlight of my career and, although I have enjoyed every minute, it is helpful for me to explain that during my tenure as CEO, I have weathered five corporate restructurings, multiple changes to the electricity market in Ontario, four Prime Ministers, four Premiers and 10 Energy Ministers, not to mention the 2003 blackout and the 2011 Fukushima event and its implications for the global nuclear industry.
Throughout all of this activity, I have had an unshakeable confidence in the employees who show up every day at the Bruce Power site. The work they do requires skill, dedication and commitment and I cannot fault them in any department. My trust in them has been repaid many times over and in particular during the tough times over the years. No company gets to deliver the performance improvement we have seen over the years by virtue of the efforts of a CEO. It is my job to set a vision and a direction and then create an environment for people to give their best. I think I have done this and the emotion I have seen on the news of my departure is something that will stay with me for life.
Bruce Power has a long and bright future and I will always be interested to see how that future unfolds.
For my own part, I left the UK in 1997 when it became obvious the government of the day was not going to progress our request to build new reactors. At that time, the thought was that I would come to North America for a couple of years, three at most, and try to create a business here. In the end that ‘detour’ brought us to Kincardine, where we made our home, got married, became Canadians and helped create the Bruce Power you see today.
Now the pendulum has swung the other way and the UK is desperate to see new nuclear build, and I have been offered the opportunity to participate in this through an involvement with Horizon Nuclear, which has an ambitious plan to build six Advanced Boiling Water Reactors in the UK. Having served on its board in recent years, this gives me the opportunity to finish my career close to my family, including our two grandchildren, who came along while we were here and who grow up so quickly.
At the same time, I am a strong advocate for nuclear power and I am acutely aware that if the industry is to meet the global need for a clean, affordable and reliable source of power then we have to be able to build new plants successfully in a commercial environment.
My hope is that I can play some small role in making this happen in the UK, but my heart will always be with Bruce Power and our connection with this community will be a lifetime thing.