Ontario nuclear society criticizes plan for no new nuclear

Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli’s “off the cuff” response to questions by reporters that there will be no new build at the Darlington nuclear plant serves as a warning that another Ontario tech company is at risk, said Mike Ivanco, President of the Society Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA), in a an Oct. 11 statement.

“Having the Minister rule out an important option before his own ministry’s Long Term Energy Plan has been released is irresponsible,” Ivanco said. “How can you credibly say that nuclear is the backbone of Ontario’s energy supply and then announce that you won’t look at that option for future development?”

The Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported Oct. 10 that Chiarelli said the government has decided to spend money to refurbish existing reactors at two nuclear stations, but not on new facilities. Chiarelli said Ontario has a surplus of electricity and will not need to spend money now to build new reactors.

Ontario currently receives over 50% of its electrical supply from nuclear reactors in Pickering, Darlington and Bruce. With scheduled retirement of the Pickering plants that total could drop to about 30% in the coming years, the society pointed out in its Oct. 11 statement.

Over 30,000 jobs in a multi-billion dollar industry rely on the CANDU nuclear platform, most of them in Ontario, it added. Candu Energy alone employs over 800 highly skilled engineers, scientists, technologists and tradespeople.

Ivanco said: “Nuclear energy has been the major reason in the drop in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions from Ontario’s electricity sector. It continues to provide some of the lowest cost electricity and has the highest level of reliability.”

He added: “The government’s decision to not build replacement nuclear power, after the Pickering reactors are shut down, means that most of the lost electricity will be generated by burning natural gas. So after spending much of the last decade de-carbonizing the electricity sector, and reducing GHG emissions, they are going to re-carbonize it. How does that make any sense? Instead of investing in homegrown technology in a willing host community, which would employ over a thousand engineers and technologists, they would rather build gas plants that employ very few people, in communities that don’t want them.”

SPEA represent engineers, scientists, technologists and tradespeople who work for Candu Energy in Mississauga, Ontario. SPEA members collectively represent the majority of Canada’s nuclear power design expertise.

Ontario Power Generation has been working on 4,800 MW at Darlington

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) said June 28 that it had received detailed construction plans, schedules and cost estimates for two potential nuclear reactors at Darlington. The submissions, by Westinghouse Electric Canada and SNC-Lavalin Nuclear/Candu Energy, will help inform the government’s decision on whether to move forward with new nuclear at Darlington. The completed submissions are to be analyzed by a team from OPG and the ministries of Energy, Finance, and Infrastructure Ontario. This review process will take a number of months to complete, OPG pointed out at the time.

In May 2012, the federal government approved the Darlington New Nuclear Project Environmental Assessment. It concluded the project will not result in any significant adverse environmental effects, as long as there is mitigation. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has also granted a site preparation license, but no work has been done at the site to this point.

The existing Darlington Nuclear Generating Station is OPG’s newest CANDU (CANadian Deuterium Uranium) nuclear station. It is a four-unit facility with a total output of 3,512 MW and is located 70 kilometers east of Toronto. The Darlington addition project involves the possible construction and operation of up to four nuclear reactors and up to 4,800 MW of electrical capacity. The early need would be for only 2,000 MW of the total new capacity.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on Aug. 9 announced its decision to grant a five-year, single-site operating license for OPG’s Pickering nuclear station. The license will be valid from Sept. 1, 2013, until Aug. 31, 2018.

Pickering has six operating CANDU reactors with a total capacity of about 3,100 MW. OPG says on its website that it is planning, with a refurbishment project, for the continued operation of the Pickering nuclear station until 2020. 

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.