Ontario Power Generation shelves new Darlington nuclear capacity

Ontario Power Generation has put a hold, except in trying to recover its sunk costs so far, on adding new nuclear capacity at the Darlington plant, while it is moving forward on a rehab project for the existing Pickering nuclear capacity.

The Ontario Minister of Energy announced in October that the provincial government will not include New Nuclear build at Darlington in the upcoming Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP), but that it may be re-considered in the future. OPG’s future activities on New Nuclear, if any, will be informed by the details included in the LTEP, the provincial power generator said in a Nov. 14 financial filing.

The LTEP is expected to be issued by the province during the fourth quarter of 2013. Life-to-date non-capital expenditures on New Nuclear, as of Sept. 30, 2013, were about C$180m. As of that point, OPG had recovered C$107m for New Nuclear through payment amounts established by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), and anticipates to recover amounts in the associated regulatory account that have not yet been recovered.

Utility makes progress in extending Pickering nuclear units

As for existing nuclear, in 2012, OPG applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for a five-year operating license, which combines the Pickering A and B generating stations’ licenses into a single-site license. Following the CNSC public hearings, the CNSC approved the five-year single-site license in August 2013.

“This represents the good progress OPG has made on inspection and maintenance activities that support the intention to operate the Pickering Units 5 to 8 to 2020,” the utility wrote. “OPG has made investments to continue to improve Pickering’s performance through to 2020. These investments will help to provide a reliable electricity supply for Ontario while the Darlington reactors are being refurbished. OPG is seeing positive results of that work, including engineering and research assessments that support the safe and reliable operation of the units for a longer operating period.”

As part of the five-year single-site license, a regulatory hold point has been added related to fuel channels and the original end-of-life dates for Pickering Units 5 to 8. To satisfy the requirements for removal of the hold point, OPG said it must conduct further safety assessments to demonstrate that Pickering Generating Station (GS) can continue to operate within safety limit margins, incorporating Fukushima lessons learned for beyond design basis events, and conduct a risk assessment to demonstrate that the station can operate to 247,000 equivalent full power hours. The results of these assessments will be provided in a future proceeding with public participation, as required by the CNSC.

“The regulatory hold point, if not addressed by the spring of 2014, may require one unit to be shutdown,” OPG added. “The remaining units will not be affected. This risk is being mitigated by completing the required actions on schedule and with senior level oversight.”

The CNSC, in its record of decision, also directs OPG to produce an emergency management public information document for area residents by June 2014. OPG said it is making progress on the completion of these items.

In August 2013, the CNSC presented its Staff Integrated Safety Assessment of Canadian Nuclear Power Plants for 2012. Both the Pickering GS and the Darlington GS received positive safety ratings from the CNSC staff, with the Darlington GS achieving the highest possible safety rating.

Darlington rehab project still in the planning phase

The Darlington Refurbishment project is currently in the definition phase. The Global Assessment Report and Integrated Implementation Plan, which present the significant Environmental Assessment and Integrated Safety Review results, are on track to be submitted to the CNSC in the fourth quarter of 2013.

The preliminary and detailed engineering work to be completed within each of the major contracts is specified in about 190 Modification Definition Packages (MDPs), with about 150 of the MDPs completed as of Sept. 30. The remaining MDPs are to be completed by August 2014. The completion of the MDPs establishes the basis for completion of detailed engineering. This forms a key input to preparation of the release quality estimate by the fourth quarter of 2015, which will include detailed scope, cost, and schedule estimates for the execution phase of the Darlington Refurbishment project, OPG wrote.

During the third quarter of 2013, OPG completed the identification of all long-lead materials required for the turbine generator work. OPG expects that the remaining major contracts, including the steam generator cleaning contract and the turbine generator engineering and execution contract will be awarded by the first quarter of 2014.

OPG said it is progressing with design and construction of facilities and infrastructure projects required at Darlington for the refurbishment. This includes the construction of water and sewer upgrades, site electrical system modifications, project and contractor facilities, as well as the addition of heavy water storage capacity. All prerequisite facility and infrastructure projects are expected to be completed prior to the start of the first unit’s refurbishment in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Construction of the Darlington reactor full-scale mock-up facility within the Darlington Energy Complex commenced in May 2013. Installation of structural steel and the fabrication of fuel channel components are ongoing. The mock-up facility is to be completed by the second quarter of 2014, to allow tool testing and training to begin. Retube and feeder replacement tooling design and fabrication is progressing in parallel with mock-up facility construction, and remains on track for completion in 2015, OPG reported.

The existing Darlington station is OPG’s newest CANDU (CANadian Deuterium Uranium) facility. It is a four-unit plant with a total output of 3,512 MW. The Darlington addition project, which the Energy Ministry has shelved for now, involved construction of up to four new reactors and 4,800 MW of capacity. The early need would have been for only 2,000 MW of that total new capacity.

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 the refurbishment project, for the continued operation of the Pickering 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.