Ontario Power embarks on Darlington life extension; Pickering approvals

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) said Jan. 11 that not only is it ready to deliver on the government’s decision to invest in refurbishing the first of four units at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, the Canadian province has also approved plans to pursue continued operation of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station to 2024.

“Refurbishing Darlington is an investment in Ontario – in clean air, in jobs, in innovation, and in lower energy prices,” said OPG President and CEO Jeffrey Lyash. “We’ve been preparing since 2009 and we’re ready to deliver the job safely, on time and on budget.”

The C$12.8 billion investment will generate C$14.9 billion in economic benefits to Ontario, which include thousands of construction jobs at Darlington and at some 60 Ontario companies supplying components for the job. This investment will also preserve about 3,000 jobs as it provides 30-plus years of clean, reliable, baseload power, at a cost lower than other alternatives considered. The budget is about C$1.2 billion less than originally projected by OPG, and all four units are scheduled for completion by 2026.

“OPG has already delivered the single largest action in North America to combat climate change by ending the use of coal to generate electricity,” added Lyash. “Having a clean, reliable electricity system with predictable, stable prices is not just an environmental achievement, it’s essential to the province’s long-term competitiveness.”

The price of power from the refurbished Darlington station is expected to be between seven and eight Canadian cents per kilowatt hour. The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) will determine the final rate. The refurbishment project will be subject to strict oversight to ensure safety, reliable supply and value for customers. OPG has also implemented a robust risk management strategy to ensure contractors are held accountable and appropriate off-ramps are in place.

Also, OPG said in the Jan. 11 announcement that it will work with the Ministry of Energy, the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator and the OEB to pursue continued operation of the Pickering Station to 2024. All six units would operate until 2022; two units would then shut down and four units would operate to 2024. Extending Pickering’s operation would ensure a reliable, clean source of baseload electricity during the Darlington and initial Bruce nuclear plant refurbishments.

“Our technical work shows that Pickering can be safely operated to 2024 and that doing so would save Ontario electricity customers up to [C]$600 million, avoid eight million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and protect 4,500 jobs across Durham Region,” said Lyash. “We’ll work closely with our community partners as we go through this process.”

Any plan to extend Pickering’s life would require approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). OPG has started work on a license application for CNSC approval in 2018.

Darlington work is moving into full swing

Darlington Nuclear Generating Station is a four-unit station with a total capacity of 3,512 MW. More than 60 companies from over 25 communities will be directly engaged in the job. Approximately 96% of the project’s suppliers are based in Ontario. Detailed planning for this project commenced in 2010 and concluded at the end of 2015. A state-of-the-art full-size reactor mock-up was built to test specialized tools and train workers. Contracts are structured so contractors are accountable for price and schedule to minimize risk to ratepayers.

OPG has a project management team with extensive refurbishment experience from Canada and around the world. Team members include those seconded to Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to work on the Pt. Lepreau refurbishment project in New Brunswick. OPG is continuing to acquire talent from other major projects to enhance the project management team and develop future leaders.

The first major activity during the refurbishment will be to shut down the reactor. At this time, systems not required for an extended period of time are placed into a safe state referred to as lay-up. The fuel will be removed from the reactor and will be placed in the fuel bays as is currently done. Once the reactor fuel is removed from the reactor, heavy water will be drained from the system and transferred to an appropriate storage facility. The heavy water will be processed and available for reactor use when the outage is completed.

Once the reactor undergoing refurbishment has been defueled, it will be separated (islanded) from the other operating units. This is done by putting up physical barriers to delineate the refurbishment island from the operating reactors.

The reactor components will be restored or replaced. This includes removing and replacing 480 fuel channel assemblies and 960 inlet and outlet feeders per reactor. The components will be processed and placed into appropriate storage containers. The remaining components will be inspected to ensure they are acceptable for continued operation.

A majority of the turbine generator systems and auxiliary systems will be disassembled and rebuilt or replaced. OPG has concluded the steam generators will remain fit for service over the life extension period and will not require replacement. The steam generator tubes and parts will be inspected, inspection nozzles will be installed and the steam generators will be cleaned to improve heat transfer.

The remaining scope of work is being carried out to maintain or improve the safety and reliability of the station to the post-refurbishment end of life. The scope of work includes:

  • Work on nuclear systems, such as the primary heat transport system and the reactor regulating systems; and
  • Work on conventional systems, such as the low pressure service water system and the fire protection system.

Pickering also seen as no-emissions electricity generator

OPG’s Pickering Nuclear Generating Station is one of Ontario’s most important generating assets, providing 14% of the province’s electricity. Since the early 1970s, it’s been producing safe, reliable base load power with virtually no greenhouse gas emissions.

Early technical work shows that Pickering can be safely operated to 2024 and that doing so would save Ontario electricity customers up to C$600 million, avoid eight million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and protect 4,500 jobs across the Durham Region.

Pickering Nuclear is a CANDU station with six units and a total capacity of 3,100 MW. All six units would operate until 2022; two would then shut down, and four would run to 2024. Sectors across Durham Region that would benefit from Pickering’s continued operation include: equipment and manufactured components; engineering and construction; raw materials and fuel cycle; and operations and business services.

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.