License extension for Pickering Nuclear filed just ahead of safety commission deadline

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Published June 28, 2023 at 10:49 am

The provincial government finally gave its official stamp of approval to the extension of Pickering Nuclear until 2026, just three days before a deadline imposed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Energy Minister Todd Smith and Premier Doug Ford promised new life for the six-reactor power plant last year, as the province is staring at a looming energy crunch in the next few years.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) had filed the necessary documents but the government waited until Tuesday to fulfill their end of the bargain.

“Our government is proud to support the continued safe operation of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station,” Smith said via Twitter, adding that OPG had filed their application with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission “to safely extend operations at Pickering through September 2026.”

Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith greeting Pickering nuclear workers

Not filing the application on time would have meant the Pickering plant, responsible for 14 per cent of Ontario’s electricity, would be decommissioned, a blow to both the energy grid requirements and to Ontario’s clean energy future, said nuclear advocate Dr. Chris Keefer, the president of Canadians for Nuclear Energy.

“Pickering Nuclear Station supplies more clean electricity to Ontario than Niagara Falls and more electricity than all 3,273 wind and solar contracts in the province, and it does so at a fraction of the cost per kWh and on a tiny fraction of the land leaving more space for nature,” he said. “Canadians for Nuclear Energy has worked tirelessly for this outcome.”

The next step for the plant would be refurbishment, which would earn the province another 30 years or so of clean energy. Refurbishment would also mean the plant, which opened in 1971 (the four ‘B’ Unit reactors were added between 1983 and 1986), would be shuttered from 2026 until at least 2030.

Given Ontario’s rapidly growing population and the energy needs of electrification (battery plants, EVs, transportation networks, etc.) – both Smith and Ford have declared Ontario is “going to need a lot more electricity” – Keefer believes refurbishment should be a no-brainer for the province.

“Pickering Nuclear Station produces enough electricity to charge a fleet of seven million EVs. That’s almost the entire existing light duty vehicle fleet for Ontario. That’s why we must save and refurbish Pickering,” he said. “To not refurbish it would be folly.”

The nearby Darlington nuclear plant west of Bowmanville is nearing the three-quarter mark for its own $12.8 billion refurbishment, which is so far on budget and as much as six months ahead of schedule.

OPG is in the “final stretches” for Unit 3, which is 96 per cent complete and Unit 1 is nearly half done. Unit 3 is expected to get underway later this year and the entire project is scheduled to be complete by 2026 – just in time for Pickering to be shut down, should its own refurbishment be approved.

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