‘One Team’ approach secret to early return to the grid for Unit 3 at Clarington’s Darlington Nuclear

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Published August 9, 2023 at 10:29 am

When some people hit mid-life they buy a Corvette. Nuclear power plants, if they’re lucky, get a total refurbishment, making them as fresh as the day they came out of the box and good to go for another 30 years.

People can only wish they were as fortunate.

If the people behind the refurbishment work are extra good at what they do – as appears to be the case at the Darlington Nuclear plant in Clarington – the job gets completed early and the staff earn loads of praise from the bosses.

Major infrastructure projects don’t often get completed on time, let alone 169 days ahead of schedule.

But that’s what happened at Darlington Unit 3 refurbishment, which was re-connected to the grid July 17, thanks to good planning, a “one team” approach and a made in Ontario philosophy.

“OPG’s planning, early procurement of components, a spirit of innovation, an extraordinarily skilled technical and trades workforce, and the support of our union partners are yielding significant results,” said Subo Sinnathamby, OPG’s Senior Vice President, Nuclear Refurbishment. “Darlington refurbishment’s success to date is a clear testament to the OneTeam approach to project excellence.”

OPG senior staff and some of those workers, along with Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith, were on hand at the station last month to mark the occasion.

“The successful refurbishment of Darlington’s Unit 3 is a major success which demonstrates that this province, working with our expert nuclear suppliers and skilled trades, can deliver major energy projects ahead of schedule and on budget,” gushed Smith, who said the refurbishment, along with the four small modular reactors under construction at Darlington “will help power the next major international investment in Ontario, the new homes we are building, and industries as they grow and electrify.”

The early return of Unit 3 will produce an extra three terawatt-hours of energy, enough to power 350,000 homes for an entire year.

The ’green’ energy produced will also reduce up to one megatonne of greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of taking 300,000 cars off the road for a year.

More than half-way through, the project is on plan – a rarity among large infrastructure projects. Unit 2, the first unit to be refurbished, was reconnected to the grid in June 2020. Unit 1, expected to be completed in mid-2025, is approximately 60 per cent complete and is currently in the reassembly phase. Unit 4 was removed from service on July 19 to begin its mid-life overhaul, with a 2026 completion date.

OPG attributes the success to-date to several key factors, including:

  • Planning: OPG conducted thorough planning prior to starting project execution, including building a full-scale nuclear reactor mock-up. At this first-of-its-kind facility, workers practised tasks in a simulated environment prior to performing the exact manoeuvre on the reactor.
  • ‘One Team’ approach: OPG and its project partners, including technical staff and skilled tradespeople, are all part of one organization, working toward the same goals around safety, quality, schedule, and cost. The team also constantly shares and incorporates lessons learned from each stage.
  • A ‘made-in-Ontario’ approach: OPG and its partners are leveraging Ontario’s robust nuclear supply chain for the parts and services needed for Darlington’s refurbishment. Approximately 96 per cent of project costs are being spent in the province at more than 260 companies. The project, together with the station’s extended operation, will generate approximately $90 billion in economic benefits for Ontario and create an average of 14,200 jobs annually across the province.

“We celebrate, along with OPG, the completion of Unit 3 at Darlington. OPG is a valued community partner, and this is a major milestone in their important refurbishment project,” said Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster. “This work has created thousands of construction jobs at the station each year of the project and will preserve thousands of permanent local jobs as the station continues to generate a significant portion of Ontario’s electricity needs.”

The station’s four-unit, $12.8 billion refurbishment began in 2016.

Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster with Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith

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