Ontario approves three new SMRs at Darlington Nuclear in Bowmanville

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Published July 7, 2023 at 10:20 am

Nuclear power is enjoying a renaissance after many years seen as the boogie man of electricity options and the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station is about to reap the benefits of that new-found love.

Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith is at the Bowmanville-area plant this morning to announce that Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and its corporate partners will build three new Small Modular Reactors (SMR) on site, a massive multi-billion dollar undertaking that will be crucial if Canada is to meet its net zero climate commitments.

The new nuclear reactors, which are expected to be online by 2034, brings the total number of SMRs to four.

Today’s announcement follows Wednesday’s news that Ontario will build a new plant at Bruce Nuclear on the shores of Lake Huron – already the world’s second largest nuclear station – that will be the first new, large-scale nuclear plant in the province in more than 30 years.

The new plant will be capable of producing 4,800 megawatts of power: enough to power 4.8 million homes.

Smith also declared in his press conference Wednesday that Ontario is “definitely going to refurbish Pickering,” an announcement that had been promised and almost expected among nuclear advocates but had yet to be actually spoken.

“It’s big because it is signalling the government’s intention,” said Dr. Chris Keefer, the President of Canadians for Nuclear Energy, adding that a feasibility study would have to “pass muster” with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission first.

Darlington is currently nearing the three-quarter mark of its own $12.8 billion refurbishment, which is expected to be complete by 2026. The refurbishment is so far on budget and as much as six months ahead of schedule.

OPG and partners GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, SNC-Lavalin, and Aecon are already building North America’s first Small Modular Reactor, a 300-MW BWRX design that will soon be joined by as three others – each capable of heating 300,000 homes.

The BWRX is not a CANDU design, however, and Keefer’s group believes a ramped up nuclear program using Canadian CANDU technology is the best way Ontario can meet its climate change commitments and the surging demand for power in Ontario.

The quickest route to that goal, the organization nuclear declared in a 34-page manifesto released earlier this year, is through at least ten new full scale reactors, starting with a new build at Darlington.

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