The government of Ontario has announced its support for a plan by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to extend the operating period of the Pickering nuclear power plant until the end of 2025. The six operating units are currently scheduled for closure by the end of 2024.
OPG's proposed plan would keep Pickering units 1 and 4 in operation until the end of 2024 and units 5-8 until the end of 2025. This would allow for the "safe, sequential shutdown" of the units while maximising the economic benefits of the power station in the community, the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines said.
"The safe operation of Ontario's nuclear assets is our top priority," Minister Greg Rickford said. "I'm pleased that OPG has developed an innovative proposal that will provide Ontarians with emission-free, low cost energy, and keep highly-skilled Ontarians working in their communities longer."
The government of Ontario in January 2016 approved plans to operate Pickering until 2024 to ensure a reliable source of low-carbon electricity while major refurbishment work is under way at OPG's Darlington plant. At that point, it was planned that Pickering 1 and 4 would close this year, with units 5-8 closing in 2024.
OPG has now informed the government that ongoing testing demonstrates the plant is safe to operate beyond its previously scheduled shutdown date of 2024 and the continued improved performance at the plant provides value to electricity consumers. Pickering was last year given an "exemplary" performance rating from the World Association of Nuclear Operators, it said.
"Our extensive analysis has shown that we can safely and reliably operate Pickering until the end of 2025 and provide a solid benefit to the ratepayer," OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick said. "The station's performance is better than ever and Ontario electricity users will continue to benefit from clean and stable baseload power for several more years," he added.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in 2018 granted a new ten-year operating licence for the plant, but OPG will require approval from the regulator for its revised operating schedule. The first commercial Candu reactors began operations in Pickering, Ontario, in 1971 - a large prototype Candu operated commercially at Douglas Point from 1968 to 1984. Pickering 1-4 were laid up in 1997; units 1 and 4 were subsequently refurbished and restarted in 2005 and 2003 respectively. Pickering 2 and 3 were not restarted.
Refurbishment of the first unit of the Darlington plant, Darlington 2, was completed earlier this year, with unit 3 the next unit to undergo refurbishment. OPG on 13 August said refurbishment activities at Darlington 3, which is currently in a planned outage, will begin "by September".