The province’s energy ministry said the plan to operate for a further year would cut carbon emissions by 2.1 megatonnes, or roughly 20% of the electricity sector's projected emissions. It would increase North America's supply of Cobalt-60, which Pickering has been supplying since 1971 and which has medical uses such as in cancer treatments, by 10%-20%.
At the Ontario government’s request, OPG reviewed its operational plans and concluded that the facility could continue to safely generate electricity, a statement said.
Under OPG’s new plan, electricity generation at Pickering would end in 2026 instead of 2025. Units 1 and 4 would operate as originally planned until 2024 and Units 5 to 8 would operate until September 2026 as major refurbishment of nuclear units at OPG’s Bruce and Darlington nuclear stations progresses. Units 2 and 3 are already shut down.
All units at both Darlington and Bruce – a total of 12 – are either scheduled for or have completed refurbishment.
The Pickering station, which produces enough electricity to power a city of 1.5 million people, would need to be completely refurbished to stay in operation beyond September 2026, the ministry said, adding that refurbishment could extend that by 30 years.
Ken Hartwick, OPG president and chief executive officer, said OPG plans to complete an assessment requested by the province and submit a final recommendation on refurbishment by the end of 2023.
The revised schedule is subject to approval from the regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Canada’s Ambitious Nuclear Plans
Units 1 to 4 at Pickering – known as Pickering A – were the first commercial Candu reactors in the world to begin operation, from 1971 to 1973, although a large prototype operated commercially at Douglas Point from 1968 to 1984.
Pickering 1-4 were laid up in 1997. Units 1 and 4 were refurbished and restarted in 2005 and 2003 respectively, but Units 2 and 3 remained shut down.
According to International Atomic Energy Agency data, Canada’s fleet of 19 commercial power reactors provides about 14% of the country’s electricity production.
Canada has ambitious plans for next-generation nuclear plants.
In July, OPG and US-based X-energy signed an agreement to look for opportunities to deploy the Xe-100 high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor at industrial sites in Ontario and identify further potential end users and sites throughout Canada.
In March, Four provincial governments – Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta – said they would push ahead with a plan to develop nuclear power in Canada with calls for the federal government to back ambitious proposals for SMRs and a new class of Generation IV micro-SMR for remote communities and mines.
Electric utility SaskPower said recently it had chosen two sites in Saskatchewan for the potential construction of a small, modular nuclear reactor.