Ontario tries to delay shutdown of Pickering nuclear power plant amid ‘electricity shortage’, sources say Pipa News

Ontario tries to delay shutdown of Pickering nuclear power plant amid ‘electricity shortage’, sources say

The Ontario government will ask the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to extend the operation of the aging Pickering nuclear power plant until 2026 to cover an impending electricity shortage, the Star has learned.

Although Energy Secretary Todd Smith said last month there were no plans to seek an operational extension before Pickering’s long-planned 2025 closing date, he will detail the application Thursday, sources said.

“We are in a supply shortage,” said an informed source who confirmed the plan and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The extension request has been rumored in electricity circles for months and comes amid mounting pressure for electrification of vehicles, home heating and other fossil fuel burners to reduce the carbon emissions that cause climate change.

At the same time, nuclear power plants at Darlington, east of Pickering, and the Bruce facility on Lake Huron are renovating some of their reactors in phases, leaving less power available to the grid to meet the needs of homeowners, businesses and industries.

The request for extension to the Canadian nuclear regulator follows the announcement of six new power generation contracts awarded by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in late August — contracts intended to replace the generation lost when Pickering entered would close in 2025.

Four of those contracts related to installations that burn natural gas and account for 90 percent of the 746 megawatts purchased. Two other small contracts were for wind power and electricity storage.

Critics called the heavy reliance on natural gas – a fossil fuel – a blow to the fight against climate change, saying it stemmed from Prime Minister Doug Ford’s administration canceling 758 green energy projects shortly after taking power in 2018 come.

Smith defended the natural gas-fired tenders coming online in 2024 and 2026, saying they are with “existing generators with a 30 percent savings for taxpayers.”

“We have to make sure that our system is reliable. We cannot experience brownouts that will discourage investment in our county.”

Nuclear power is free of carbon emissions, but it produces nuclear waste that must be stored carefully for centuries.

An industry analyst wondered why the Ford administration has waited so long to seek the Pickering expansion, given recent reports from the IESO warning of a coming surge in demand after about 15 years of electricity surplus in Ontario.

“The problem we face is an electricity supply problem by the middle of the decade where we will be short of power,” said the analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“If the IESO forecast question pops up, we’re in big trouble.”

The government’s plan, unveiled in 2020, was to phase out the Pickering plant, owned by Ontario Power Generation, by 2025 and put it into a “secure storage” condition by removing uranium fuel and water with decommissioning to begin in 2028, a process that is expected to take 40 years.

Opened in 1971, Pickering is Ontario’s oldest nuclear power plant and a major employer. When the license was renewed in 2018, Ontario Power Generation had spent approximately $75 million on maintenance.

The cost to extend Pickering’s plant for another year was not readily available.


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