The Ontario government is supporting a plan by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) plan to proceed with refurbishing Pickering Nuclear Generating Station’s “B” units (units 5-8). Two of the four Pickering “A” units (2&3) were closed in 1997. Units 1&4 were refurbished but are now due to close by the end of this year. Pickering A began operation in the 1970s and Pickering B in the 1980s.

Todd Smith, Ontario Energy Minister said the refurbishment of Pickering 5-8 “would create thousands of new jobs and help produce at least another 30 years of safe, reliable and clean electricity to power the next major international investment, the new homes we are building and industries as they grow and electrify”.

OPG will now proceed with the Project Initiation Phase of refurbishment which will last through the end of 2024. The government is supporting OPG’s CAD2bn ($1.49bn) budget for this phase, which includes engineering and design work as well as securing long-lead components that can require years for manufacturing. By placing orders in advance with key suppliers, OPG will ensure materials are available when Ontario needs them and help keep costs down.

Based on OPG’s preliminary schedule, the refurbishment of Pickering is anticipated to be completed by the mid-2030s. According to independent preliminary analysis by the Conference Board of Canada, the refurbishment of Pickering is expected to increase Ontario’s GDP by CAD19.4bn over the 11-year project period. The project is also expected to create about 11,000 jobs a year. The refurbishment of Pickering B is also subject to regulatory approval by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

“Our experience refurbishing Darlington, a highly complex project that remains on time and on budget, will be invaluable as we begin the work necessary so Pickering can continue to help meet the growing electricity demands of this thriving province for another three-plus decades,” said Ken Hartwick, OPG President & CEO. OPG is refurbishing four Candu units at Darlington.

In September 2022, Ontario had announced that OPG would continue to safely operate Pickering until September 2026, pending CNSC approval. Further operation would require a complete refurbishment. Ontario will follow a multi-phase approvals process, which the government said is meant to ensure the project only proceeds if it is in the best interests of Ontario and its ratepayers.

Image: Pickering nuclear power plant