Ontario trying to delay shutdown of Pickering nuclear plant due to electricity ‘supply crisis’, sources say


The Ontario government will ask the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for an extension to operate the aging Pickering Nuclear Generating Station until 2026 to cover an impending power shortage, the Star has learned.

Although Energy Minister Todd Smith said just last month that there were no plans to seek an operating extension for Pickering’s long-scheduled 2025 shutdown date, it will detail the request on Thursday, sources said.

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

The extension request has been widely rumored in electricity circles for months and comes amid growing pressure for vehicle electrification, home heating and other fossil fuel burners to reduce emissions. 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 refurbishing some of their reactors in stages, leaving less power available for the grid to meet to the needs of homeowners, businesses and industries.

The extension request to Canada’s nuclear regulator follows the announcement of six new power generation contracts awarded in late August by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) – contracts for replace production lost when Pickering closes in 2025.

Four of these contracts were for power plants that burn natural gas and represent 90% of the 746 megawatts purchased. Two other small contracts were for wind power and electricity storage.

Critics have called the heavy reliance on natural gas – a fossil fuel – a blow to the fight against climate change and said it was the result of Prime Minister Doug Ford’s government canceling 758 energy projects. green energy shortly after taking power in 2018.

Smith defended the natural gas purchases that will come online in 2024 and 2026, saying they are with « existing generators with a 30% savings to ratepayers. »

“We have to make sure that our system is reliable. We cannot experience brownouts that would discourage any investment in our province.

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

An industry analyst has questioned why Ford’s government waited so long to seek the Pickering extension, given recent IESO reports warning of an upcoming surge in demand after around 15 years of surplus electricity. electricity in Ontario.

« The pinch we’re facing is a mid-decade power supply issue where we’re going to run out of power, » said the analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“If the demand according to the IESO forecast proves true, we will be in big trouble.

The government’s plan, revealed in 2020, was to phase out Ontario Power Generation-owned Pickering Generating Station in 2025 and place it in a « safe storage » state by removing uranium fuel and water with dismantling to begin in 2028, a process that is expected to take 40 years.

Pickering, opened in 1971, is Ontario’s oldest nuclear generating station and a major employer. When renewing its license in 2018, Ontario Power Generation had spent approximately $75 million on maintenance.

Costs for expanding the Pickering plant another year were not immediately available.

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