Canadian new build getting nearer

03 May 2012

The Canadian government has accepted the environmental assessment report for the possible construction of new nuclear capacity at Darlington, clearing the way for the issuance of a site preparation licence.

Darlington new build site (OPG)-200
Plenty of room at Darlington
(Image: OPG)

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) formally submitted the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for up to four new units at Darlington in 2009. The EIS also included an application for a site preparation licence. A joint review panel was set up to carry out an in-depth review process involving federal, provincial and municipal agencies, independent technical experts, and public hearings. The panel reported back to the government in August 2011 with a list of recommendations that the government has now ruled on.

The government's formal response that the project is not likely to cause "significant adverse environmental effects" was announced by Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, who went on to propound the virtues of nuclear energy. "Nuclear energy is a safe, reliable and virtually emissions-free option for addressing Canada's energy and environmental needs," he noted.

OPG executive vice president for nuclear projects Albert Sweetnam said the company was pleased with the government's decision. He said that OPG had been confident in the conclusions of its "extensive" studies, but welcomed the "added assurance" provided by independent review and confirmation of the project's environmental credentials.

The joint review panel sits as a panel of nuclear regulator the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Its next - and final - decision will be on the issuance of a site preparation licence. This is the first of the three licences required in Canada for the construction and operation of a new nuclear plant, but will not be issued until some of the 67 recommendations in the joint panel's report have been actioned. After that, joint review panel will be disbanded with all subsequent licensing decisions being made by a CNSC tribunal.

According to the CNSC's own timeline for the project, it anticipates a construction licence application from OPG this year, which would see a decision around 2014. After that, OPG would need to apply for an operating licence for the postulated plant.

OPG currently operates four 881 MWe Candu units at the Darlington site. It began the approvals process for up to four nuclear units totalling up to 4800 MWe of capacity in 2006. No decision has yet been made on the final reactor design to be used at the site, and the environmental impact statement was prepared taking three possible designs - the ACR 1000 Candu reactor, Areva's EPR and Westinghouse's AP 1000 - into consideration.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News