First licence for Canadian new build

20 August 2012

Canadian nuclear regulators have issued a site preparation licence for proposed new reactors at the Darlington site in Ontario. It is the first such licence to be issued in Canada in a quarter of a century.

Darlington (OPG)_380
Room for more: OPG's existing Darlington plant (Image: OPG)

The nuclear site preparation licence issued to Ontario Power Generation (OPG) will be valid for ten years, from 17 August 2012 to 17 August 2022. The licence means that pre-construction activities such as clearing, excavating and grading the land adjacent to the company's existing four-unit Darlington station can begin, although no vendor has yet been selected to undertake such activities.

The decision to issue a nuclear site preparation licence was made by a joint review panel of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), specially convened in 2009 to consider the environmental assessment and site preparation licence for the project. Earlier this year, the Canadian government formally accepted the panel's report and recommendations on the environmental assessment, clearing the way for the issuance of the site preparation licence.

The panel reached its decision after considering information presented at a 17-day public hearing held in 2011, receiving and considering submissions from 264 intervenors, 14 government departments and OPG itself. Panel chair Alan Graham described the licensing decision as an "important milestone in Canada's nuclear history" which had been reached in an "open and transparent manner with the input of hundreds of citizens, whose thoughts and arguments inspired and challenged us to make the best possible decision."

The panel has set out a reporting schedule that will see OPG prepare a mid-term report on its licensed activities and the implementation status of commitments made during the environmental assessment. The CNSC will also be required to prepare a report on the status of compliance activities carried out during the first half of the licence term and to present annual updates. All reports will be made publicly available.

Two potential vendors are currently preparing detailed construction plans, schedules and cost estimates for the construction of two reactors at the site under service agreements signed with OPG in June. SNC Lavalin/Candu Energy Inc and Westinghouse have been given 12 months to complete their respective reports for the Enhanced Candu 6 and AP1000 reactor designs. The final reports will be submitted to the government of Ontario, which will make the final decisions on whether to move forward with the project.

From the regulatory perspective, the next step in the licensing process will be a decision on a construction licence for the plant once an application is submitted by OPG, ultimately followed by an application for an operating licence. Opportunities for public comment would be scheduled for each of the remaining two licensing stages.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News