New Darlington units given environmental OK

26 August 2011

An independent panel appointed by the Canadian government has concluded that the construction of up to four new reactors at the Darlington plant in Ontario is unlikely to cause adverse environmental effects. The government must now decide whether or not to allow the project to proceed.


Ontario Power Generation (OPG) submitted its licence application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in September 2006 for the construction of four new units at Darlington, adding up to 4800 MWe of generating capacity.


Darlington new build space 2
The proposed site for the new reactors, adjacent to the existing Darlington plant (Image: OPG)


OPG predicted in its environmental impact statement that the main impact from building up to four new reactors at Darlington would come from noise and traffic during construction. New reactors at the site would have a certain impact on wildlife due to changes to the shoreline of Lake Ontario, along which the plant is located, while visual impact would only come to local people if the new reactors came with cooling towers. OPG said that impacts from the units would primarily be within three kilometres of the existing four-reactor plant and they could all be managed and mitigated.


In October 2009, a three-member joint review panel was mandated by the minister of the environment and the president of the CNSC to assess the environmental effects of the proposed project and review the application for a licence to prepare a site.


Following a review of the environmental impact statement and a public hearing, the panel has now submitted its report to environment minister Peter Kent. It makes several recommendations highlighting actions that are required to address potential effects on the environment, health, waste management, emergency preparedness and the consequences of a severe accident, nuclear liability insurance and land use.


However, the report concludes that "the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, provided the mitigation measures proposed and commitments made by OPG during the review, and the panel's recommendations are implemented."


The federal government will now decide on whether the project may proceed or not. If it rules in favour of the project, the review panel could make a decision on the issuance of a licence for preparatory work to begin at the Darlington site. The reactor technology to be used for the new units has yet to be selected.


The provincial government of Ontario announced in June 2009 that it had stopped work towards building new reactors. Bids from abroad were deemed unacceptable, it said, and it did not have confidence in the future of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd at that time. Purchasing new reactors was a component of a 20 year energy plan launched by the Ontario government in 2006. The plan calls for the 14,000 MWe of nuclear capacity that provides half of electricity to be maintained, requiring new build to replace retiring facilities. OPG's Darlington site had been selected as the best choice for expansion.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News