OPG plans SMR construction at Darlington

16 November 2020

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has announced it is resuming planning activities for building new nuclear generating capacity at its Darlington site in Ontario. However, it is now considering the construction of a small modular reactor (SMR) rather than a large conventional reactor, as previously envisaged.

The Darlington site currently houses four 881 MWe Candu pressurised heavy water reactors (Image: OPG)

Darlington is the only site in Canada currently licensed for new nuclear. In 2012, following the acceptance of a thorough environmental assessment which included extensive public involvement, OPG was granted a site preparation licence by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to allow site preparation activities to support future nuclear generation. That licence was valid for 10 years, to 17 August 2022.

The licence meant that pre-construction activities such as clearing, excavating and grading the land adjacent to the company's existing four-unit Darlington station could begin, although no vendor had been selected to undertake such activities. At that time, OPG was in discussions with SNC Lavalin/Candu Energy Inc and Westinghouse regarding their Enhanced Candu 6 and AP1000 reactor designs, respectively.

On 13 November, OPG said it has applied to the CNSC to renew the site preparation licence, which would be one step in a series of licences and regulatory approvals required prior to the construction and operation of a new reactor. Its application will be considered by the CNSC at a public hearing in June 2021. The company will continue Indigenous and public outreach and communications in support of the licence renewal hearing and other project information as it becomes available.

"OPG is paving the way on the development and deployment of the next generation of nuclear power in Canada," said OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick. "A new SMR development on this site as early as 2028 would benefit all Ontarians while further cementing Durham Region and Ontario as the clean energy capital of the world."

No decision on technology has been made yet, OPG said, but it has begun work aimed at identifying potential options.

Last month, OPG announced advancement of engineering and design work with three grid-scale SMR developers: GE Hitachi, Terrestrial Energy and X-energy. It said work with the three developers continues and will help inform OPG on potential options for future deployment. However, it noted it "continues to be open to potential opportunities, including from other developers, in particular if they offer a strong business case that can meet our considerations and requirements for a future project."

According to a study by the Conference Board of Canada, there are strong economic benefits for Ontario from construction and 60 years of operation of a single new reactor unit in the province. It says direct, indirect and spin-off related employment would result in an annual average of about: 700 jobs during project development; 1600 jobs during manufacturing and construction; 200 jobs during operations; and 160 jobs during decommissioning. It would have a positive impact on direct, indirect and induced GDP of more than CAD2.5 billion (USD1.9 billion) and result in an increase of provincial revenues of more than CAD870 million.

The provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan signed a Memorandum of Understanding in December 2019, setting a framework for action on the deployment of SMRs in their respective jurisdictions. In August this year, Alberta also signalled its intention to enter into the MoU.

"Our government is proud to support OPG's efforts to develop cutting-edge SMR technology right here in Durham at the Darlington nuclear station by the end of this decade," said Greg Rickford, minister of energy, northern development and mines, and minister of indigenous affairs. "Ontario and our provincial partners in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta are leading the charge on SMR deployment in Canada and showcasing our nuclear expertise and made-in-Ontario technology to the world."

Provincial commitment welcomed

Bruce Power - operator of the Bruce nuclear power plant, also in Ontario - welcomed the provincial government's ongoing commitment to nuclear power, including development of new nuclear technologies. It said this commitment "continues to expand the range of future opportunities for the Bruce Power site and aligns with the company's strategy to contribute to a Net Zero Canada by 2050.

"Our life-extension programme is a fundamental contributor to providing Ontario's residents and businesses with clean, affordable electricity and life-saving medical isotopes for the long term, which includes advancing new technologies that leverage our current infrastructure," said Bruce Power President and CEO Mike Rencheck. "We have established a capability in this region that will allow us to be home to new technologies, including small modular reactors and hydrogen production."

The Bruce Power Centre for Next Generation Nuclear, launched in August at the Nuclear Innovation Institute, will next year examine the role of new nuclear and fusion energy technology as part of a clean energy future alongside existing Bruce Power nuclear production. This will include grid-scale SMRs with Ontario-based Terrestrial Energy and micro reactors.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News