Darlington nuclear project moves

05 October 2009

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has submitted its environmental impact assessment of new reactors at Darlington, although government plans to build are on hold.


Darlington new build space 2
Where up to four new reactors could be
built. The existing Darlington plant's
four reactors are in the background
The document, passed to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) at the end of September, predicted the main impact from building up to four new reactors at Darlington would come from noise and traffic during construction.


The submission is to support "future decisions" by government, despite the disaster of an invitation for bids to build new reactor units. After inviting Areva, Westinghouse and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) to bids to build the reactors, only AECL's bid was acceptable, the Ontario provincial government said in June. This is thought to be because the tender asked for the overall absolute expenditure required for the reactors without considering income from the power they would generate over their 60-year lifespans. Not surprisingly, the result seemed overly expensive to say the least.


The Darlington project is the one of three in Ontario to end abruptly over the last year. Bruce Power's applications to CNSC for new nuclear plants at Bruce C and Nanticoke have both been withdrawn, while power demand in Ontario has dropped with the loss of manufacturing work, notably in the carmaking industry.


Elsewhere in Canada there are moves for nuclear power to be introduced to Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces, but these have not progressed as far as any formal applications to CNSC.


Environmental impact


New reactors at Darlington 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. These, however, should not be necessary due to the plant's lakeside position, and OPG has said it would prefer to use direct cooling using water from the lake instead.


OPG said that impacts from would be primarily within 3 kilometres of the existing four-reactor plant and they could all be managed and mitigated. Socio-economic benefits would include 1400 administration, payroll and purchasing jobs for the first two units, with up to 2800 jobs in total if four reactors were built. These jobs would last until about 2075, at which point OPG would begin to close and decommission the reactors with the goal of making the site available for other company uses.


A number of power reactors totalling up to 4800 MWe in generating capacity are proposed for the site, directly adjacent to the existing four-reactor Darlington nuclear power plant that provides 20% of Ontario's electricity. It is located on the north shore of Lake Ontatio, about 60 kilometres east of Toronto and 25 kilometres east of another nuclear power plant, Pickering.


Submission of the assessment is the latest milestone in the new build project. The CNSC should announce how long it will take to review the document this month, with public comment opportunities extending into September 2010. After that a review panel will report to government on the suitability of the project around December 2010 and, given favourable conclusions, a licence for OPG to prepare the site for build could be issued in April 2011.


Meanwhile, OPG could in January 2010 submit an application for a license to actually construct the reactors, which will take the CNSC about two years to decide on.