Pickering A+B Nuclear Generating Station

by: Jackie
contact: jselick@hotmail.com
14:19 Mar 13 2014 Pickering Nuclear Generating Station

Why should we work towards a Great Lakes Commons and how ?
The Pickering A+B Nuclear Generating Station is Canada’s oldest nuclear plant, located 35 kilometers east of Toronto on the north shore of Lake Ontario. The plant’s 6 of 8 remaining CANDU (Canada Deuterium Uranium) reactors produce a total output of 3,100 MW, enough power to run a city of 1.5 million. It has been generating electricity since the early 1970’s and is due to be shut down in 2014/15 when it reaches the end of its design life.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has requested and received a license from the CNSC to keep the plant open until 2019, though it cannot surpass the CANDU’s designed capacity until a new safety assessment is conducted in light of the events that occurred at Fukushima. This will require a follow-up hearing in 2014 with a full risk assessment before the extension is allowed.

CANDUs are designed for 210,000 effective full power hours but OPG wants extend the use of the reactors past their design life to run for 247,000 hours. Although a safety assessment is to be conducted before its hours are extended, there is poor understanding of what sort of deterioration can happen within the reactors when they are pushed past their limits. The pressure tubes in the reactor core that hold uranium fuel bundles can be greatly affected by these added work hours. The small diameter piping would be unable to cool under immense pressure and could cause reactor failure. No reactor in North America has surpassed a CANDU’s 210,000 hour design life because of these uncertainties.
In 2011 there was a sizable leak from one of the Pickering A reactors which dumped 73,000 tons of de-mineralized water into Lake Ontario.

A study conducted by the Power Advisory for the Ontario Energy Board states that the Pickering A+B reactors have among the worst (and on some measures the worst) operating record across all plants in the Ontario data base. Both A and B reactor sets are in the bottom quartile for reliability and value for money.

The CNSC has bypassed the need for a full-scale environmental assessment of the Pickering Plant and surrounding area. The last assessment conducted by the facility was in 2007; since then no major assessment has occurred despite a water leak that occurred in 2011. Sierra Club reports have noted concerns of trans-boundary air and water pollution occurring around Pickering A+B. The age of the plant could lead to future complications of trans-boundary contamination that failed to be considered during Pickering’s 2007 assessment.

To appease many interest groups and concerned citizens, Pickering A+B officials have set up warning sirens in 3- and 10-kilometer radiuses around the plant. Potassium iodide pills have also been distributed to pharmacies in the area as a precaution against radioactive iodine poisoning. However, the most damaging aspects of nuclear energy use occur years later.

If all six reactors pass a full risk assessment during the 2014 hearing, the plant will need to be refurbished, costing OPG hundreds of millions to keep it running until 2019. This is an exorbitant cost for an outdated, invasive, and damaging energy source.

Written by Renee Sferrazza for OCAA

Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) aims to move Ontario to a 100% renewable electricity grid by 2030. This would mean replacing our 3 nuclear stations, which sit on the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Ontario, with green energy. We can’t afford a Fukushima on one of our Great Lakes. To avoid the Pickering extension and Darlington rebuild projects, we could invest in lower cost conservation and water power imports from Quebec. And then the Bruce rebuild could be replaced with a suite of green energy options including conservation, water, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, biogas etc.
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