TORONTO – Ontario Power Generation is breathing easier after the Federal Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed a judicial review of the environmental assessment of its $12.8-billion Darlington nuclear refurbishment project.
OPG says the federal court found there were no gaps or errors in the 2013 assessment, which determined the Darlington refurbishment would have no significant adverse effects on the public or the environment.
The utility’s chief nuclear officer, Glenn Jager, says the decision is a vote of confidence in the quality of the work that went into its application and in the licensing process.
OPG announced the project in January, saying it would refurbish the first of four nuclear units at Darlington starting in October.
Darlington was originally supposed to be decommissioned starting in 2020, but the refurbishment is expected to squeeze another 30 years of life out of the four reactors.
The Liberal cabinet approved the refurbishment of one reactor, but OPG will have to get government approval for each of the three other units as they too are rebuilt.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli calls those cabinet approvals “off ramps” that allow the government to halt the refurbishments if it doesn’t like the way things are progressing or if innovations produce cheaper, more efficient ways of generating electricity.
The Darlington rebuild is expected to create up to 11,800 jobs a year at peak of construction, and generate $14.9 billion in economic benefits to Ontario, with 180 companies in the province involved in the CANDU reactor supply chain.
“We’ve been preparing for this project since 2009 and we’re ready to deliver the job safely, on time and on budget,” Jager said in a release.
Ontario is also trying to squeeze another four years out of its aging nuclear reactors at the Pickering generating station, and is also overhauling six other reactors at Bruce Power.
Privately operated Bruce Power announced plans in December for a $13 billion refurbishment of six reactors at the generating station it operates under contract in Kincardine, starting in 2020 — four years later than originally planned.
Ontario generates about 50 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power, and wants to keep it at that levels while adding more wind and solar generation in the mix. The province stopped burning coal to generate electricity in 2014, the first jurisdiction in North America to take such a step.