Pickering gets five-year extension past its original design life—but is on a shorter leash
he 40-year-old Pickering nuclear power plant will continue supplying power for another five years without a major refit – providing it meets several conditions.
An extension of the generating station’s operating license to August 31, 2018, was granted to Ontario Power Generation on Friday by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, pushing the plant 18 per cent past its original design life.
But the nuclear regulator, which had concerns during several days of public hearings last spring about the aging plant’s pressure tubes and emergency evacuation plans, is placing limits on the operation.
“I think they made the right decision putting Pickering on a shorter leash,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil of Greenpeace.
Nuclear plants supply about half of Ontario’s power.
During the hearings in May, a number of environmentalists and local residents raised concerns about the ability of the 1970s-era Pickering plant to continue operating safely and feared there wasn’t enough full-scale emergency planning for evacuations if an accident were to happen.
“It’s the oldest nuclear power station in Canada and has the highest population density around it. That’s why the evacuation issue keeps coming up,” Stensil said.
OPG officials insisted the plant can go for 247,000 hours with the existing pressure tubes, which are in the reactor core and hold uranium fuel bundles, arguing reactors can be quickly and safely shut down if leaks develop.
In 2012, the six units at Pickering operated a capacity of 77.8 per cent, their best performance since 2002, OPG said.
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