The Ontario government says it is supporting Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) plan to proceed with the next steps toward refurbishing Pickering Nuclear Generating Station’s “B” units (units 5-8), providing 2,000 MW once work is complete.

Refurbishing work is estimated to be complete in the mid-2030s, and could allow the facility to operate an additional 30 years, the Ontario government said.

OPG will now proceed with the Project Initiation Phase of refurbishment which will last through the end of 2024. The government is supporting OPG’s $2 billion budget for this phase which includes engineering and design work as well as securing long-lead components that can require years for manufacturing.

In 2022, the Ontario government said it asked OPG to conduct a feasibility study on the potential for refurbishing Units 5 through 8. The last feasibility study was conducted between 2006 and 2009. OPG said while there was support for the refurbishment at that time, it didn’t happen because of challenging economics, stagnant electricity demand and anticipated supply chain issues and costs.

In September 2022, Ontario announced that OPG would continue to safely operate the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station through September 2026, pending CNSC approval. Further operation of Pickering Nuclear Generating Station beyond September 2026 would require a complete refurbishment. In 2023 the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station recorded its highest generation output since 2019 and its second-highest output ever as a six-unit station.

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the highly skilled Pickering Nuclear team, whose focus on safety and performance allows the station to reliably power the equivalent of more than two million Ontario homes,” said Ken Hartwick, OPG President and CEO. “Our experience refurbishing Darlington, a highly complex project that remains on time and on budget, will be invaluable as we begin the work necessary so Pickering can continue to help meet the growing electricity demands of this thriving province for another three-plus decades.”

The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) concluded that the Pickering refurbishment would provide better overall ratepayer value in terms of costs and risks when compared against non-emitting generation alternatives, the Ontario government said.

Ontario will follow a multi-phase approvals process, which the government said is meant to ensure the Pickering refurbishment project only proceeds if it is in the best interests of Ontario and its ratepayers.

The refurbishment of Pickering Nuclear Generating Station’s “B” units is also subject to regulatory approval by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The CNSC is the federal nuclear regulator responsible for licensing nuclear power plants and overseeing their safe operation in Canada.

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