Ontario Clean Air Alliance, residents ask council to support immediate shutdown of Pickering nuclear station
Council receives report for information, makes no decision
PICKERING — A group of people who spoke before council Monday would like to see the Pickering nuclear station dismantled as soon as possible.
The Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) requested the City of Pickering ask the provincial government to begin immediate dismantling and decommissioning of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station after shutdown.
“We believe that immediate decommissioning is in the public interest for four reasons,” OCAA chair Jack Gibbons told council on Dec. 12.
He said it’s the international best practice, and doing so will create jobs, improve Pickering’s waterfront and raise residential property values in the municipality.
Gibbons noted the Maine Yankee Nuclear Station in the U.S. was closed in 1997 and completely decommissioned by 2005.
The plant east of Toronto is currently set to close in 2018, but Ontario Power Generation (OPG) will seek a license extension from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to 2024.
Gibbons said immediate decommissioning after shutdown could lead to the removal of the nuclear station from the Pickering waterfront by 2030.
Gerry Frappier, director general of the CNSC, said under current licensing, the Pickering reactors will be left in dormant storage until 2050 and decomissioning will begin in 2051. The reactors will be released from regulatory control in 2065.
Kevin Powers, OPG’s director of nuclear affairs, said although it was said immediate dismantling and decomissioning is an international best practice, only a minority of countries are doing it.
He said that between 2020 and 2024, up to four nuclear reactors will be shut down for refurbishment at the Darlington and Bruce plants.
“That’s 20 per cent of Ontario’s power,” he said. “And we’re going to need to get that power from somewhere.”
Others supported Gibbons’ request, some also saying licensing should not be extended to 2024.
Janet McNeill, of Durham Nuclear Awareness, said the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 was a wakeup call for communities near other nuclear plants.
“The Fukushima accident was not caused by an earthquake and tsunami,” she said.
She pointed to the the official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, which said the disaster was man-made.
She said a serious nuclear accident can happen anywhere and there are many safety issues with aging CANDU (Canadian Deuterium Uranium) reactors, like Pickering’s. She added the Pickering plant is surrounded by a large population base that’s growing, and she criticized emergency and evacuation plans for Pickering.
Powers said the plant has been operating since 1971, and no one has been harmed.
“That’s not going to change if the plant runs until 2024,” he said.
He added that earlier this year the CNSC gave the plant the highest safety rating in its history.
He said CANDU stations can run up to 70 years and noted that although Pickering was built 45 years ago, four units came into service in the early 1970s and two were refurbished in the early 2000s. The other two units have been safely shut down and put in permanent shut down state. Four other units first came into service in the early to mid 1980s.
“There is a lot of life left in this asset,” he said.
Frappier said before issuing a license, the commission must be satisfied that all onsite and off-site emergency plans and response capabilities at the Pickering station are suitable.
“OPG must demonstrate operations will be safe before they get their licence,” he said.
Powers said continued operations of the Pickering plant are associated with 4,500 jobs across Durham.
Gibbons said according to a study by Torrie Smith Associates, the immediate decommissioning of the Pickering nuclear station would create 16,000 person-years of employment at the Pickering Nuclear Station between now and 2030.
“When indirect jobs are also included, the Torrie Smith study estimates that more than 32,000 person-years of employment will be created,” he said.
He noted the City of Mississauga is working with OPG and the province to transform the site of the Lakeview coal-fired power plant into an urban waterfront community, and the same could be done for Pickering.
Council did not take a stance on the issue, but received the request and correspondence submitted by OCAA for information.