The Pickering Nuclear Station will end electricity production in December 2024 after 53 years of operation. Pickering is one of the world’s oldest nuclear stations and is surrounded by more people, within 30 km, than any other nuclear plant in North America.
When the plant closes, there will be a huge opportunity to re-imagine the Pickering waterfront and how to use the plant’s 500 acre site. But the first step will be ensuring that the plant is immediately dismantled. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that immediate dismantling is “the preferred decommissioning strategy” for nuclear plants. But instead, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is proposing to defer the dismantling of the Pickering Nuclear Station for 30 years, largely to defer costs.
By immediately dismantling the nuclear plant, Pickering can create a bold new waterfront area within a decade that includes parks, recreation facilities, entertainment venues, businesses or even new homes. Immediate dismantling is now common in the United States, where six nuclear plants have been completely demolished within a decade after closing.
In Mississauga, the site of the former Lakeview coal-fired generating station is being turned into a new waterfront community. The same opportunity exists for Pickering, but we need to urge our civic and provincial leaders to ensure that Pickering residents are not left waiting a generation or more for the opportunity to arrive.
Immediate dismantling: The responsible choice
Immediate dismantling of the Pickering Nuclear Plant has a number of advantages:
- It will allow existing Pickering Nuclear Station workers, who know this one-of-a-kind station best, to be involved in its dismantling.
- It will create 16,000 person years of direct employment and more than 16,000 years of indirect employment between 2024 and 2034.
- It will permit most of the 500-acre waterfront site to be returned to the local community by 2034 for parkland, recreational facilities, dining, entertainment, housing and offices.
- OPG already has more than enough funds to pay for immediate dismantling.
A secure solution for Pickering’s radioactive waste
When the Pickering Nuclear Station closes, the total radioactivity of its spent nuclear fuel, which is stored on-site, will be more than 200 times greater than the total radiation released to the atmosphere by the Fukushima accident in 2011.
This waste will likely be stored on-site for the next 60-100 years based on current projections for development of a long-term offsite waste storage facility. Keeping it in commercial storage buildings on the shore of Lake Ontario is irresponsible. This waste should be moved into a highly secure, heavily reinforced storage facility further back from the lake. OPG has close to $10 billion in its waste storage fund, more than enough to pay for the construction of a secure facility and to create many good jobs in the process.