The Government of Ontario announced 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).

Once refurbished, Pickering would produce a total of 2,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, equivalent to powering two million homes, helping to meet increasing demand from electrification and fuelling the province’s economic growth.

“With global business looking to expand in jurisdictions with reliable, affordable and clean electricity, a refurbished Pickering Nuclear Generating Station would help Ontario compete for and land more game-changing investments,” said Todd Smith, Minister of Energy. “The refurbishment of Pickering would create thousands of new jobs and help produce at least another 30 years of safe, reliable and clean electricity to power the next major international investment, the new homes we are building and industries as they grow and electrify.”

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. By placing orders in advance with key suppliers, OPG will ensure materials are available when Ontario needs them and help keep costs down. OPG and its business partners will also identify potential Indigenous engagement opportunities in contracting, employment and other economic benefits related to the project.

The province did not state the project’s total budget, but a similar refurbishment of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station is budgeted at $12.8 billion and scheduled for completion in 2026.

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“With new investments and jobs coming to Ontario and the population growing rapidly, our province needs clean and affordable energy that all communities can rely on,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge. “To meet this growing electricity demand, we are expanding Ontario’s generation capacity, conducting Canada’s largest clean energy storage procurement, and expanding energy efficiency programs.”

Based on OPG’s preliminary schedule, the refurbishment of Pickering Nuclear Generation Station is anticipated to be completed by the mid-2030s. According to independent preliminary analysis by the Conference Board of Canada, the refurbishment of Pickering is expected to increase Ontario’s GDP by $19.4 billion over the 11-year project period.

“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. This, combined with Pickering’s outstanding operational performance and Ontario’s thriving economy driving electricity demand, factored into the government’s decision to support OPG’s work toward extending the life of this long-time clean energy workhorse.

“We are thrilled that Pickering, a workhorse of the Canadian energy system, will be refurbished and given the opportunity to provide us with another 30 years of affordable, sustainable, clean energy,” said John Gorman, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association. “This project ensures that we are maintaining and growing the skills and expertise that we have invested in over the past decade with the refurbishment and major component replacement projects at Darlington and Bruce.”

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

Featured image: Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. (OPG)

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