Latest News

CNSC releases details on Pickering renewal

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

More details into the logic behind the renewal of OPG’s license for Pickering Nuclear Generating Station last summer have been released.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which grants licences for nuclear power plants, recently released a “detailed record of decision” in regards to the renewal.

While the record has been released, it has yet to be made available on the CNSC’s website.

The Oshawa Express was unable to obtain a physical copy of the record by its press deadline.

Last August, the CNSC gave OPG the go-ahead to continue operating the Pickering station through Dec. 31, 2024.

The 10-year license began on Sept. 1 and runs through Aug. 31, 2028.

Operations at the station will continue through Dec. 31, 2024, while decommissioning activities will take place through 2028.

At that time, some nuclear watchdog groups cried foul over the lack of information on why the CNSC granted the license renewal.

“The CNSC issued a decision but didn’t issue the reasons. Those will come later,” Shawn-Patrick Stensil of Greenpeace said in August 2018.

The CNSC initially released a ‘summary record of decision.”

“Based on its consideration of the matter, the Commission concludes that OPG is qualified to carry on the activity that license will authorize. The Commission is of the opinion that OPG, in carrying on that activity, will make adequate provisions for the protection of the environment, the health and safety of persons and the maintenance of national security and measures required to implement international obligations to which Canada has agreed to,” the report reads

The CNSC has also directed the OPG, no later than 2023, to present a “comprehensive mid-term update on its licensed activities at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.”

Hearings on the renewal were held between June 25 and June 29, 2018, where more than 150 individuals and organizations addressed the commission.

Some of these included the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Durham Nuclear Awareness, Greenpeace, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Durham Region, the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce and University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

Michael Binder, CNSC president wrote, “the commission recognizes the concerns expressed by many intervenors during this hearing in respect of the potential for the continuation of commercial operations at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station beyond 2024.”

Binder went on to state the “decision was based on OPG’s application which indicated the intent to cease commercial operations at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station on Dec. 31, 2024.”

In an e-mail to the Express, Stensil, who has reviewed the detailed record of decision, said he had a “few take-aways” from the document, including:

– the commission instructing OPG staff to consider the feasibility of ‘stockpiling’ KI (potassium iodide) pills in all schools within 50 km of Pickering, and to work with stakeholders to expand nuclear safety awareness campaigns in all communities within 50 km of the city

Stensil also noted, in his view, “the commission admitted it won’t carry out an environmental assessment on the closure of Pickering unless required to by the federal government.”

Durham regional council has been putting pressure on both the OPG and CNSC over the past year.

In April, council passed a resolution requesting compensation for the storage of nuclear waste at both Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations “until such time as nuclear waste is stored in a permanent nuclear waste site.”

Currently, OPG is in the midst of planning for a deep geological repository (DGR) for low and medium-level nuclear waste near the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Kincardine, located about 200 km north of London on Lake Huron.

In February 2018, OPG and Kincardine ratified an amended agreement for the repository, originally signed in 2004, under which the municipality will receive compensation.

However, it remains unclear exactly when this site would open, as an environmental assessment is still under review, and the project does not have the required support of local First Nations communities.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization, a federal body, is currently seeking a host for a DGR that would house high-level nuclear waste.

There are currently five communities, two in Midwestern Ontario and three in the province’s north, under consideration for the project.

Former Ajax councillor Colleen Jordan said with high-level nuclear waste to remain at Pickering until 2060, more than 30 years after the planned decommissioning of the plant, Durham will be a ‘host site’ for nuclear waste for almost 100 years.

“We’ve been a host here for many, many years but we’ve received no compensation,” she told The Oshawa Express. “We need it to be recognized, I think 100 years is pretty permanent.”

The region is also pushing for an environmental assessment for the shutdown of Pickering.

In October, Jordan and now-retired Whitby Councillor Joe Drumm brought a motion requesting the assessment be required by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

The pair requested the inspection be performed under the proposed federal Impact Assessment Act.

The Impact Assessment Act “provides for a process for assessing the environmental, health, social and economic effects of designated projects with a view to preventing certain adverse effects and fostering sustainability.”

However, the motion was later tabled until this year to gather more information.

Finally, in November, then regional chair Gerri Lynn O’Connor sent a strongly worded letter to Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Environment Change and Climate Change requesting that Durham Region have a “strong role” in the shutdown of the Pickering plant.

“Almost 50 per cent of the used nuclear fuel in Ontario is presently stored in our region in licensed, ‘interim’ above-ground facilities, directly on the shore of Lake Ontario,” O’Connor wrote in the letter.

With several factors at play, O’Connor said the Pickering plant must be subject to a full impact assessment when the closure of the plant becomes imminent.

“The [impact assessment] must consider and mitigate both onsite concerns and offsite impacts on the surrounding region,” reads the letter. “It is not reasonable that a study of possible decommissioning impacts done at the inception of the project can reliably predict environmental impacts of the future,” she said.

O’ Connor also requested communities hosting nuclear stations such as Durham receive full attention in any impact assessment and be eligible to receive funding to participate in the process.

To her, funding should also be available in regards to any subsequent responsibilities of the region following decommissioning, as it places a burden on the municipality.

“[The] community will need a well-developed emergency response capability,” reads O’Connor’s letter. “It will need the staff capacity to track and participate in the related regulatory processes that continue throughout the lifespan of the facility.”

– with files from Chris Jones