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Canada’s largest clean energy project to provide significant economic boost to Ontario
Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Durham Region has been producing about 20 per cent of Ontario’s electricity for almost a quarter of a century. Throughout its life, the Darlington power plant has produced reliable, low-cost power with virtually no greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) – an environmental pedigree that grew in importance as the province became the first jurisdiction in the world to phase out coal-fired electricity generation.
Ensuring that Ontario continues to be a clean energy leader and supports Canada in its international climate change commitments will require ongoing use of nuclear energy, along with other clean sources such as hydro and renewables. To energize the “middle-aged” Darlington plant and make it a reliable power provider well into the future means a midlife refurbishment is needed, an initiative that is now underway.
“The Darlington refurbishment is Canada’s largest clean energy project and currently the single largest infrastructure project in the country,” says Jeffrey Lyash, OPG’s president and CEO.
“The upgrades will yield not only strong environmental benefits, but massive economic impacts – a legacy that will be felt by many companies and communities across Ontario for years to come,” he adds.
The $12.8 billion refurbishment will allow Darlington to provide 30 or more additional years of safe, reliable baseload power with virtually no smog or carbon emissions. According to a third party environmental study, that is equivalent to removing two million cars a year from Ontario’s roads or 300 million tonnes of avoided carbon emissions.
The Conference Board of Canada estimates that the refurbishment project itself, along with Darlington’s additional 30 years of operation, will boost Ontario’s GDP by approximately $89 billion and increase household income by $8.5 billion.
“There simply is no other form of power that yields as big a positive economic impact,” Lyash says.
The benefits to job creation and to Ontario business revenue are also projected to be significant. The project is expected to create an average of 14,200 new jobs per year from now until 2055.
Approximately 96 per cent of the suppliers are based in the province, and more than 60 companies from more than 25 communities will be directly engaged in the Darlington Refurbishment.
The complex, multi-step project began with the October 2016 safe shutdown of the unit 2 reactor (one of four at the station) and continued into January 2017 with the “defuelling” of unit 2 – the removal and discharge and storage of 6,240 fuel bundles from the 480 fuel channels in the reactor core. This first phase was completed ahead of schedule.
The Darlington refurbishment is Canada’s largest clean energy project and currently the single largest infrastructure project in the country.” Jeffrey Lyash, President and CEO, Ontario Power Generation
The complete refurbishment of all four units is scheduled for completion in 2026.
“OPG and our partners have logged years of detailed planning and built a state-ofthe-art training facility to help ensure this project is completed safely, on schedule and on budget,” says Lyash.
The significant life extension of Darlington and other nuclear plants is also going to help other components of the Ontario economy make environmental strides, according to John Barrett, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association.
“Ontario has invested and will continue to invest substantial money to build a clean electricity system,” he says. “At the same time, we continue to have high emissions from important sectors such as transportation and industrial production.”
However, “electrification” is coming to these sectors, Barrett explains, with more electric vehicles and automated manufacturing that is driven by electrical power.
As electricity becomes more important for the operation of cars and factories, these economic areas can also contribute more to fighting climate change, he explains.
“This is a great opportunity, but it’s feasible only when you have non-emitting electricity. In the case of Ontario, we have invested in that clean electricity, so we can make strong progress across the economy.”