Building Two New Nuclear Reactors

The government had announced previously that two new nuclear units at Darlington would not be needed at this time “because the demand for electricity has not grown as expected due to changes in the economy and gains in conservation and energy efficiency.”

The government has chosen instead to continue with more unchartered conservation programs and the planned expansion of more expensive wind, solar and natural gas generation. Regional energy planning in 21 different areas across the province will add another layer of cost, complexity and uncertainty.

Ontario’s current temporary electricity generation surplus is creating the false comfort that conservation and so-called demand management will address increased demand for electricity. Ontarians should remember that it was only eight years ago that our province faced significant power shortages.

The closure of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in 2020 will remove 3,000 megawatts of reliable greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-free electricity from Ontario’s supply. Recovery in the manufacturing sector, the increasing electrification of Ontario’s transportation system and a projected population increase of 3.9 million people by 2036 will cause electricity demand to rise again.

Proceeding with this investment would deliver significant environmental and economic benefits to Ontario.

Environmental Benefits:

  • CANDU nuclear reactors have safely provided affordable low-carbon electricity to Ontario homes and businesses for over fifty years.
  • Annually, Canada’s nuclear reactors help avoid about 90 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, about the same amount as taking 81 percent of Canada’s cars off the road.
  • Two new 1000-megawatt reactors would help replace the 3,200 megawatts of GHG emission-free base load production that will be lost when the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station is scheduled to close in 2020.
  • The safe, GHG emission-free, reliable 24/7 power provided by CANDU reactors aligns well with the overnight, off-peak charging of electric vehicles.
  • CANDU reactors also provide GHG emission-free electricity that can help backstop climate change-vulnerable hydroelectric generation and be exported to our fossil fuel-dependent U.S. neighbours.
  • A recent study by Strategic Policy Economics found that building two new reactors at the Darlington site along with refurbishing Ontario’s nuclear reactors would contribute to reducing GHG emissions by 108 million tonnes more than continuing to build additional wind generation with natural gas backup - 80 percent less GHG emissions.

Economic Benefits:

  • These investments would leverage Canada’s $6 billion-a-year nuclear industry, its 160 supply chain companies, 60,000 direct and indirect jobs and millions a year in research and development most of which is located Ontario.
  • According to a recent analysis by Strategic Policy Economics, building two new nuclear reactors at Darlington (along with refurbishing Ontario’s nuclear reactors) would contribute an estimated $60 billion net incremental benefit to Ontario’s economy compared to proceeding with more wind generation.
  • The $60 billion net incremental benefit includes $27 billion in savings to ratepayers and $29 billion in direct investment in Ontario, including the creation of 100,000 more person years of employment in high-value jobs including the advanced manufacturing sector.
  • Some form of carbon pricing, as we have seen in British Columbia would even further tip the scales in favour of nuclear generation.
  • CANDU reactors, 29 of which have been constructed in seven countries, are one of Canada’s few high-tech exports.
  • A 2012 Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters study showed that building two Enhanced CANDU 6 reactors outside of Canada supports over 2,200 person years of work and over $2.5 billion in economic activity here in Canada.
  • A CANDU reactor built outside of Canada has major economic benefits here at home. The proportion of Canadian content is estimated at 69 percent in equipment, and 76 percent in engineering and procurement.
  • CANDU’s distinctive design uses natural rather than enriched uranium, has the unique ability to reuse fuel from other reactor technologies, can use thorium unlike other reactor types (a big advantage in the Asian market) and is suitable for small electricity grid systems.
  • By continuing to support this unique reactor design with its inherent competitive advantages, our provincial and federal leadership can better position Ontario and Canada for the estimated $1 trillion global nuclear market.