Pickering Nuclear: A Cracking Bad Idea

Extending the operations of the Pickering Nuclear plant for up to an additional 10 years beyond its designed life of 2014-2016 is a Cracking Bad Idea. This is the position of Sierra Club Canada’s Ontario Chapter as it participates in the current Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s public hearing into the Ontario Power Generation’s application for a renewal of Pickering A and B licenses.  Public hearings begin May 29, 2013 in Pickering, Ontario.

While OPG is confident that its plan provides the technical basis for the continued operation and eventual decommissioning of Pickering B station, Sierra Club is not.  Importantly, the plan is flawed on many levels.  Leaking old pressure tubes, concrete degradation and a 20 percent increase in collective worker radiation exposure in 2012, are just a few of the issues.

An Environmental Assessment is Required

Most troubling is the CNSC’s staff view that an environmental assessment of this proposed activity is not required under current Canadian legislation.  Staff says that because the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act of 2012 did not list this application as a “designated project” under the Act’s regulation, none is required.

But that Act and regulation came into force on July 6, 2012; OPG’s application is dated July 4, 2012 and therefore subject to the act in force at the time.  In other words, the more comprehensive provisions of the 1992 Act should apply. The proposed activity concerning extending operations and decommissioning is subject to an environmental assessment under the older and applicable legislation.

When OPG filed in 2006 to refurbish and continually operate the Pickering B nuclear plant, CNSC staff recommended  and Commissioners required an environmental assessment under the 1992 Act.  When OPG filed an application to decommission Units 2 and 3 of Pickering A, the CNSC in 2008 also required an environmental assessment. The current OPG application to extend the end of life of and the decommissioning the oldest and most troubled commercial reactors in Canada deserves nothing less. We call for a rigorous and public process and assessment that considers transboundary effects and impacts.


For more information, read SCC’s backgrounder