Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pickering nuclear plant should not be extended

It's not often that I blog about articles in the Toronto Star, which I don't usually find very reliable, objective or well-written. But this one is at least written by Jack Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance and not by staff reporters. The reason I happened to read the article at all was in response to a flyer I received from the Close Pickering campaign (yes, organized by the Ontario Clean Air Alliance).
The skinny is that the Ontario Liberal government, once a leading light in renewable power development, appears to be giving serious consideration to extending the life of Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, which is located just 25km from where I am sitting right now, along the coast of Lake Ontario. Patching up the 4th oldest nuclear station still operating in North America (and 7th oldest in the world) in the hopes that it will run for an additional 10 years, is expected to cost around $300 million. The plant's original operating licence was for 42 years, expiring in 2013, and it has already been extended once, to 2018. The province is now considering extending the license again, until 2028, when it will be no less than 57 years old. That is the same age as I am currently, and I know how I feel!
2.2 million people live within 30km of the Pickering plant (about twice as many as live near the next most urban nuclear power station in North America, Indian Point in New York), and pretty much the whole of Metropolitan Toronto lies with 50km. Evacuation in the event of an emergency would be a nightmare, and even Ontario Power Generation's own research shows that the local populace has no idea what they should do in such an eventuality, and are very unlikely to follow emergency protocols when push comes to shove anyway.
Pickering is also one of the highest cost nuclear plants on the continent, and currently sucks up $900 million in "out-of-market" subsidies each year, all of which is reflected in the high local electricity prices (prices which critics usually blame on Ontario's recent foray into renewable energy). The Pickering plant is no longer even needed. Ontario now has a substantial electricity surplus, and in 2015 the province exported more power than Pickering produced, and at subsidized prices to boot! Plus, anyway, there are many more palatable alternatives available to Ontario, including wind, solar, biomass and imported hydroelectric power from Quebec. Decommissioning and deconstruction of the plant is expected to create 16,000 jobs, so, as far as I am concerned, let's start now (or at the latest 2018).
All things considered, then, it is bewildering that the province is even considering throwing good money after bad, and keeping the Pickering plant operating well outside its design parameters. I would encourage everyone to go to close-pickering.ca to sign the petition against this madness.

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