“Oh, meltdown. It’s one of these annoying buzzwords. We prefer to call it an unrequested fission surplus.”Mr. Burns. Simpsons
As the world evolves, and the economy recovers post of COVID, the demand for AC electrical power is ever growing. New technologies being developed require an abundance of electricity, even when they are designed to be efficient and use minimal power, the shear volume of innovations is staggering, so more power is definitely going to be needed.
In Ontario, there are actions underway to enhance the Provincial power grid. On a typical summer day, Ontario uses 16,000 (low), 16,000 to 20,000 (average), or 20,000+ (high) megawatts per day.
Nuclear power provides about 50% of the demand of Ontario’s daily requirements, the hydro electric sources in Niagara Falls generate about 25%, and the remainder of the power is generated from gas / oil, wind, biofuel, and solar generation systems. These percentages vary day by day.
In Canada, there are 19 nuclear reactors operating today with 18 of them located in Ontario. The 19th reactor is in New Brunswick.
The Canadian Nuclear Association estimates that the Canadian nuclear industry employs approximately 30,000 people, and creates another 30,000 jobs indirectly through contracting. The industry generates revenues of approximately $6.6 billion and contributes $1.5 billion in federal and provincial taxes.
In recent years there have been two notable developments in Canada’s nuclear situation: the first based on the 2015 Ontario decision to approve refurbishment (lifetime extension) of the four nuclear units at Darlington and the remaining six units at Bruce (the first two units were already refurbished). This C$26 billion 15-year programme is one of the largest clean energy projects in North America. The first unit at Darlington, unit 2, started its refurbishment outage in October 2016, and was returned to commercial operation in June 2020. The first Bruce unit to undergo refurbishment is unit 6, which started its outage in January 2020.
The second development relates to international leadership regarding small modular reactors (SMRs). In 2018 Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) issued its SMR Roadmap, a plan for nuclear technology development based on SMRs. In December 2019 the provinces of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan agreed to collaborate with Ontario in advancing the development and deployment of SMRs to address climate change, regional energy demand, economic development, and research and innovation opportunities. Along with this, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has a pre-licensing vendor design review process to assess nuclear power plant designs based on the vendor’s reactor technology – for about ten small reactors with a wide range of capacities up to 300 MWe. Also, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) invited expressions of interest resulting in almost 20 proposals for siting an SMR at a CNL-managed site. CNL aims to have a new SMR at its Chalk River site by 2026.
Of the two SMR projects underway in Ontario, the table below provides the current status for these developments.
As of March 2021, Ontario’s total capacity from all sources of generation is about 38,945 MW. It is broken down as follows:
However, over the next decade, the bulk of the Ontario nuclear power generation reactors are scheduled for complex refurbishment. The four reactors at Ontario Power Generating (OPG) facilities in Darlington east of Toronto are planned for a rebuild as are six of the eight reactors at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station (Bruce) facilities north of Kincardine are due for an extensive retrofit.
The result is that a major portion of Ontario’s power generation will be offline over the next decade.
With today’s loads, it seems to be very manageable. However, with the social recovery now in full swing, and business and the economy viewed as generally rapidly accelerating, it is easily predictable that we are facing a power shortage, which will fuel an economic crisis. After the COVID years, Ontario cannot sustain another economic crisis, so this issue is a serious matter that absolutely demands a thoughtful solution to keep the Provincial economic engine firing on all cylinders.
OPG is hoping by as early as 2028 to introduce a special small modular reactor — which is simpler and generates less power than others — to its existing Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, which houses four reactors along Lake Ontario in Durham Region, just around an hour east of Toronto.
The site, which has been powering approximately two million homes across the province since the ’90s, is the only one in Canada that is eligible to expand operations at this time.
While local politicians including Ontario’s Minister of Energy are in support of the new addition, groups such as the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) have launched campaigns in opposition, which have included door-knocking to drum up support and awareness in various Greater Toronto Area cities.
Some feel the SMR type of reactor is costly, experimental, and untested, and terrible for the environment given the byproduct of radioactive waste that cannot be disposed of, and for which there is no long-term safe storage in the region.
“The cost of electricity from this reactor will be two to five times higher than the cost of new wind and solar electricity,” reads a pamphlet distributed door-to-door by the OCAA, which points out the existence of 10 reactors already operating just east of Toronto.
But our number of plants is exactly what OPG says makes us “the clean energy capital of the world” — or poised to be, if the new reactor comes to fruition and provides hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of revenue to the province.
There is still a lot of red tape for OPG to go through before the project can begin, but it is unclear what sway, if any, opposing groups will have on the leaders who already appear to be on board.
Many residents are understandably wary of the technology and its potential dangers, and have opposed it in the Greater Toronto Area in the past.
Robertson, B. (2021). People are trying to stop a new nuclear reactor from being built near Toronto. BlogTO, Freshdaily Inc. Retrieved on July 28, 2021 from, https://www.blogto.com/city/2021/07/people-trying-stop-new-nuclear-reactor-toronto/?fbclid=IwAR0aJMGnu0Hy1JzHU5fsqvHpmtmoGimndeC1JmYqWIHF_DbV_iRrGYgaJ6M
Unknown, (2021). Nuclear Power in Canada. World Nuclear Association. Retrieved on July 28, 2021 from, https://world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/canada-nuclear-power.aspx
About the Author:
Michael Martin is the Vice President of Technology with Metercor Inc., a Smart Meter, IoT, and Smart City systems integrator based in Canada. He has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He was senior executive consultant for 15 years with IBM, where he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology. He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 20 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.