Refurbishment is a go!

On Tuesday, January 30th, 2024, the Ontario government gathered OPG staff, the media, representatives from various unions, members of Canadians for Nuclear Energy (C4NE) and the IESO to formerly announce their approval of the plan to refurbish Pickering B.

Aspects of the plan, gleaned from OPG staff the eve before the announcement, are similar to the Bruce MCR, which will include control system upgrades, steam generator replacement and, unique to this project, the addition of a deep-water inlet like is used at Darlington and Bruce, eliminating the algae bloom issue that can impact the plant during the summer months.

The government has approved $2BN of initial spending to come up with engineering plans and order parts for the project. No formal price tag for the overall refurbishment has been provided, but it would be safe to assume that it would be similar to the costs of the Bruce MCR, given the similarities.

OPG gears up for refurbishment

After the OPG board approved the refurbishment of Pickering B, putting the ball back in the court of the same government who requested the feasibility study, pre-refurbishment work is now underway at the plant.

CBC has published a video giving a virtual tour of the facility (linked below) which includes the following quote: “What you are looking at is the digital control computer for Unit 5, it’s 80’s technology, we are looking to refurbish and replace with more modern technology as we move into refurbishment.”

So incredible to see the success of our efforts playing out as OPG begins pre-refurbishment activities at this beautiful staple of Ontario’s clean energy system.

Pickering B refurbishment evaluation

Thanks to the hard work on the Save Pickering campaign by Canadians For Nuclear Energy (C4NE), on September 29th, 2022 the Ontario government directed OPG to perform a feasibility assessment on the refurbishment and continued operation of Pickering B and also asked to extend the operation of the B units to 2026. The feasibility study is to be completed by late 2023.

Refurbishment will allow the facility run until 2075.


More details can be found here:

Canadians for Nuclear Energy call for action

In a detailed report launched by the group Canadians for Nuclear Energy, the case is made for the life extension and refurbishment of Pickering B as the least expensive path to secure 3+GW of emissions-free generation going forward.

Losing Pickering is bigger than losing all the generating capacity at Niagara Falls, a reference that may help people understand the scale.

Ontario faces an energy crossroad. Its world-class low-carbon grid is unprepared for the loss of 3,100 megawatts of clean, reliable power from the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, yet the station is scheduled to close in 2025. Extending the life of the station would secure years of carbon-free electricity and thousands of high-quality jobs in STEM, manufacturing, business, and skilled trades.

Cold snaps – Nuclear delivers

We experienced an extremely cold January this year with numerous periods where the temperature was below -20C. At one point, it was -32C here locally. Quebec demand exceeded supply for a number of these events and they were importing power from Ontario, power we had an abundance of thanks to nuclear, hydro and gas capacity, as wind was nowhere to be found.

If we go back to Wednesday the 12th of January, wind collapsed for ~36 hours, 848MW and dropping at 4PM, not recovering until 4AM Friday. This was also when Quebec demand exceeded supply. Gas was ~5,600MW; so over 8GW without Pickering.

Early on the 20th, wind collapsed again, but gas demand was even higher, crossing 7,000MW and not dropping below 5,000MW until the 22nd. 43 hours. Without Pickering that would have been 9,700MW; >8,600MW for the duration; 370GWh.

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance has made several claims lately that are not based in reality:

  • Pickering can be replaced by Quebec imports and conservation
  • Gas can be replaced by Quebec imports and conservation
  • V2G battery technology can be used to replace gas peaking capacity

During extreme hot and cold events, shutting off air conditioning or heating (conservation) could be fatal for the elderly and other vulnerable members of our society. These events are not experienced in a vacuum, Quebec and Ontario were both hit with the same cold snap and Quebec was pushed beyond their supply capability, even pleading for residents to turn down their heat to try and curb demand.

60% of Ontario’s heat is provided by natural gas; the vast majority by fossil fuels including propane and oil. We are being encouraged to electrify heating and transport, both of these things will increase demand beyond where it is presently. In the above scenario, Ontario had no alternative but to burn gas, as that was the only reliable source available beyond nuclear and hydro. Conservation was not an option and you can’t import what isn’t there, made more obvious by the fact we were already exporting to that same party.

This brings us to the storage claim. Jack Gibbons has stated that 1 million electric F-150’s could provide double the capacity of Ontario’s existing gas generation assets.

  • The F-150 Lightning, in the highest trims, has the ability provide 9.6kW of electricity, ergo, 1 million of these would be 9,600MW. Ontario has 10,515MW of gas capacity.
  • The F-150 Lightning, with the extended range battery, has a capacity of 131kWh.
  • That is 13hrs of electricity at full load, fully draining all 1 million trucks, assuming they were all fully charged at the onset and all remained connected for the duration.
  • Simplifying this further, this is 131GWh of available capacity. Between the 20th and 22nd Ontario would have needed 370GWh to replace gas + Pickering, but both gas usage and Pickering output didn’t stop after the 22nd just because the wind picked back up.

Ontario will need more clean, reliable power in the future as we increase electrification. We clearly can’t rely on Quebec, nor should we, they do not expect us to. During the summer, the relationship is such that Ontario is a net importer, during the winter, we are a net exporter. This works for both provinces. Hydro is mostly tapped-out in Ontario with very little development potential. Wind doesn’t work during periods of high demand, and weeks-long storage has no economic case with batteries. Pumped hydro storage is widely unpopular, with even the small single Meaford project facing widespread opposition. This brings us back to nuclear and why it is absolutely idiotic for us to be shuttering a plant with 40+ more years left in it and replacing it with gas generation. With the world in the state that it is and the consensus that we must reduce emissions, Ontario already did! We phased-out coal, using nuclear. Prematurely retiring 1/4 of that capacity is criminal and why we must Save Pickering.

Pickering back to full capacity for winter

After having a several units down for maintenance during the low demand fall season, each were returned to service with the last unit, Unit 7, coming back online December 28th. This was timely, as on January 3rd, temperatures were down to -20C in some parts of Ontario and wind output had predictably collapsed.


France commits to new build nuclear

A bold new commitment from Macron as Europe has battled with a continent-wide wind lull, soaring gas prices and lack of supply, the result of which has many nations falling back on coal. France, whose original nuclear build-out was designed to eliminate foreign resource dependence, has concluded from these recent events that they must build even more nuclear capacity to ensure that they are insulated from this going forward.

Wind doesn’t work

As an August heat wave rolls through, wind generation has decided to take a vacation. This emphasizes the point made numerous times by those knowledgeable on the issue that wind produces out of phase with demand, making it a low value generator with next to no capacity value. As Scott Luft noted on twitter: “I believe an electricity supply mix should be about reliability in meeting demand.” which wind utterly fails at doing. Pickering on the other hand, is running wide-open and providing Ontario with 3GW of reliable electricity.

Pickering returns to full capacity for the high demand summer months

As the heat of the summer approaches Pickering B Unit 8 is back in service, putting the site at full capacity (3,100MW). During the period of peak demand today Ontario’s 5,000MW wind fleet was producing approximately half the output of one Pickering unit, a common theme in the summer months where wind produces grossly out of phase with demand. Gas use has been high lately with a unit off at both Darlington and Bruce for refurbishment, so this return to service of Pickering 8 will provide some much needed relief on that front, driving Ontario emissions down, regardless of the weather.