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Canada - Darlington refurbishment - $6-10-billion for 25-30 more years #nuclear #antinuc hearing preview

12/01/12

Canada - Darlington refurbishment - $6-10-billion for 25-30 more years #nuclear #antinuc hearing preview

Ontario Power Generation wants to refurbish the four nuclear plants at Darlington. The plants provide approximately 20% of Ontario's power. The work -- in effect rebuilding the heart of the reactor -- involves removing and replacing 480 double-walled horizontal tubes which contain the uranium fuel pellets, and the the feeder tubes that circulate the heavy water to the steam generator and back.

Two years ago, Ontario's ministry of energy gave a ballpark cost estimate of $6 to $10 billion. OPG won't make a hard estimate until 2015 - by which time it says it will have worked out an hour-by-hour schedule for the project.

Starting Monday, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is holding public hearings on the proposal, and two other matters as well -- OPG is asking for an extension of its operating license, and a license to continue storing spent fuel on the site. The hearings will be held at Hope Fellowship church in Courtice, near Oshawa, in southern Ontario, and are expected to last for four days. You can watch the hearings live on the web here, starting at 9 am eastern time Monday. Dozens of groups and individuals who both oppose and support the project have already lined up to address the hearings.

"Refurbishment will enable [Darlington] to continue its excellent performance for another 25-30 years", OPG CEO Tom Mitchell said in a recent speech. "That's 25-30 more years of reliable, low-emission, large-scale baseload power - generated at an affordable cost", he added.

There are 93 intervenors scheduled to testify at the hearings. Toronto Star story today quotes some opponents of the project:

* Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Greenpeace nuclear campaigner: "This project will lock Ontario into a reliance on nuclear power until 2055." It will also limit Ontario's ability to develop renewable power, he said. Over-all demand for power is shrinking, he said; if nuclear is awarded a big block of the supply it will crowd out space for wind, solar and other renewables, he said. The scope of next week's hearings don't provide for discussion of alternative supplies, he said. "The project comes with a lot of risks, but we never have a discussion about the alternatives."

* The Canadian Environmental Law Association: OPG's planning hasn't considered the possibility of severe accidents with a wide-spread release of radiation. "The province of Ontario must develop detailed evacuation plans for at least 20 to 30 km areas around Darlington - not just 10 km - until 2055, as well as more detailed plans for 50 to 80 km," it says in its brief. It has doubts about extending the life of the plant at all, because of the growth around the site: "The suitability of the Darlington site must be re-evaluated in light of growing population and the regular occurrence of nuclear accidents internationally."

* Sierra Club of Canada: "To advocate or authorize the building of new or extended nuclear reactors at the Darlington site, knowing what has happened at Chernobyl and at Fukushima, it is not only unwise but could be seen as a crime against current and future generations."

* Larraine Roulston: "I personally have lost faith in the Nuclear Industry... Accidents are bound to happen, whether they be human error or one of a natural disaster engulfing a nuclear plant. For the sake of the next generation, it is time we turned our attention towards energy conservation and green alternatives."

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is one of the intervenors. The ten minutes they are allowed for comment isn't nearly enough time to adequately convey even the most important conclusions from 11-months worth of research by four government-funded independent consultants. An op ed from Waterkeeper's Krystyn Tully yesterday points to some issues they may raise:

* "Energy demand is plummeting in Ontario, reports the National Post. There are more affordable, flexible alternatives to nuclear power, energy experts tell the Toronto Star. Energy imports could eliminate Ontario’s reliance on nuclear energy, Conservative Opposition Leader Tim Hudak told Windsor-area residents just last week." [nuclear.COMment: It's true enough that the National Post article describes electricity demand as down, but it attributes that to the shuttering of manufacturing in the province. Maybe Waterkeeper thinks Ontario should plan on economic disaster being the new normal?]

* "Darlington nuclear power plant kills fish. Lots of them. Internationally-recognized authorities on nuclear power plants agree that the out-dated technology included in the rebuild design is the most environmentally destructive technology on the market. Its impacts include: killing endangered fish; threatening the reproductive efforts of other vulnerable species; killing increasingly large numbers of the forage fish that sustain Lake Ontario’s complex food web; futher destroying nearshore habitat in an area that’s already severely stressed and polluted."

* "Darlington nuclear wastes water. Lots of it. The Darlington nuclear power plant sucks in enormous amounts of water, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, the plant sucks up enough water to drain an Olypmic-sized swimming pool in 15 seconds. The water flows through the plant once and is then dumped, at a higher temperature, back out into Lake Ontario... The federal government agrees that it is possible to save fish and water. They just don’t believe it is important enough. CNSC and Department of Fisheries and Oceans say they agree that using newer, readily-available cooling water technology to 'close the loop' of water flowing in and out of the plant would save fish and save water. They just don’t think it is important now and, if it ever becomes important in the future, they will 'adapt' then."

OPG is building a full-scale mock-up of a reactor near the plant so work crews can rehearse their tasks.

Sources:
* John Spears (Toronto Star business reporter), "Ontario's nuclear debate re-ignites | OPG betting billions on Darlington as overhaul hearings begin", Toronto Star, Dec 1, 2012, p. S13
* Krystyn Tully (Waterkeeper.ca Weekly), "7 things you need to know about the Darlington nuclear refurbishment", NorthumberlandView.ca, Nov 30, 2012

Discuss issues related to this story at http://www.nuclear.com/archive/2012/12/01/20121201-004.html

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