Keeping the Pickering nuclear plant open and operating until 2024 makes economic sense, says a new report sponsored by Ontario Power Generation.
The study, released Tuesday by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis, says the move would add a total $12.3 billion to Ontario’s GDP and support 7,600 jobs a year at both the station as well as with suppliers.
The study also touts the lower cost of nuclear power, and that it fits in with the province’s plans to curb carbon emissions.
“The nuclear industry contributes to the Ontario economy by creating jobs, supporting a large-scale supply chain, and stabilizes the production of power contribution to our energy security,” it says.
The Pickering site — which supplies power for 1.5 million homes every day — is responsible for 14 per cent of electricity in the province.
“Based on the results of this study, Pickering’s continued operation to 2024 would be a benefit to Ontario’s economy, it’s climate change goals and the stability of the energy system,” says the report, which also notes the “considerable supply chain jobs” — including those at engineering firms and in tooling systems — as well as for a medical isotope that’s used to sterilize hospital gowns and equipment.
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has applied to the federal nuclear safety commission to extend operations at Pickering. The site has six reactors, two of which are expected to be shut down in 2022, and the remaining four remain in use until 2024. The first four Pickering reactors began operating in 1971, according to OPG.
The report did not assess safety issues at the ageing plant — though it does note the site has been “positively assessed twice over” — and assumes no service disruptions at the station.
“Nuclear power is the backbone of Ontario’s electricity system, providing reliable electricity to 1.5 million homes a day,” said Rocco Rossi, president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.”
He told the Star the economic impact of Pickering is “remarkable” and said that especially as two other nuclear sites — Darlington and Bruce — undergo refurbishment, “it’s critical to keep this 14 per cent.”
Paul Smetanin, head of Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis, said their assessment was independent, and called Pickering a “key contributor to the Ontario economy through job retainment and creation from associated economic activity while also systemically ensuring the reasonableness of electricity costs, which can impact housing affordability in the region.”
He said the jobs it creates — directly and indirectly — tend to pay higher wages, and “this has a ripple effect not just in Pickering but across the entire province … go east to west across the province, and the economic fingerprint of the plant is felt.”
Amid criticisms about the oversupply of electricity in Ontario, he said “when you start to look out to 2024, it’s the sort of commodity resource that you don’t want to be undersupplied.”
Last month, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance released a report detailing how a Fukushima-type meltdown in Pickering could affect the area, on the anniversary of the nuclear disaster in Japan.
The Star’s Tess Kalinowski reported that the non-profit group wants Ontario to shut down the oldest nuclear generating station in the province, and instead use water-generated electricity from Hydro Quebec.
The Pickering plant has been costly to maintain — with at least a $200 million price tag in the past eight years.
Source: Toronto Star