Tag Archives: Ontario

CNA2017

Op-Ed: Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan: Why Pickering Matters

Ontarians and their government are completing a review of the province’s Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) to guide energy decision-making over the next three years to 2019. As anticipated in the previous LTEP (2013-16), the government of Ontario announced in December 2015 plans for the refurbishment of 10 power reactors at the Darlington and Bruce Nuclear Generating… read more »

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Ontario Got Rid of Coal, But Who’s to Thank?

There’s a lot of talk about what actually contributed to the successful elimination of coal-fired electricity in Ontario. Was it oil and gas? Wind and solar? Restructuring and conservation? Additional nuclear? Advocates for each group would have you believe that their guys did the heavy lifting, but in reality, everyone played an important part.

One of the most accurate (though not necessarily simplest) ways to look at the data is to consider coal’s lost output from the time Ontario started actively phasing it out in 2006 until it was completely eliminated in 2014, and what energy sources (or conservation efforts) replaced it.

Coal plants produced 34.5 TWh in 2005, and a total of 159.4 TWh between 2006 and 2014. That means that approximately 151.1 TWh had to be made up over the course of 9 years.

(34.5 x 9) – 159.4 = 151.1

The chart below shows what energy sources increased as a function of lost coal output – as well as lost output from other sources (since it’s impossible to separate them at this level).

For example, coal production decreased from 34.5 TWh in 2005 to 28.7 in 2006. That’s a 5.7 TWh decrease in coal, which was met with increases of 5.5 TWh of nuclear, 2.5 of diesel, 0.4 of hydro and 0.1 of wind. It was also met with a 1.9 TWh decrease in natural gas and a 0.9 decline in demand.

5.5 + 2.5 + 0.4 + 0.1 – 1.9 – 0.9 = 5.7

coal-graph1

As you can see, diesel played a small part early on, but was quickly eliminated. In 2009, the global financial crisis caused a decline in energy consumption, however usage increased as the economy recovered. Natural gas made up for the largest share of lost coal between 2010 and 2012, but nuclear was clearly the main reason that Ontario was able to meet its goal in the end.

Nuclear’s strong support in the final years of coal was due mainly to the fact that Bruce Power Units 1 and 2 came back online in 2012, providing about 11 additional TWh annually to the grid.

If you look at the results in terms of total output replaced from 2006 to 2014, nuclear made up 69.6 TWh, which represents about 44% of the whole. Natural gas made up 27%, wind made up 13%, lost demand (or conservation, depending on how you look at it) made up 7%, hydro made up 6%, diesel made up 2% and solar made up less than 1%.

coal-graph2

Getting rid of coal has had enormous health and environmental benefits for Ontario. It also serves as an example to other provinces and countries of what can be realized given sufficient public support, methodical planning, and a truly diversified supply mix.

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Rolling Out Refurbishment with Reliability and Skills Development in Mind

In just a few short months, Ontario will begin refurbishing 10 nuclear reactors at the Darlington and Bruce Nuclear Generating Stations. Refurbishment means replacing key reactor parts, such as pressure tubes, so the reactors can keep operating safely and at peak performance.

Refurbishment has been planned far in advance. It will extend by decades the lives of reactors that have already provided affordable and reliable electricity to Ontarians for 25 years. And because nuclear plant operations do not emit greenhouse gases, they are also addressing Ontarians’ growing concerns about climate change.

Keeping on schedule

Just as with renovating your home or servicing your car, scheduling the refurbishments is key to minimizing inconvenience. After all, nuclear reactors provided 62% of Ontario’s electricity in 2014, and refurbishing each reactor takes two to three years. Having too many of them offline at the same time would lead to brownouts in the power grid, or force Ontario to buy more expensive – and potentially less clean – electricity from other sources.

Ontario’s 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan, which set the refurbishment program in motion, recognized these challenges. The decision to refurbish reflects three of the five core principles of the Plan: cost-effectiveness, reliability, and clean energy.

To ensure reliability, the Plan set out a sequence for refurbishment at both the Darlington and Bruce facilities:

CNA-100 Nuclear Timeline-D4 (2)

This sequence ensures that no more than three reactors are offline at the same time. It allows spacing of the refurbishments so that the teams of engineers and other skilled professionals can learn from each refurbishment. That will help them to improve their methods and generate cost savings. During the early part of the project, up to 2020, Ontario will keep operating its reactors at the Pickering facilities.

Long-term benefits

The spacing of refurbishments over 15 years will ensure that nuclear power remains the major source of Ontario’s baseload power – the foundation of the province’s electrical supply. It will also provide lasting employment to skilled workers who will have opportunities to continue working on the reactors they helped refurbish – contributing to Ontario’s economy and growing the province’s skills base.

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Can Reactor Refurbishment be Done On Time and On Budget?

Editorial - on timeOntario’s nuclear reactors have provided affordable electricity to the province since 1971. Affordable and reliable, nuclear power has become the backbone of Ontario’s electricity system.

Today, over 60% of Ontario’s electricity is currently generated by its 18 operating reactors. So, it’s understandable that Ontarians might be concerned about where their electricity will come from when Ontario begins a new refurbishment project for 10 of its reactors in 2016. The reactors are near the mid-point of their expected lifespans, and it’s time for a major tune-up, to replace key parts and ensure safety and efficiency for decades to come.

A few reactors will be refurbished at a time over 15 years, to minimize the change to baseload electricity generation. But what if the refurbishments are delayed, and what happens if they go over budget? Will Ontarians experience brownouts, or have to pay more for electricity?

The record

The record for CANDU projects, gives a good indication of actual performance when dealing with large nuclear projects. Though first-of-a-kind builds of nuclear reactors in Canada and around the world had a reputation for going over budget and schedule, the Canadian nuclear industry has more than 60 years’ experience in designing, delivering, and operating them – and we’ve learned how to get the right people, skills, and materials together to make these projects work.

So, it should not be a surprise that the most recent new-build CANDU projects around the world have all been delivered on or ahead of schedule, and on budget:

  • In 1996, the Cernavoda Unit 1 reactor in Romania was delivered on budget and on schedule.
  • From 1997-99, three of the Wolsong reactors in South Korea were delivered on budget and on schedule.
  • In 2002 and 2003, the two Qinshan Phase III reactors in China were delivered under budget and ahead of schedule.
  • In 2007, the Cernavoda 2 reactor in Romania went into operation.

The skills, coordination and experience that made these projects successful will now be used in refurbishing the Darlington reactors in Ontario.

Off-ramps

The Ontario government has required assurance in the form of “off-ramps” in the refurbishment contracts. It can stop the work if it goes over budget or schedule, and look at alternatives. That’s an important incentive for the operators and contractors to respect the terms of the deal.

CNA2016

Small Reactors: Big Questions, Big Opportunities

By John Stewart
Director of Policy and Research
Canadian Nuclear Association

An Ontario politician asked me this week what I thought the prospects were for deploying nuclear energy in Alberta.  He seemed surprised when I said I thought Ontario was an equally big opportunity.

He shouldn’t have been. Yes, there’s a great future for low-carbon power in Western Canada (and I argued that Saskatchewan and Alberta should be viewed more or less together for this purpose). But I drew the politician’s attention back to his own province. While Ontario’s economy has had some challenges in the past decade-at times looking like a “have-not” compared with Alberta-its growth story is probably far from over. Managed well, it could generate enormous income and wealth for all Canadians in the century ahead.

Nuclear energy has been powering Ontario since 1962 and provides 60 percent of the province’s electricity, and a core part of its science, engineering and manufacturing capacity. But still, nuclear technology is young and its potential applications have barely been tested.

Efficient, ultra-safe small reactors look set to deliver a lot of those applications. The obvious one is making low-carbon power to displace fossil fuels wherever we use them-particularly by expanding the use of electric vehicles. There’s also processing minerals and other natural resources, driving ships, making medical isotopes, researching new materials and desalinating seawater.

There’s a huge amount we don’t know about how these opportunities will unfold and how big the market will be. We can’t see the future. But Ontario can do things to raise its already healthy changes of being part of it. Some of these are electrifying transportation, driving with this low-carbon generation (including new nuclear), and nurturing small reactors that can get our northern, native and remote communities off dirty diesel.

I explored prospects for SMR deployment in a presentation to the Ontario Power conference in Toronto in April. You can see that presentation here.

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Risk and Large Infrastructure Projects

The Ontario government has decided that refurbishing 10 of the province’s 18 nuclear reactors is the best plan to ensure affordable and reliable electricity for decades to come. That’s largely because carbon-free nuclear electricity will still be less expensive than solar, wind, or gas – even with the cost of refurbishment factored in.

But opponents of the project ask: How much will that refurbishment really cost? Their concerns are founded on cost overruns in past refurbishment projects – and the fact that large infrastructure projects, from building bridges to hydro dams, have a tendency to run over budget.

However, a closer look at the causes of delays and budget overruns in such projects shows that the Ontario nuclear refurbishment is well positioned to finish on time and on budget.

The challenge of one-of-a-kind jobsEditorial - Infrastructure

The challenge with many large infrastructure projects is their uniqueness, which can lend itself to complexity. While some projects take advantage of improvements in materials or technology, these same factors also require new designs, more training, and more coordination among the people involved. This can add cost and time.

But this is also an opportunity. By learning from experience and applying ingenuity, some infrastructure operations eventually become almost routine. For example, in 2014, the City of Ottawa replaced its 2,100-tonne Lees Avenue overpass in a single night. A time-lapse video of the operation went viral.

What does this mean for refurbishment?

Refurbishing Ontario’s nuclear power plants won’t be as fast as replacing an overpass, but the engineering teams will be working with equipment that is well known, operating on principles that are thoroughly understood. This is not experimental, but an upgrade. And the teams taking on the job now have built up a lot of experience on accumulated industry know-how.

To begin with, Bruce Power has already refurbished two reactors. That project showed how the team learned: On the second reactor they refurbished, the team did several tasks much more quickly, replacing the second steam generator 57% faster than the first, and removing the second set of calandria tubes 77% faster than the first. Bruce Power then delivered another life-extension project on one of the reactors on time and budget, in 2011.

In the first refurbishment, the reactors had been offline for 17 years. It was like starting up a classic car that has been sitting in a garage – a really great car, but one that hadn’t been used. The engineers had to find out exactly what state the reactors were in first before going ahead with the overhaul. In contrast, the upcoming Bruce refurbishment is on reactors that are running now, and running well, so much of the planning is already done.

Every activity Bruce Power will have to do on the site is something it has done before. It’s familiar work. The refurbishment activities are focused on two key elements – replacing steam generators and re-tubing the reactor. Every activity needed to complete these has been tested and its scope defined.

Planning is also long underway at Darlington. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is on track to have all the required regulatory approvals, project contracts awarded, tools tested, staff trained and a detailed schedule and fully committed budget well before the project execution begins in 2016. According to OPG, “After six years of planning, extensive inspections and benchmarking, 40 years of operational and project management experience, and a ground-breaking nuclear training and testing facility … we’re ready for refurbishment.” In that testing facility, there is a full-scale mock-up of a Darlington reactor vault. It’s accurate right down to the exact bend in every pipe, with thousands of components. Every door, light, hallway, and overhead light is replicated. The mock-up will give OPG and contractors a chance to do each of the jobs they expect to do, and make sure they can do them right, before working on the actual reactor.

All systems go

The learning won’t stop once the refurbishment begins. Each system-focused team plans to take lessons from one refurbishment and apply them to the next. That’s one of the reasons why the 10 refurbishments will be spaced over 15 years.

The refurbishments also create opportunities to improve the plants’ systems and materials “while the car hood is up.” At Darlington, in addition to the removal and replacement of reactor components, the refurbishment also involves a tremendous amount of work to maintain, upgrade, and refurbish other important plant systems, such as the turbine and generator sets, fuel handling equipment, and other nuclear, conventional, and safety systems. And because the industry has learned a lot about how materials react to radiation since the Bruce Power station went online, the teams will be replacing some of the parts, such as the fuel channels and steam generators, with materials that are stronger, safer, and longer-lasting.

Finally, the Ontario government has ensured that the contracts will allow it to limit or even stop the refurbishments if they go over budget. That’s a serious incentive for the operators and contractors involved to stay on track.