Bluffs Advocate


Time to Get Rid of a Waterfront Dinosaur

By Angela Bischoff, Outreach Director, Ontario Clean Air Alliance

            East Toronto residents are used to not getting a lot of respect from Queen's Park, but being asked to keep North America's fourth oldest nuclear plant running in your backyard for another eight or more years just adds insult to injury.

The Pickering Nuclear Station is less than 20 kilometres from most Scarborough and east end Toronto homes. That's well within the potential radiation fallout zone should this aging and trouble-prone plant experience a major accident.

Close PickeringIn fact, the Pickering Nuclear Station has more people living on its doorstep than any other nuclear plant in North America, with more than 2 million GTA residents located within 30 kilometres of its eight reactors. We would never build a huge nuclear plant in this location today, which makes you wonder why the government would agree to allow Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to continue operating a plant that is now officially past the period for which its systems and components were designed to operate.

But instead of doing the responsible thing and closing Canada's oldest nuclear station by 2018 when its licence expires, the Wynne government has given OPG the green light to apply for a 10-year licence extension. That could leave Pickering's reactors running until 2028, producing tonnes of radioactive waste that will continue to be stored onsite given that Canada still has no long-term solution for safely storing such deadly waste for the hundreds of thousands of years required.

Keeping this dangerous old plant operating for another decade or more is a slap in the face to the people who have been most at risk – the people of Scarborough, east-end Toronto, Ajax, Pickering, Whitby and Oshawa – since the plant started operations way back in 1971. These are the people whose lives would be destroyed and homes made uninhabitable if things get out of control at Pickering. And no, your insurance does not cover losses stemming from a nuclear accident.

It's important to point out that Pickering's antiquated design – using technology developed before computers were widely used -- makes it particularly risky. The plant has a radiation containment system that is shared among multiple reactors, something unheard of in modern nuclear plants. As well, the Pickering A reactors do not have two completely independent shutdown systems, again something that raises major red flags for independent nuclear safety experts.

And incredibly, the plant has been an operating turkey, requiring billions of dollars in repairs starting in the 1990s and ranking as one of the most expensive to operate nuclear plants in North America. Shuttering the station would lower our electricity bills by $900 million per year.

Fortunately, we don't actually need the power Pickering produces. In 2015, Ontario exported more power than Pickering generated.

So why keep this nuclear dinosaur on life support for another decade or more? What this is really about is protecting a dying industry, the Canadian nuclear industry, which has long enjoyed rich subsidies from taxpayers and electricity ratepayers in Ontario.

If we're interested in jobs and economic opportunities, we'd be better to close the Pickering Nuclear Station in 2018 and immediately start decommissioning it, to develop valuable expertise in the world's only nuclear-related growth industry – dismantling old nuclear facilities. For Pickering, the task of returning this prime waterfront property to the people of the region would create 16,000 person years of employment between now and 2030.

Join us in telling Premier Wynne that Pickering should be closed by 2018 at the latest. Sign the petition at