Aging Pickering Reactors Too Dangerous to Operate

Joint media release from CELA and Greenpeace

May 28 2013

Toronto – The risk of a major accident at the aging Pickering reactors has increased significantly, according to a new accident report by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) obtained by environmental groups.

Environmental groups at the public hearings of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) considering OPG’s request to run the Pickering nuclear station beyond its design life, will ask for it closure. The hearings begin tomorrow in Pickering.

“These aging reactors have a frighteningly high likelihood for large accidental radiation releases and OPG’s latest accident study shows the station should be shut down,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada.

OPG’s new accident report shows a significant increase in the likelihood of large radioactive releases from the four Pickering ‘B’ reactors. The assessment shows that the station is operating at the edge of regulatory limits. If Pickering’s vulnerability to extreme weather events is taken into account, it exceeds safety limits.

“Like Fukushima, Pickering is a multi-reactor station but with fewer passive safety systems and in a major population centre. I don’t believe a nuclear station with Pickering’s risk profile would be allowed to operate in the United States. Running Pickering beyond its design life just makes matters worse,” said American nuclear risk expert Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates who was commissioned by Durham Nuclear Awareness, to present to the hearing.

“Pickering should be closed because the province’s nuclear emergency plans are wholly inadequate to protect Torontonians from a major accident. Fukushima in Japan and Elliot Lake here in Ontario show how unprepared we are for an accident at Pickering,” said Theresa McClenaghan, the Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

CELA today called on the Ontario government to immediately undertake a public review of Ontario’s nuclear emergency plans.

In 2010, OPG decided not to refurbish the four Pickering ‘B’ reactors because of prohibitive costs. But instead of closing the reactors at the end of their design-life in 2014, OPG wants to keep operating them until they’re expected to be replaced by new reactors post-2020.

The groups say the government’s recent statement that it may again delay the construction of new replacement reactors because of declining electricity demand shows the continued operation of Pickering is an unnecessary risk.

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For more information:

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, nuclear analyst, Greenpeace [English/French] 416-884-7053

Theresa McClenaghan, executive director, CELA, 416-662-8341
[View video of Theresa McClenaghan discussing the importance of nuclear emergency planning and how Ontario is extremely unprepared for any such event.]

Arnie Gundersen, America nuclear expert with Fairewind Associates, 802-238-4452