The Ontario government announced Tuesday it has approved a plan to continue operating the Pickering nuclear power plant, located about five kilometres east of the Toronto city limits, after 2020.
Pickering is one of two nuclear plants operated by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) Inc. The other is Darlington, about 30 kilometres east of the city limits. The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, on Lake Huron about 50 kilometres north of Goderich, is leased to Bruce Power LP.
The province “approved OPG’s plan to pursue continued operation of the Pickering Generating Station beyond 2020 up to 2024,” the government stated in a news release.
When the provincial government released its long-term energy plan in December, 2013, the government stated at the time that expected the Pickering plan to be in service until 2020.
On Dec. 1, 2015, the executive committee of Toronto City Council voted in favour of asking city staff to report to that committee, by this March, on the city’s “emergency response protocols for nuclear risks and international best practices for both Darlington and Pickering Nuclear Generating Stations.”
The committee also voted to ask the city manager, in consultation with the Medical Officer of Health and the Office of Emergency Management, to report to the committee on “the appropriateness of” the 10 kilometre “primary response zone” for distribution of Potassium Iodide (KI) pills.
“This year will be the first year residents who live within 10 km of a nuclear power plant will be mailed a package of Potassium Iodide (KI) pills – also known as RadBlock,” 11 councillors wrote in a letter to Mayor John Tory and the executive committee members. “The pills are meant to help prevent the thyroid from absorbing radioactive iodine, which travels quickly as a gas in a nuclear disaster, therefore reducing the risk of thyroid cancer.”
They added that the “best practice internationally is to have a much larger primary zone including up to a 50 km evacuation zone.”
The federal Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act makes nuclear operators liable – without requiring claimants to prove fault or negligence – for injury or damage to third parties resulting from the fissionable or radioactive properties of the material that they hold. The liability limit was increased, on royal assent of Bill C-22, from $75 million to $650 million. That amount will increase to $750 million this February, $850 million two years after royal assent of Bill C-22 and $1 billion three years after.
Related: Toronto politicians to discuss emergency response for nuclear power plants
Replacing the Nuclear Liability Act with the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act was one of the provisions of Bill C-22, the Energy Safety and Security Act.
It also broadens “the definition of compensable damage to include physical injury, economic loss, preventative measures and environmental damage,” said Greg Rickford, then Canada’s Conservative Natural Resources Minister, during debates in 2014 on Bill C-22.
The majority of insurance for Canada’s nuclear operators is written by Nuclear Insurance Association of Canada (NIAC), an association of insurers that form liability and property damage pools for nuclear installations.
With the passage of bill C-22, nuclear operators must cover at least 50% of their liability by an insurer approved by the federal natural resources minister, said David McCauley, director of the uranium and radioactive waste division at Natural Resources Canada’s energy sector, during a hearing in December, 2014 of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.
The other 50% of their liability could be covered by “an alternative financial scheme” – such as assets, provincial loan guarantees or letters of credit – McCauley added at the time.
In addition to NIAC, the other insurers authorized to cover nuclear liability in Canada include:
Nuclear Risk Insurers Limited (NRI), a British nuclear association of individual commercial insurance companies; American Nuclear Insurers (ANI), an American nuclear association of individual commercial insurance companies; and European Liability Insurance for the Nuclear Industry (ELINI), a Brussels-based mutual insurance association.
Outside of Ontario, there is one nuclear power plant (Point Lepreau, about 50 kilometres west of Saint John, N.B.) producing electricity. Hydro Quebec’s Gentilly station – on the St. Lawrence River southeast of Trois Rivieres – was shut down in December, 2012.