Nuclear power in Canada has played a significant role in meeting Ontario’s energy demands over the last 50 years. However, with most of Ontario’s nuclear power facilities nearing the end of their useful life, as well as the recent closure of the Nanicoke coal-fired power plant (North America’s largest at 3,900 MW), the Government of Ontario and OPG are now facing the difficult decisions of whether to refurbish existing nuclear plants, build new plants, or find alternative solutions to meet Ontario’s future power demands. Whatever decision is made it will not be an easy one.
Although demand for electricity in Ontario has declined by as much as 25 TWh annually since the 2007- 2008 financial crisis, careful planning and forecasting will need to find a balance between scheduled plant closures and refurbishments, to address aging plants, and planning for and installing new power plants, which may include nuclear, hydro, natural gas and renewable energy plants, such as wind and solar. It is unlikely that coal-fired plants, because of their high level of emissions, will be able achieve enough public support to muster a comeback. To put the capacity of Ontario’s nuclear plants into proper perspective, Ontario had a capacity of 35,000 MW of installed nuclear power (out of 41,000 MW total) in 2010. However, at that time and taking into consideration planned plant closures, the province envisioned a reduction in nuclear power capacity to be around 12,000 MW by 2030. That’s a reduction of nearly two thirds of its capacity in 20 years. Given the phasing out of all coal-fired plants, however, nuclear power would still be expected to represent 42% of total capacity by 2025. Plans based on energy demand beyond 2025 are by no means certain, but the potential of losing such a vital piece of energy infrastructure poses both challenges and opportunities which 4 SKIES is eager to address.
Following OPG’s recent call for proposals to “Repurpose Pickering”, 4 SKIES immediately saw an opportunity for an Aboriginal perspective to be included in the mix of options to be discussed in the assessment of proposals being presented. In its initial assessment, 4 SKIES determined that any successful proposal would likely involve the continued use of some of the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant’s existing infrastructure and, where possible, the continued production of electricity. However, since the land surrounding the plant would also be available, consisting of an uninhabited mile-wide buffer zone, there would also be a need and an opportunity to utilize the land, which would complement the repurposing of the plant. This is where 4 SKIES sees an opportunity to introduce the idea of trigeneration, by combining a cogeneration natural gas power plant with a greenhouse operation to continue to supply power from Pickering and utilize waste heat from the plant in greenhouses to add year-round locally grown produce to the mix.