Darlington-3 refurbishment completed ahead of schedule

July 21, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
The Darlington nuclear power plant. (Photo: OPG)

Ontario Power Generation has achieved another milestone in its massive Darlington nuclear plant refurbishment project, and in rather impressive fashion: The Unit 3 CANDU reactor has been reconnected to Ontario’s electricity grid 169 days ahead of schedule, according to a July 18 OPG media release.

Located about 45 miles east of Toronto in Clarington, Ontario, the Darlington facility houses four 878-MWe CANDU pressurized heavy water reactors, all of which entered commercial operation in the early 1990s. The 10-year, C$12.8 billion (about $9.7 billion) refurbishment project—which was 10 years in the planning—commenced in earnest in October 2016 when Unit 2 was taken off line (Nuclear News, Dec. 2016, p. 45). The refurbished Unit 2 was returned to service in early June 2020, and in late July of that year Unit 3 was shut down and disconnected from the grid in preparation for its overhaul.

The Unit 1 revamp was begun in February 2022, with completion slated for the second quarter of 2025, while work on Unit 4 is set to begin in the third quarter of this year, with completion by the fourth quarter of 2026.

Project payoff: According to an independent report by the Conference Board of Canada, the Darlington refurbishment project and potential 30 additional years of plant operation are expected to generate a total of C$89.9 billion (about $68 billion) in economic benefits for Ontario, create 14,200 jobs per year, and boost personal income by an average of C$1.6 billion (about $1.2 billion) on an annual basis.

Further, an independent report prepared by Intrinsik Environmental Sciences calculated that the continued operation of the plant to 2055 would avoid significant greenhouse gas emissions—the equivalent of taking 2 million cars off Ontario’s roads per year by.

Official words: “Through this project, OPG is demonstrating that with detailed planning and preparation, large nuclear projects can be completed not only on time, but ahead of time and with great quality,” said Ken Hartwick, OPG’s president and chief executive officer. “This would not be possible without the performance, expertise, and commitment from our refurbishment project team, project partners, industry experts, energy professionals, and skilled tradespeople.”

Todd Smith, Ontario’s minister of energy, said that Darlington-3’s successful refurbishment is “proof that this province can deliver the major energy projects we have planned to power Ontario’s growth on time and on budget, including building a total of four small modular reactors at Darlington, and beginning predevelopment work to site Canada’s first large-scale nuclear build in over three decades.”

In case you missed it: On July 7, two days after debuting a collaboration with Bruce Power to build up to 4.8 GW of new nuclear generation at the Bruce plant, the government of Ontario announced that it is working with OPG to begin planning and licensing for the deployment of three additional GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) BWRX-300 small modular reactors at Darlington. (In January of this year, Wilmington, N.C.–based GEH, along with OPG and fellow Canadian firms SNC-Lavalin and Aecon, announced the signing of a contract for the deployment of a single BWRX-300 at the site. Construction of that unit is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2028.)

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