Bowmanville’s Darlington Nuclear Plant to get major facelift, four new reactors

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Published July 9, 2021 at 8:12 pm


The Darlington Nuclear Generating Plant, which set a world record for continuous use when it was shut down in February, will be getting a major upgrade over the next few years.

The refurbishing project will include as many as four new nuclear reactors, supplying a maximum net electrical output of up to 4,800 Megawatts. Ontario Power Generating (OPG) also intends to apply for a license to construct a grid-scale Small Module Reactor, which represents the “next wave” of nuclear power and are “critical” to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a staff report.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, the $12.8 billion project will generate $14.9 billion in economic benefits to Ontario, including thousands of construction jobs at Darlington and at some 60 Ontario companies supplying components for the work.  The project is scheduled for completion by 2026, and will ensure safe plant operation through 2055.

Work on Unit 1 will begin next year. Units 2 and 3 were the first to be taken offline for a refurbishment expected to take about three years each. Unit 2’s work was completed in March of last year and was back online by June, 2020.

Clarington Council supported the OPG application to renew its licence and Mayor Adrian Foster and staff were on hand last month at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearing.

OPG has signed a $120 million agreement with GE Steam Power to play a significant role in the refurbishment, which will include turnkey installation and commissioning of steam turbine and excitation control system upgrades. The work also will include generator and auxiliary upgrades for three of Darlington’s four units.

GE was also commissioned to build a new stator – a stationary component that helps to convert rotational energy into electrical energy.

The stator was built at General Electric facilities in Poland before being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean (on a barge called “Happy River”), to the Port of Oshawa, and then onto Darlington’s East Warehouse, where the stator will be stored.

OPG first embarked on its long-term refurbishment of Darlington in 2013 and GE Steam Power supplied a 400-ton generator stator during that work, as well as supporting contributions with maintenance outages and engineering services.

Another General Electric division, GE Hitachi, is hoping to supply the Small Module Reactor technology. Their BWRX-300 SMR is a water-cooled, natural circulation small modular reactor that the company promises to be operational by 2028.

GE-Hitachi is one of three vendors looking to build the SMR. OPG anticipates choosing the winning bidder at the end of the year.

Following three decades of operation, OPG announced a ten-year plan to refurbish Darlington, an ambitious project which will extend the life of the facility for an additional 30 years.

Under the refurbishment plan, the Darlington units are shut down, defueled and islanded to disconnect the reactor from the rest of the plant. What follows include containment pressure testing, disassembly of feeder tubes, the fuel channel, and the Calandria tube.

The Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, located east of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario, generates enough power for two million homes, which represents 20 per cent of Ontario’s demand.

Last September, the 878-MW Darlington Unit 1 set a record for continuous operation of a nuclear power reactor when it went 963 days without a stoppage. When Unit 1 went down for maintenance February 4, the plant hit 1,105 continuous days of generation, the world record for the longest continuous operation of a nuclear power plant.

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