What to Know About the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant

Ontario woke up to an emergency alert early this morning about an incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station (citing no danger to the public or environment). Many of those who have seen the recent HBO series, Chernobyl, had quite a few thoughts about the error:

Aside from the error and concerns around the use of the alert system, here is some useful information for anyone living near the Nuclear Plant and how we might want to use this information to drive change around some of our policies and emergency planning.

1. The Pickering Nuclear Power Plant is one of the oldest in the world.

According to The Sun, the plant is of the oldest nuclear power stations in the world and Canada’s third-largest, producing about 15% of Ontario’s power and employing 3,000 workers. While the energy produced is not renewable, it is relatively low in cost and gives off zero-emissions. However, nuclear waste can be harmful. More information on the pros and cons of Nuclear Energy can be read here.

Below are some numbers on where Ontario got its energy back in 2018:

2018 Transmission-Connected Generator Output

2018 (TWh)
2018 (% of total)61%25%6%7%<1%<1%
2017 (TWh)90.637.
2017 (% of total)63%26%4%6%<1%<1%
2016 (TWh)91.735.712.79.30.490.46**
2016 (% of total)61%24%9%6%<1%<1%

2. The plant sits along Lake Ontario

Aside from the prime location, Lake Ontario provides drinking water to 9-million people. An accident at Pickering could poison Lake Ontario and downstream communities as far away as Montreal, if the conditions were similar to Fukushima (which is unlikely considering the Tsunami and the scale of the earthquake). There were two leaks in the past ten years that caused no known impacts to human health. The first one was in 2011 where aproximately 73,000 litres of demineralized water leaked from the station, and a second leak of radioactive heavy water in 2014. People within the city have raised concerns before.

3. The plant is scheduled to commercially close in 2024

Originally the plant was meant to close in 2020 but was pushed to a later date. The decommisioning would take about 40 years to complete. Any plan to extend Pickering’s life requires approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

4. You should review the City of Toronto’s Emergency Resources

It’s important to prepare yourself and to have the tools and resources ready in case of an emergency. The City of Toronto provides a resource around topics like floodings, severe weather, and nuclear emergencies here. For those that live within 50km of the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant, you can order Iodine (KI Pills) for free through the Prepare To Be Safe website. So, for any situation, what should your at home emegency kit include?

  • Water
  • Food (e.g. canned, energy bars)
  • Wind-Up or Battery-Powered Flashlight
  • Radio
  • First Aid Kit
  • Extra Keys
  • Cash
  • Family Documents

5. The alert was meant to be sent “only internally”

Pulled from the Toronto Star at 1:31pm ET: In a statement, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the alert was “issued in error to the public during a routine training exercise being conducted by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre,” adding: “There was no incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station that should have triggered public notification. Nor was there ever any danger to the public or environment.

You can see Mayor Dave Ryan’s reaction below:

Feel free to share your thoughts.

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