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Society President Presents at CNSC Darlington Hearing

February 13, 2024

Society President Michelle Johnston presented at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s hearing on the Darlington New Nuclear Project. The hearing was to determine whether the existing Darlington site’s environmental assessment (EA) remained appropriate for the installation of new nuclear technologies, such as the BXWT Small Modular Reactors.

Since the Society’s submission and presentation were considering new technologies, we felt it was important to engage with a consultant with expertise in small nuclear reactors, that use light water, and that employ enriched fuels. The Society retained a consultant whose report informed the submission written by Society staff and OPG Local members. After an extensive vetting process, the Society selected Dr. Kirk Atkinson who holds a PhD in physics and is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science , and is the Director of the Centre for Small Modular Reactors at Ontario Tech University.

In his report, Dr. Atkinson concluded that [quote] "Given the reduced size and thermal power of the BWRX-300 SMR compared to the DNNP candidate reactor technologies for which the Plant Parameter Envelope was originally developed and on which the Environmental Impact Statement was based... the 2009 EIS conclusions remain valid" and that, "there are no obvious findings that challenge the approved [Environmental Assessment]."

Dr. Atkinson’s conclusions are consistent with the conclusions of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Staff Report, which found that, "based on a review of information presented … OPG's selection of the BWRX-300 reactor technology is bounded by the EA, and the EA remains applicable for this reactor technology."

The Society had both Dr. Atkinson’s report and the CNSC’s Staff Report reviewed by subject matter experts within the union’s membership.

After careful review, the Society finding for the hearing was that our union supports the conclusions of the CNSC Staff Report, and Dr. Atkinson's assessment, that the BWRX-300 technology selected for the new nuclear project at Darlington by OPG is within the bounds of the existing environmental assessment, and, as such, no new environmental assessment needs to be conducted.

The Society believes that climate change is one of the greatest threats that we face as a species. To avert catastrophic consequences, we must dramatically increase baseload power generation as we electrify transportation and other energy-intensive sectors.  The only way to achieve that and have a net-zero emission energy grid in Canada is to dramatically expand our use of nuclear power.

The Society is pleased to see that governments at all levels have recently made commitments to the expansion of new nuclear builds—as is the case with the Darlington site expansion. Canada’s push on new nuclear aligns with the global commitments we saw at COP28 with 22 countries, including Canada, pledging to triple nuclear power by 2050. This is a move that the Society wholeheartedly supports.

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