CLARINGTON — The province wants to help make sure there are enough highly-skilled workers needed for nuclear refurbishments in Ontario, the minister of energy recently told Ontario Power Generation at an open house and celebration of two years of refurbishment work at Darlington Nuclear Generating Station.
“We want to make sure that Ontario Power Generation (OPG) isn’t in the business of doing any re-sequencing on its work because they don’t have skilled tradespeople,” said Ontario Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines Greg Rickford.
In his visit to Darlington on Saturday, Oct. 27, Rickford said he heard about the need to build the workforce for nuclear technology. He said the provincial government is focused on strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education from kindergarten to Grade 12. Rickford also wants to see an immediate emphasis on trades and technologies in post-secondary education.
“We want to continue to train people for the skilled trades right here in Ontario, and shape our education system to prepare people for the incredible jobs we have right here at Darlington and in the growing nuclear industry,” said Durham MP Lyndsey Park at the Darlington open house.
In 2020, OPG and Bruce Power will have parallel refurbishments underway, creating a huge demand for highly skilled tradespeople. The companies are arranging the schedules to minimize having the same trades in demand at both sites at the same time, building capacity within the current skilled trades workforce and trying to entice more people to enter the trades (encouraging more women, members of Indigenous communities and people who are new to Canada to join the nuclear workforce).
“This really is innovation and high-technology. That’s what’s facilitating the refurbishment of this plant. It takes a very highly-skilled, highly-trained workforce … skilled in science, technology, engineering, and math. And we need to help develop that capacity here in Ontario — not just for the Darlington refurbishments, but for the Bruce refurbishments behind it and ultimately for the next generation of nuclear technology which is being developed right now and will be ready for deployment in the next few years,” said Jeff Lyash, OPG president and CEO. “One of the risks to the project is will we have the workforce to take up those jobs as we need them?”
OPG began the first steps in the refurbishment of the first of its four reactors at Darlington in October 2016. At the two-year mark, 70 per cent of the refurbishment work is done on the first Darlington reactor and workers are putting it back together.
“We’re on the down slope, so to speak. There’s a lot of work still to be done but there’s a lot behind us,” said Gary Rose, vice-president of the nuclear project management office at OPG
The refurbishment of the first reactor was scheduled to take until February 2020. Lyash added Darlington’s refurbishment project is ahead of schedule and on-budget, and the first reactor is expected to be brought back to service in the coming months.
OPG got approval for refurbishment of a second reactor at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in February 2017. After the first unit returns to service, workers will move on to refurbish the next reactor. If OPG gets government approval, that would be followed by refurbishment of the last two Darlington reactors — scheduled to be completed by February 2026.
Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster told the Ontario minister of energy he’d be delighted to see two new Darlington reactors and funding for a local demonstration site for small modular reactors (SMR) — the next frontier for bringing nuclear power to small remote communities.
“We’re way beyond a willing host. We’re an enthusiastic host,” said Foster. “This is world-class technology and world-class people and a unique opportunity that exists right here … in our backyard.”