October 7, 2003
I enjoyed your analysis of some of Ontario’s problems with its aging nuclear reactor fleet (Toronto Star, Nuclear Fallout, September 27, 2003).
One note about Pickering A (PA) that I believe is significant but has received virtually no recognition on the record relates to the reasons for PA’s closure in 1997. From a time that dates back to before the original in-service of the station in the early 1970s, the federal nuclear safety regulator had been aware of deficiencies in the design of the fast shut down safety system used in each of the four reactors. After dithering for decades over what to do about the deficiency, the regulator in the early 1990s imposed a license condition on Ontario Hydro related to PA. The regulator ordered that if the safety systems were not upgraded by the end of 1997 following specific design guidelines, the station would not be allowed to operate. Through the mid 1990s, Ontario Hydro failed to make the necessary upgrades. By August of 1997, it was obvious that the upgrades to all units except unit 4 units 1, 2, and 3 could not be completed in time. The safety deficiencies of the PA station were what directly caused the closure in December 1997.
The official version of Pickering A’s “layup” from the nuclear industry always claims that safety had nothing to do with the closure. Your report claims that “the predominate issue was not safety.” In fact, the IIPA report that triggered the 7-reactor shutdown shows repeated explicit references to revelations that (e.g.) “safety margins were compromised” in Ontario Hydro’s reactors. Ontario Hydro’s failure to upgrade the shutdown systems as required in the license was on top of these other problems. The actual history of the Pickering A station proves that safety deficiencies were the real drive