Located in Pickering (just east of Toronto), Ontario Power Generation's (OPG's) Pickering Nuclear Generating Station (GS) is one of the largest nuclear stations in the world and has been safely and reliably providing Ontario with power for decades.
Learn more about this world-class facility, which features six operating CANDU® reactors (CANadian Deuterium Uranium), and accounts for approximately 14% of Ontario’s electricity needs, while generating power that is virtually emissions-free.
Pickering nuclear operations
megawatts is the total output at Pickering
jobs protected until 2025
of Ontario’s electricity is produced at Pickering
megatonne reduction in CO2 emissions in 2026
Pickering and OPG’s commitment to the future
Through ongoing investments and the dedication of our employees who live and work in the community, Pickering Nuclear is seeing its strongest performance ever, including achieving its highest yearly production output and its best equipment reliability ratings.
As Ontario’s other nuclear stations undergo refurbishment, there is a need for additional electricity through to 2026. OPG is seeking the CNSC’s approval through a public hearing process to operate Pickering’s Units 5 - 8 to September 2026, while Units 1 and 4 will cease operations at the end of 2024. The current licence includes operations to the end of 2024, followed by safe storage activities to the end of 2028.
Looking beyond 2026
The Province has also asked OPG to conduct a feasibility assessment on the potential for refurbishing Units 5 – 8. Currently we are conducting a comprehensive technical examination and hope to submit a final recommendation to the Province by the end of 2023.
In 2009, OPG reviewed the environmental and safety case for refurbishing Units 5 – 8, and although there was community support for the refurbishment, a decision was made to not pursue the project due to the challenging economics, stagnant electricity demand, and anticipated supply chain issues and costs.
We have learned a lot about refurbishment since 2009 and through our Darlington project, which remains on time and on budget, and will apply these learnings to our feasibility assessment of Pickering.
Frequently asked questions
Why are you continuing operations at Pickering?
We know, as Ontario’s other nuclear power plants undergo refurbishment, there will be a need for additional electricity through the summer of 2026. The Minister of Energy asked OPG to review opportunities to make the best use of existing non-emitting assets and reduce reliance on natural gas. In response, we reviewed our proposed shutdown plan for Pickering Nuclear Generating Station and concluded that the facility could continue to safely generate electricity through September 2026.
Is it safe?
We would not continue to operate if we could not do so safely.
A previous study has shown Pickering Nuclear Generating Station can run safely beyond 2025. Beyond that, we take hundreds, if not thousands, of measurements daily to validate the integrity of various systems. Every day, we demonstrate our safety through our operations, with CNSC staff on site to ensure we are meeting their rigorous requirements and standards. Our people live and work in Pickering and surrounding communities, and public and environmental safety is more than a top priority; it is part of who we are.
Do you need approval to continue operations?
Over the next year, OPG will submit a licence application to the CNSC, to request approval to operate Pickering Units 5-8 past the currently approved date of December 31, 2024. The CNSC, which employs a rigorous and transparent decision-making process, will make the final decision regarding Pickering’s safe operating life.
What about current staff?
Even if a decision is made to refurbish Units 5 – 8, our organization will change as we remove Pickering units from service, place Units 1 and 4 into safe storage, and layup Units 5 – 8 until we are ready to execute refurbishment scope. OPG's workforce in coming years, whether Pickering operations are ended or paused, will be different. OPG will continue to prepare the company and our workforce for the future beyond 2025.
We may not know exactly what the future holds, but we are preparing for all possibilities. The programs and processes that we are establishing today, including redeployment provisions, are flexible and will enable us to pivot as our work programs evolve. We will continue to move through this planning to prepare employees and our business for this transition. This includes assisting those employees whose positions will be surplus by supporting them in creating individual career pathways.
We will share our plans first with employees, then with the community, as decisions are made.
Is it possible to refurbish Units 5-8? What will the feasibility study consider?
The feasibility study on Pickering refurbishment will consider a number of matters, including:
- Technical assessments of all major components
- Condition assessments of balance of plant components
- Technical feasibility and scope
- Business and economic viability compared to potential alternatives
- Skilled workforce availability
- Material availability, and
- Environmental and regulatory considerations.
Didn’t you previously consider refurbishing Pickering?
Yes, the Pickering Refurbishment project was previously initiated in 2006. An approved Environmental Assessment (EA) was received for the project in 2009. Several major factors were considered at the time, including the challenges of securing long-lead time supply chain products as well as resourcing, given the timelines of Darlington refurbishment and the Bruce Power major component replacement program. OPG subsequently paused the project to focus on continued operations of the station.
We know, since we last considered this, some of the context has changed, including that:
- Darlington refurbishment has recapitalized and revitalized the supply chain and well-trained workforce necessary to complete this type of work.
- Darlington refurbishment will be complete in 2026, freeing up many workers with the skills and experience necessary to refurbish a CANDU nuclear power plant.
- Climate change has become a much more pressing issue, and we know we can’t get to net-zero without nuclear energy.
What’s the timeline for this study? How much will it cost?
OPG expects to complete the feasibility study over the course of the next year. This study will build on previous work completed for the Pickering Refurbishment project. As scope has not yet been determined, we can’t provide a cost estimate at this time.
As the world around us continues to rapidly change, jurisdictions everywhere are acting to secure their energy independence while also addressing the growing impacts of climate change on their communities. Ontario is uniquely positioned to continue to lead the way in climate action and grow our economy because of our diverse electricity system, robust supply chains, and highly skilled workforce. But a growing economy will need a stable supply of more clean power and a reliable grid that can support electrification of other sectors like transportation and heavy industry. As an abundant source of carbon-free electricity that’s available at all times of the day and year, the role of nuclear is more vital than ever.
Nuclear power is the backbone of Ontario’s electricity system, providing approximately 60% of the province’s power.
Through the ongoing investments and efforts of our employees, Pickering is seeing its strongest performance ever, including achieving its highest yearly production output and its best equipment reliability ratings. In 2021, Units 4 and 6 ranked among the top 10 CANDU reactors in the world. The station’s strong operational and safety performance is also recognized by the CNSC and industry peers.
Continued operations of Units 5 – 8 through the summer of 2026 will have many benefits to customers, the economy and the environment, including:
- Reducing CO2 emissions by 2.1 megatonnes in 2026 – the equivalent of taking up to 643,000 cars off the road.
- Protecting 4,500 jobs for an additional year-plus.
- Ensuring a stable supply of Cobalt 60, a critical medical isotope used in lifesaving medicine (Pickering provides 20% of the North American supply – and 10% of the world’s supply).
OPG is in a great position to refurbish Pickering. No one knows our station better than our employees, and we have demonstrated our ability to bring in large projects like refurbishment on time and on budget. But, it’s also important to recognize that deciding to assess the feasibility of refurbishing Pickering Units 5 – 8 is the first step of a significant and complex undertaking.
I’d like to learn more about Pickering Nuclear and what this announcement could mean for my community.
Pickering operations chronology
- Chronology of activities and events
Click on 🛈 below to read more information on milestones.
- The province asks OPG to see approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to continue operating Pickering’s Units 5-8 to the end of September 2026 and to conduct a comprehensive technical review on the potential for refurbishing Units 5-8.
- OPG submitted a notice of intent to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to operate Pickering Units 5-8 to September 2026.
- Submission of the Pickering refurbishment feasibility study to the Ministry of Energy
- OPG submitted the Licence Amendment Application to the CNSC supporting operating Units 5-8 to 2026.
- Intervention requests due April 29 for the June public hearing regarding OPG’s licence amendment application.
- The CNSC will hold a public hearing to consider the Pickering Nuclear application for operating Pickering Units 5-8 to 2026.
Safety is our number #1 priority
For decades, the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station has safely and reliably powered the lives of millions of Ontarians. The men and women who have devoted themselves to the station’s operations have done so with tremendous dedication, a steadfast commitment to meeting rigorous safety requirements and standards, and under the watchful eye of onsite CNSC staff.
Pickering reactor buildings are made of heavily reinforced concrete (walls 1.2 metres thick) to enclose the reactors and related equipment and shield personnel from radiation during operation.
Each building contains one reactor and twelve steam generators (boilers).
The reactor consists of a large, heavily shielded vessel or calandria, which contains 380 fuel channels and 4,560 bundles of uranium fuel encased in zircaloy sheathing.
The vacuum building design is a unique safety feature of CANDU®(CANadian Deuterium Uranium) reactor.
This over 50 metre high cylindrical concrete structure is connected to the reactor buildings by a pressure relief duct.
Maintained at negative atmospheric pressure, any release of radioactive steam from the pressurized systems is sucked into the vacuum building and condensed, thus preventing its release outside the station.
This huge structure houses the turbines that the station uses to generate electricity. Each hall has 12 low pressure turbines, 4 high pressure turbines and 4 generators.
Nuclear power plant safety systems
Learn about the nuclear safety systems designed to keep you safe.
Pickering Nuclear visitor centre
675 Montgomery Park Road
9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
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