OPG in the Community – May, 2020

       Fred Kuntz

Together we will #PowerOn:  Through the Covid-19 pandemic, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) continues to focus on keeping the lights on, providing electricity to homes, businesses and hospitals, while keeping its employees and the public safe.  To help address the impact, OPG has also provided extra support to the communities where it has operations, including the Bruce area.

In response to Covid-19, OPG provided $500,000 to Feed Ontario’s Emergency Food Box Program to help assist food banks in OPG’s host communities. The donation will help provide $1.4 million worth of food, 300,000 meals plus snacks, to feed 225,000 people a month.  OPG’s community relations team has been in touch with local Bruce-area food banks to help ensure they can access the additional aid.

These food-bank supports are in addition to OPG’s donations of 1 million surgical masks, 75,000 N95 masks 17,500 Tyvek suits and other equipment to Ontario’s health-care workers. Meanwhile, OPG’s Solutions Team is working to 3D-print protective face shields for frontline workers, repurpose thermography cameras to monitor temperatures of plant staff, and prototype a product to help employees maintain proper distancing while on site. And on a more modest scale, OPG’s X-Lab innovation engineers at the Bruce site have used their 3-D printer to make small quantities of ear savers, which go behind the head to connect the loops on face masks, reducing strain on the ears; some of these devices have been donated to local pharmacies, while others are being used by OPG staff.

Good stewardship: To ensure that nuclear plants can keep generating electricity, OPG’s Nuclear Waste Management team continues to manage the safe acceptance, transportation, processing and storage of radioactive waste, including at the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce sites. At the Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) within the Bruce nuclear site, work has begun on a planned and necessary three-month outage of the incinerator, a vital part of our ongoing work to minimize waste volumes and reduce our environmental footprint. After strong performance by the incinerator in the first quarter of 2020, replacement of key components this spring will enable the machine’s continued operation over the next decade-and-a-half.

Approaching the new normal: As the Covid-19 situation in Ontario abates, OPG employees who have been working from home will increasingly return to their regular sites and offices, while observing all necessary protocols for safety, such as physical distancing, use of personal protection equipment, and good hygiene. Planning for the next phase of recovery is underway, including at the WWMF, as OPG does its part to support an Ontario-wide recovery, complying with provincial guidelines and direction from medical officers of health. OPG’s Crisis Management team will remain vigilant, staying in sync with province-wide efforts to contain the pandemic. Across OPG’s fleet, the priority on safety for employees and the public is, as our Chief Nuclear Officer has said, “in our DNA.”

Lasting solutions: As part of its wind-up of a proposal to build a Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for low- and intermediate-level waste at the Bruce nuclear site, OPG at the end of April made final payments, under the DGR Hosting Agreement, to Kincardine and four adjacent municipalities (Saugeen Shores, Huron-Kinloss, Arran-Elderslie and Brockton). As recognition for the municipalities’ support for the project over the past 15 years, OPG paid the amount that would have been owing at the end of December 2020.  Formal cancellation of the project will occur soon at the regulatory level. The DGR was intended to provide safe and permanent disposal of the lower levels of waste from OPG-owned nuclear stations, protecting people, the Great Lakes and the environment forever; the project was discontinued following a First Nations vote in January not to support it. OPG remains committed to finding lasting solutions for the waste, and is moving forward to develop alternate solutions.

Around Ontario and beyond:

  • Crossing the finish line: Power from Darlington’s newly-refurbished Unit 2 is now making its way to Ontario’s electricity grid. Reflecting on the project’s many successes and achievements since it began in October 2016, Dietmar Reiner, Chief Project Officer and Senior Vice President, Enterprise Projects, said: “Reconnecting to the grid is an accomplishment we should all reflect on proudly – we did it!” Next steps in the Darlington Refurbishment project include preparation to refurbish Unit 3, with defueling of the reactor this fall.
  • Financial results: OPG reported Q1 2020 net income of $309 million, earnings that it returns to its shareholder, the province of Ontario. That is an increase from $213 million for the same period in 2019, due mainly to higher nuclear electricity generation in the quarter.
  • Diversifying the fleet: OPG finalized the acquisition from TC Energy of a portfolio of natural gas-fired plants in Ontario, under a new subsidiary called Atura Power. “Natural gas is the enabler of renewable energy and provides the flexibility required to ensure a reliable electricity system,” said Ken Hartwick, OPG President and CEO. Under OPG ownership, profits generated from these assets will stay in Ontario for the benefit of Ontarians.