For Ontarians who don’t live in the shadows of nuclear reactors, the generation of more than half of the province’s electricity is invisible. Nuclear power stations don’t cause smog days like coal-fired plants can. They don’t clutter rural vistas like wind turbines do.
Yet nuclear infrastructure has had profound effects on many people in this province. In Kincardine, where Ontario Power Generation is burying low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste, residents are still skeptical about the safety of nuclear power. In Pickering, some people are concerned about the city’s aging power plant, while others have come to accept its presence. And at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, a $12.8-billion rebuild is underway amid criticism from activists who would rather the province buy its power from Quebec — though doing so is not as simple as flipping a switch.
Ontario Power Generation wants to bury the province's low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste near Kincardine, off the eastern shore of Lake Huron. OPG’s scientists support the plan, but environmentalists and local residents dispute the wisdom of burying waste near one of the Great Lakes.
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The $12.8-billion refurbishment of Darlington Nuclear Generating Station will keep the plant running for another 30 years, but critics say the province should look be looking elsewhere for its electricity. Nuclear power, they argue, is not the best option for Ontario — the province should instead buy power from Quebec. But with the refurb already under way, the cost would be immense, and Ontario Power Generation says the supply just isn’t available.
How does it feel to receive a packet of emergency potassium iodide pills with your new home? For some Pickering residents, the nearby nuclear plant rarely crosses their minds. For others, it is a looming reminder of potential disaster. Last year, the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station received the highest possible safety rating, but it’s still the world’s oldest operating commercial plant. We find out what it's like living in the shadows of nuclear reactors.
Correction: This article has been updated from a previous version. It originally contained references to "cooling towers" where "nuclear reactors" was more accurate.