Canada’s nuclear regulator on Friday issued a 10-year nuclear power reactor site preparation license to Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) proposed reactor at its Darlington nuclear site in Ontario. The license, described as "an important milestone in Canada’s nuclear history," is the first of its kind in nearly 25 years.

The Joint Review Panel (JRP) of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) issued the license after a 17-day public hearing and considering submissions from OPG, 14 government departments, and more than 260 interveners.

The license essentially means that OPG meets requirements of section 24 of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, and that "OPG is qualified to carry out the activities that will be permitted under the license, and that the health and safety of people and the environment will be protected," the CNSC said.

The newly established JRP submitted its environmental assessment report to the Government of Canada in August 2011, concluding that the project was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, taking into consideration the implementation of proposed mitigation measures. In May 2012, the government agreed with the JRP’s recommendation and authorized the project to proceed to licensing to prepare a site. "This marked the end of the first step in the multiphase CNSC licensing process that is required for any new nuclear power project in Canada," the JRP said in a statement.

OPG must now prepare a mid-term report on the conduct of the licensed activities and the implementation status of commitments made during the environmental assessment. The next step in the regulatory process will be the CNSC licensing decision phase to construct a nuclear power plant, once OPG submits its application. The public will have an opportunity to comment on OPG’s application to construct, and application to operate, at public hearings to be scheduled in the future.

An invitation for companies to submit proposals to build two reactors at the OPG site in 2008 prompted submissions from Areva (for the EPR), Westinghouse (AP1000), and AECL (ACR-1000) by the February 2009 deadline. Westinghouse in July said it is preparing a detailed construction plan and cost estimates for two potential AP1000 reactors for the Darlington site.

Sources: POWERnews, CNSC, OPG

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)