Protect Lake OntarioOntario Power Generation’s (OPG) Darlington nuclear station has been killing millions of fish every year, in contravention of federal environmental law. You can help stop this.

At public hearings in 2011, a representative from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) admitted that OPG had been operating Darlington in contravention of the Fisheries Act for years.  So while aware that Darlington was flouting the law, DFO did nothing to enforce the Fisheries Act, which is intended to protect fish and fish habitat.

This has caused a great deal of harm to Lake Ontario.

Nuclear stations need massive amounts of water to prevent the reactor core from overheating and causing an accident.

This is why people visualize large cooling towers emitting steam when they think of nuclear stations.  Cooling towers are installed to protect aquatic ecosystems.  They allow cooling water to be recycled instead of continually sucked from a lake.

The Darlington nuclear station is a dirty exception.  Darlington takes its cooling water directly from Lake Ontario and in so doing sucks up and kills millions of fish annually.  The station’s hot, chemical laden waste water is then dumped back into Lake Ontario.

OPG designed Darlington without cooling towers in the 1970s to save money.  OPG chose profits over environmental protection. 

This wouldn’t be accepted today by our southern neighbours. And it shouldn’t be OK in Canada.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of California are telling power plant operators to phase-out once-through cooling systems (the system used at Darlington).

And reactors on the American side of Lake Ontario, such as Nine Mile Point, already have cooling towers. 

Here in Canada, however, the federal government seems more interested in protecting OPG’s profits than the environment.

OPG has asked the federal government for permission to keep running the four Darlington reactors until 2055.

OPG says it will cost anywhere between $8 and 14 billion dollars to keep Darlington running.  This is almost commensurate with the original cost of building Darlington. (Darlington ended up costing $14 billion in 1992. That’s about $20 billion today, when you take inflation into account.)

The high cost says it all. OPG is effectively rebuilding Darlington. You would think then that the federal government would require OPG to upgrade the station to meet modern environmental standards, especially since Darlington has been operating in contravention of the Fisheries Act for years.   But no.

I reviewed the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and DFO’s environmental review of the proposed life-extension of Darlington last month.  It doesn’t even consider options for eliminating or limiting Darlington’s impact on Lake Ontario.

Given there’s cost-effective options to protect Lake Ontario, this is appalling.

This is where you can help.

This Fall the federal government will ask whether you think Darlington should be allowed to operate until 2055.

Please tell the CNSC and DFO that their mission is not to protect OPG’s profits, but to protect people and the environment.  Their job is to protect Lake Ontario not OPG.

Sign-up here and we’ll make sure you get the information and tools you need.

And for more information on Darlington’s impact on Lake Ontario, please read this backgrounder.

Talk to you soon.

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Greenpeace