The owner of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station has proposed extending the plant’s life beyond its original shutdown date of 2024, the office of Ontario’s energy minister confirmed to BNN Bloomberg.

“[Ontario Power Generation’s] proposal does include operating four of the six units one year past 2024,” a representative for Greg Rickford told BNN Bloomberg in an email.

The representative added the extended timeline requires “further consultation” and approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

Reached by email, the CNSC said OPG has not yet submitted documents indicating its desire to operate the Pickering plant past 2024.

“Given that the current Pickering Nuclear Generating Station licence does not allow operation beyond December 31, 2024, any request to operate beyond this date requires the approval of the commission,” a CNSC spokesperson wrote in an email.

The Toronto Star was first to report that Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s cabinet “quietly approved” prolonging the life of Pickering’s nuclear power plant.

Rickford did not confirm whether the government has approved the extension, but in an email to BNN Bloomberg noted the Conservatives have “consistently expressed that the safe operation and decommissioning of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station is a top priority.”

The plant was recently in the news after emergency officials erroneously sent an alert to Ontarians early Sunday morning warning of an “incident” at the plant that didn’t involve the “abnormal” release of radioactivity. That false alert is now the subject of an investigation.

Rickford said OPG’s proposal for an extension is backed by “industry experts, including the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).”

“An optimized schedule would also allow workers, families and the region additional time to plan for the full decommissioning of Pickering,” Rickford wrote.

The IESO said extending the Pickering plant could help meet Ontario’s electricity demands between 2023 and 2025, when some non-nuclear energy contracts are set to expire and several “nuclear refurbishments” will be underway.

In an email to BNN Bloomberg, a representative for the IESO said it shared its findings with the province.

Pickering’s first four nuclear reactors went into service in 1971, according to OPG’s website. An additional four reactors entered operations in the early 1980s. 

OPG’s website indicates the plant generates roughly 14 per cent of Ontario’s power and is responsible for employing approximately 4,500 people around the region.