WINGHAM, ONT. -- One year down, only 12 more to go for Canada’s largest private infrastructure project, taking place right now along the shores of Lake Huron.

“What’s especially impressive is that this project was undertaken during the most severe public health crisis in living memory,” says Ontario’s Energy Minister Greg Rickford, during a virtual celebration Tuesday afternoon.

One year ago, Bruce Power embarked on a 13-year, $13-billion project to refurbish six of its eight nuclear reactors.

The goal is to extend the life the Bruce Power nuclear plant until 2064.

So far, so good, says Bruce Power CEO Mike Rencheck. He says the Major Component Replacement or MCR project is both on time and on budget, despite having to shut down work for 50 days in the early part of the pandemic.

Rencheck adds replacing Bruce Power’s nuclear fleet will keep Canada on pace to reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“In the early 2000s Toronto had 53 smog days a year, and as a result of bringing Bruce Power’s units back into service, we have effectively reduced the number of smog days in Toronto to zero."

The project is forecast to support 22,000 direct and indirect jobs, and pump billions of dollars into the Canadian economy, while still supplying approximately 30 per cent of Ontario’s electricity needs.

“We’ve seen recently with the Texas event, how critical electricity supply stability is, and nuclear is the short and long term provider of that to Ontario,” says Ontario’s Associate Minister of Energy, and Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker.

But the multi-billion project will produce a lot of radioactive waste that doesn’t currently have a permanent home.

“After 40 years the industry doesn’t have a real, actual plan in place for the existing waste, even the fuel waste, let alone the low- and intermediate-level waste, for which there is no plan at all,” says Brennain Lloyd, of the nuclear and environmental watchdog group, NorthWatch.

Plans to bury Ontario’s low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste under the Bruce Power site were voted down by the Saugeen Ojibway Nation last year.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is currently trying to secure a home for all of Canada’s nuclear fuel waste, in either the Municipality of South Bruce or Ignace, in Northern Ontario.

The country’s nuclear waste is currently stored in above-ground and near-ground facilities at existing nuclear plants in Ontario and New Brunswick.

Nuclear officials say there will be a permanent plan for the country’s nuclear waste, and it’s a small price to pay for the energy provided to the province.