November 4, 2009

Nuclear Restart For Refurbished Canadian Units Gets The Green Light

3rd November 2009

Two reactors at Canada's Bruce A nuclear power plant that have been out of service for over a decade have been given regulatory approval for refueling and restart. At the same time, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has announced five-year operating Licence renewals for the Bruce A and B nuclear power stations.

Units 1 and 2 at the Bruce A plant have been undergoing a major refurbishment to replace their fuel channels and steam generators plus upgrade ancillary systems to current standards in an operation that should enable them to operate for a further 25 years. The announcement by regulator CNSC that refueling can go ahead means the project looks to be on line for the projected 2010 restarts.

The regulator also announced that it had decided to renew the operating licences for Bruce A and the four-unit Bruce B plant, with the new licences valid from 1 November 2009 to 31 October 2014. (The five-year renewal is in line with Canadian regulatory practice, whereby nuclear power plant operating licences are granted for a fixed term and must be renewed periodically.)

As part of its ruling, CNSC has requested that detailed information on the status of the refurbishment of the Bruce A units and on the status of Bruce Power's follow-up monitoring be included in its own annual Status Report on Power Reactors. It has similarly requested detailed information on the status of Bruce Power's follow-up monitoring, ageing management, any safety-significant dates for equipment, and any forecasted end of life plans, be included in the annual Status Report for Bruce B.

Units 1 and 2 at the four-unit Bruce A plant started up in 1977, but unit 2 was shut down in 1995 because a steam generator suffered corrosion after a lead shielding blanket used during maintenance was mistakenly left inside. In the late 1990s then-owner Ontario Hydro decided to lay up all four units at the plant to concentrate resources on other reactors in its fleet, and unit 1 was taken out of service in December 1997 with units 3 and 4 in following in 1998. The four units at sister power station Bruce B continued to operate. Bruce Power took over the operations of both Bruce plants from Ontario Hydro in 2001 and restarted units 3 and 4 by early 2004. Bruce A units 3 and 4 are likely to undergo a similar refurbishment once units 1 and 2 are back in operation.

The decision to refurbish the units followed a 2005 agreement by Bruce Power and the government of Ontario to refurbish the two 769 MWe Candu reactors as a faster option than building new ones in the face of impending power shortages. A similar approach has been adopted elsewhere in Canada, with refurbishment work already completed at Pickering A units 1 and 4, ongoing at Point Lepreau 1 and planned to commence at Gentilly 2 in 2011.

Bruce Power decided to withdraw its application for a third nuclear power station at Bruce in July, saying it would focus on the refurbishment of the existing Bruce plants rather than building Bruce C. It also announced it was scrapping plans for a second new nuclear plant at Nanticoke in Ontario.

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