In Ottawa on 8 February, day one of the two-part Bruce Power hearing, staff of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission recommended the issuance of operating licences to Bruce Power for Ontario Power Generation’s Bruce A and Bruce B nuclear generating stations, with expiry dates of 31 October, 2003.

Bruce Power, a subsidiary of British Energy, is seeking the licences to operate the 3076MWe Bruce A and 3140MWe Bruce B stations on Lake Huron, 200km northwest of Toronto. OPG’s predecessor Ontario Hydro put Bruce A into long-term defuelled layup in 1995-1998, but continued to operate Bruce B.

The document explained the novel regulatory problems posed by the Bruce Power application. A new proponent, with no corporate reactor-years of Candu heavy water nuclear operation, and no operating experience in Canada, is applying for licences to operate existing power reactors. Moreover, the proponent “is not currently in a position to effect changes or improvements in the facility.” Further, “OPG and Bruce Power are potential competitors in the pending competitive electricity market in Ontario. This may complicate their contractual relationship.” The rivalry could become sharper after the potential return to service of OPG’s Pickering A nuclear generating station, which is itself the subject of an ongoing CNSC hearing.

Finally, staff noted that “potential issues such as the use of contractors and adequacy of technical support (from OPG to Bruce Power) remain.” CNSC staff nonetheless recommended the licensing green light because they accept Bruce Power’s basic argument that, in conjunction with OPG, it will deliver a “smooth transition” of the site to new management “between financial closure and the transfer of operational responsibility.” However, staff recommended the inclusion of a licensing condition that would require Bruce Power to update recent written guarantees from its chief parents, British Energy and Cameco, that the firm could financially maintain the entire plant in safe shutdown if a contingency arises where all Bruce B units need to be shut down individually. Bruce Power applied for the licenses in late July 2000, days after announcing an unprecedented agreement, which is controversial in Ontario politics, to lease Bruce A and Bruce B from OPG for an initial term of 18 years. These lease payments are expected to total about C$3.1 billion.

Intervenors will appear before the CNSC on day two of the hearing on 19 April in Kincardine, Ontario, near the plant.

CNSC representative Sunni Locatelli told Nuclear Engineering International that a Commission decision is imminent on OPG’s Pickering A Restart application, which was heard on December 14-15, 2000.