Bruce Power says it has achieved a major milestone of "substantial completion" of the construction phase of Major Component Replacement (MCR) portion of refurbishment of unit 6 at the Bruce nuclear plant. Refuelling will now begin with the aim of returning the plant to service later this year.

The MCR project began in January 2020. The eight pressurised heavy-water Candu reactor units at the Bruce site in Ontario (Bruce A – units 1-4, and Bruce B – units 4-8) began commercial operation between 1977 and 1987. Bruce Power’s CAD13bn ($10bn) Life Extension Programme, which includes Asset Management and MCR, began in 2016. MCR, which began with unit 6 and also includes units 3-8, will extend the life of the site until 2064. Units 1&2 have already been refurbished and were returned to service in 2012. Work began on unit 3 in March.

Unit 6 is the first of six reactors at the site to undergo refurbishment as part of a privately funded investment to extend the life of the site to 2064. The unit was taken offline for the refurbishment in January 2020 at the start of the COVID pandemic, which presented a "major hurdle" to Bruce Power and its construction partners. However, the substantial completion of the construction phase has been completed on time and on budget, Bruce Power said.

Bruce Power Operations staff will now begin refuelling the unit with 5,760 fuel bundles in May, while other lead-out activities and regulatory inspections will be completed to return it to Ontario’s electricity grid in the fourth quarter of this year.

“Nuclear energy is crucial to powering our growing province and thriving economy and the completion of construction on Bruce Power’s unit 6 Major Component Replacement Project is a critical step as we ensure the province can meet the demand for clean, low-cost electricity,” said Minster of Energy Todd Smith. “Our strong nuclear industry has enabled one of the cleanest electricity systems in the world and, as a leader in nuclear refurbishment, we’re ensuring this carries forward for the people, businesses and hospitals in Ontario.”

Bruce Power’s construction partners in the project included Aecon, United Engineers & Constructors, SNC-Lavalin, BWXT, ES Fox, ATS, Black and MacDonald, Makwa Cahill, Highland Nuclear, SGT, Framatome, Kinectrics and subvendors. Work is now progressing on unit 3 with bulkhead installation and the Primary Heat Transport system ‘drain and dry’ as the next steps prior to starting construction activity, which begins with major component disassembly later this quarter. Bruce Power says each successive outage over the next decade will build off the successes and innovations of the unit 6 MCR.

The construction phase of the unit 6 MCR was completed with execution partner Shoreline Power Group “and a multitude of talented and dedicated tradespeople from the Ontario Building Trades”. It included removal and replacement of 960 feeder tubes, 480 fuel channels, and 480 calandria tubes. Steam generator work was completed earlier this year by SGRT a 50/50 joint venture between Aecon and SGT (a partnership between Framatome and United Engineers & Constructors).

Shoreline Power Group, a joint venture between Aecon, SNC-Lavalin and United Engineers & Constructors, executed the fuel channel and feeder replacement work on Unit 6 and will continue with the remaining MCR units.

Bruce Power’s Life Extension Programme and MCR Project will extend the operational life of each reactor by 30-35 years. Bruce Power’s MCR and Asset Management investments will be closely coordinated with Project 2030, a programme that leverages innovation and new efficient technology to increase site capacity, targeting more than 7,000 MW net peak output in the early 2030s, once all units have completed their MCRs. It will also ensure a steady supply of medical isotopes for the world market for decades to come. Bruce Power’s Life-Extension Programme will directly and indirectly support 22,000 jobs annually and inject CAD4bn ($2.99bn) into the province’s economy. Bruce Power, established in 2001, is a Canadian-owned partnership of TC Energy, OMERS, the Power Workers’ Union and The Society of United Professionals.

Image: Bruce 6 is aiming to return to service later this year(courtesy of Bruce Power)