Regulator renews operating licence for Point Lepreau

20 February 2012

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) renewed the power reactor operating licence issued for the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station for five years. CNSC has also given the plant’s operator New Brunswick Power permission to proceed with fuel load and other restart activities once it has met certain commitments.

The new license will run from 17 February 2012 until 30 June 2017. In making its decision CNSC said that it considered information from NB power, CNSC staff and 37 intervenors that was presented at public hearings in Ontario and New Brunswick, in October 2011 and December 2011, respectively.

CNSC said that with the decision it has recommended the completion of a site-specific seismic hazard assessment, the results of which must be shared as part of NB Power’s public information programme.

Since March 2008, the Point Lepreau plant has been shut down for refurbishment, which includes the replacement of all calandria tubes, steam generators and instrument and control systems. The project was initially expected to be completed within 18 months, but has experienced delays and is over budget.

The first work sequence of the reactor reassembly activities is the installation of the new calandria tubes in the reactor vessel. The tubes were installed in April 2010, however challenges were encounted wheh the seal tightness of some of the new tubes did not meet the acceptance criteria. In October 2010 NB Power said that all 380 calandria tubes would be removed. By July 2011, they had been successfully installed into the reactor vessel for a second time and tested. Work then proceeded on fuel channel installation activities, which were completed ahead of the revised schedule in November 2011. Following the installation of the calandria tubes and fuel channels the next step in preparing for the station restart is to return heavy water to the moderator and auxiliary systems.

In a 6 January update, NB power said that the project team is expected to be ready to load fuel into the reactor in spring 2012. The reactor could return to service in the autumn of 2012, according to earlier estimates. When it became clear that the refurbishment would be longer than originally expected, NB Power absorbed the 2011 and 2013 future activities in that outage.

Commenting on the licence renewal, Blair Kennedy, vice president of generation (nuclear and conventional) at NB Power said: “This decision signals a vote of confidence from the CNSC that workers at the Point Lepreau Generating Station are ready to proceed through the final stages of the restart process and to continue safe and reliable operations after restart.”

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