Regulators give nod to longer lives

20 February 2012

Spain's nuclear regulator has ruled that the Garoña nuclear power plant is safe to operate beyond its current licence's arbitrarily imposed expiry date, while Canadian regulators have agreed to a licence extension and restart permission for Point Lepreau following major refurbishment.

Point Lepreau
Point Lepreau (Image: NB Power)

Spain's nuclear regulator, the Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear (CSN), has reported to the Spanish government that there is no impediment from the point of view of nuclear safety or radiation protection to the operation of the Santa Maria de Garoña reactor beyond 2013.

The Spanish government approved only a four-year extension when the licence for Nuclenor's 446 MWe boiling water reactor when its licence last came up for renewal in 2009, even though the CSN had already ruled that the plant could operate safely until at least 2019. However, a cabinet decision last month by the recently elected conservative government overturned the decree that would have forced the plant to close in 2013.

The government then asked the CSN to review the situation, as well as considering any technical improvements that might be required for the plant to operate beyond 2013. The CSN has now made its report back to the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, the government office with responsibility for final decisions on nuclear plant operations in Spain.

When it ruled in 2009 that Garoña would be safe to operate to 2019, the CSN identified a number of improvements to be made at the plant over the next four years. In its new report, the CSN again emphasises that various nuclear safety and radiation protection conditions must be met for the plant to be allowed to operate to 2019. The plant's operators are required to satisfy the regulator that monitoring, inspection, maintenance and management activities carried out at the plant since July 2009 are consistent with those established for the renewal of the operating permit until 2019. This must be completed by July 2012.

Nuclenor must still apply for an extension to operate Garoña to 2019. The CSN has given the plant operator until September 2012 to submit the necessary supporting documents.

Point Lepreau good to go

Canadian regulators have announced a decision to renew the operating licence for New Brunswick Power's Point Lepreau plant for five years. The regulator has also given permission for fuel loading and restarting of the reactor, which has been offline since 2008 for major refurbishment work.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announced its decision to revoke the plant's current licence, replacing it with a new one valid to 30 June 2017, following a two day public hearing. The regulator has also recommended that a site-specific seismic hazard assessment be completed for the station, and has required New Brunswick Power to share the results through its public information program.

The single unit Point Lepreau plant is a 680 MWe Candu 6 pressurized heavy water plant, which began commercial operation in 1983. It was taken off line in March 2008 for a major refurbishment including the replacement of all 380 fuel channels, calandria tubes and feeder tubes, to enable the plant's operating life to be extended by an additional 25-30 years. Originally anticipated to take 16 months to complete, the C$1.4 billion ($1.4 billion) refurbishment has been further extended by the need to remove and replace all the calandria tubes for a second time after problems with seal tightness. The retubing is now anticipated to be finished by May 2012 with the plant expected to return to service later in the year.

New Brunswick Power vice president of generation Blair Kennedy said the company was pleased with the regulator's "positive decision", describing it as a vote of confidence from the CNSC. "I'm very proud of the accomplishments of our workers at the station," he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News