Restart of refurbished Point Lepreau approaches

23 March 2012

NB Power has received permission from the Canadian nuclear regulator to load fuel into the refurbished single-unit Point Lepreau plant in New Brunswick. The Candu reactor is expected to restart later this year, having been offline for over four years.

Point Lepreau 615x160
Point Lepreau (Image; NB Power)

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) said that NB Power had fulfilled all the the licence conditions prerequisites for fuel reload. Ramzi Jammal, executive vice-president and chief regulatory operations officer at the CNSC, said it was satisfied that NB Power "has taken adequate measures to protect the public, the workers and the environment, in order to proceed with reloading fuel in the nuclear reactor."

Candu reactors are designed to undergo refurbishment after approximately 25 years of operation, requiring a major outage but allowing reactor life to be extended by up to 30 years.

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. Originally anticipated to take 16 months to complete, the C$1.4 billion ($1.4 billion) refurbishment was further extended by the need to remove and replace all the calandria tubes for a second time after problems with seal tightness.

NB Power announced earlier this month that it had completed the 760 lower feeder installations at Point Lepreau, "the last major construction activity of the project." The installation was completed on 1 March.

In February, the CNSC granted a five-year operating licence to Point Lepreau. The licence decision included the regulator's permission to proceed with fuel loading and other restart activities once NB Power has "progressed and completed the required commitments for this fuelling activity to commence and received confirmation from the CNSC designated officer."

Fuel loading is scheduled to start before the end of this month. Once fuel has been loaded into the reactor, NB Power will require further CNSC approvals to bring the reactor back online. Under the terms of its licence, the company must seek permission to remove the reactor from a guaranteed shutdown state, approval to raise power output over 0.1% of capacity and further approval to exceed 35% of full capacity. NB Power expects Point Lepreau to return to service during the second half of 2012.

Another Canadian Candu reactor - unit 2 at the Bruce A plant in Ontario - received permission last week to restart after refurbishment. Work to refurbish Bruce A unit 1 is also nearing completion.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News