The environment group, Durham Nuclear Awareness (DNA), is calling for immediate shutdown of the Pickering Nuclear Station in the wake of a damning report from Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) staff. The AECB report notes that maintenance and operations problems are persisting, and that
"the aging of plant equipment has not been dealt with effectively and as such, much of the equipment is in a poor material state."
The AECB report also notes that:
"We have observed that PND [Pickering Nuclear Division] is having difficulty in operating six units while continuing to significantly reduce the large backlog of maintenance work on the operating units."
Ontario Hydro has requested a five year licence from the AECB, despite the fact that a standard licence is two years. The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) was only willing to grant the troubled nuclear station a six month licence last December. AECB staff are now proposing a one year licence renewal. DNA spokesperson Irene Kock said:
"Ontario Hydro's request for a longer licence at Pickering is outrageous. Hydro cannot be trusted with a five year licence."
"All Pickering reactors should be shut down now, while Ontario Hydro catches up on its huge maintenance backlog."
"The oldest four reactors at Pickering 'A' should be shut down permanently, and all attention should be focused on the four Pickering "B" reactors."
Fire protection at CANDU nuclear stations is a new issue identified by DNA. A Freedom of Information request confirmed that silicone foam seals are used to plug pipe and cable openings in walls at all of Ontario's nuclear stations. In the U.S., silicone foam seals are suspected of defects due to improper installation. In addition silicone foam may not prevent fires from spreading because it is combustible. DNA is calling for an investigation into the use of silicone foam in nuclear stations.
- 30 -Durham Nuclear Awareness (DNA) is a non-profit citizens' organization which has intervened in the relicensing of the Pickering Nuclear Stations since 1992. DNA has a range of concerns with respect to nuclear hazards that have yet to be resolved or adequately addressed through the AECB's relicensing process. This is a preliminary submission intended to outline some of DNA's concerns regarding the Pickering Nuclear Stations which are within the mandate of the AECB. These are topics which we believe should be addressed in detail by AECB staff prior to the final consideration of the Pickering licence renewal in June.
Contact Irene Kock (DNA) 905-852-0571 for more information.
DNA's preliminary submission to the AECB
regarding relicensing of Pickering,
and additional background info, is available on request.
April 29, 1997
to the Atomic Energy Control Board
on the Renewal of Licences
for the Pickering Nuclear Generating Stations
(Initial Consideration ~ May 15, 1997)
Nuclear Station Age Increases Hazard
A key concern is the complex problem of nuclear station aging and the hazard posed by time-worn components and systems, as well as the interface between existing and retrofitted components and systems. AECB staff have yet to comprehensively address the hazards posed by nuclear station aging. The 1996 Peer Review Report for the Pickering "A" Station (released in March 1997) noted several examples of corrosion found on equipment and piping. The AECB's Advisory Committee on Nuclear Safety reported on plant aging considerations in its January 1997 submission (BMD 97-18), noting that in the U.S., aging assessment is integrated into the licence renewal process.
Peer Review Results Reveal Systemic Problems
The 1996 Peer Review Report for Pickering "A" revealed many serious deficiencies in conditions and practices at the station. Problems identified in the Report included: overdue safety system inspections; failure to prepare Event Reports; lack of follow-up on Event Reports; lack of adequate staff training and shortage of experienced staff; lack of adequate supervision; long-standing technical problems which station staff attempt to "work around"; and stack pollution monitors which fail to operate properly. The Peer Review Report reveals systemic management problems which are placing the workforce and the public at risk.
Event Reports Unavailable to Public
Access to Event Reports and Significant Event Reports for Pickering "A" and "B" for 1996 has been restricted by Ontario Hydro due to the fact that many Reports have yet to be approved for release to Ontario Hydro's Public Reference Centre (PRC). As of early April about 1/3 out of a total of at least 623 Reports for 1996 had yet to be released and filed at the PRC, despite requests for release of all such Reports under Access to Information legislation. Informed public involvement in the AECB relicensing process requires that the public have access to these Reports, which have in the past been filed at the Ontario Hydro PRC within a month or two of a given Event.
Inadequate Fire Protection at Nuclear Stations
Fire protection at CANDU nuclear stations is discussed in a new CSA Standard (N293-95) issued in November 1995. AECB staff have asked Ontario Hydro to report on compliance with the new Standard at existing stations by March 1997. The 1996 Peer Review Report for Pickering "A" noted: "no overall responsibility for fire risk assessment has been assigned for the station and as a result no ongoing fire risk assessments are being performed" (p. 17). Silicone foam is used at the Pickering Nuclear Station as a fire stop for fire barrier penetrations. This product was recently tested at Underwriter's Laboratories of Canada and failed the test. Fire protection clearly deserves special consideration as a new issue at Pickering, and possibly a generic issue for all CANDU reactors.
Nuclear Emergency Plan Implementation
The Province of Ontario Nuclear Emergency Plan (Part I - Master Plan, second draft) was released in January 1997. It contains some new features, one of which requires that Ontario Hydro "provide the resources and assistance to [the] designated municipalities to enable them to establish a public alerting system" which can alert every person in a 3 km. radius zone within 15 minutes (p. 48). The AECB's role in enforcing compliance by Ontario Hydro with the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Plan is not stated in the second draft of the Master Plan (see points 13 and 14, p. 157 - "pending"). Given Ontario Hydro's record in this area, analysis of Ontario Hydro's ability and willingness to provide sufficient funds for complete implementation of the emergency plan should be integrated into the licence renewal process.
Other Outstanding Issues
DNA wishes to register concerns about serious hazards at the Pickering Nuclear Stations which remain unresolved. These issues have not been adequately addressed by AECB staff or Ontario Hydro to date, in our view. Our concerns include
- the questionable seismic qualification of the stations;
- the absence of a totally separate second fast shutdown system at Pickering "A"; and
- the use of pollution standards which are not strict enough.
DNA will be preparing a final submission on the matter of the relicensing of the Pickering Nuclear Stations for presentation to the AECB's June meeting in Ottawa.
Durham Nuclear Awareness (DNA)
Box 104 Uxbridge, ON L9P 1M6
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