Nuclear Awareness Project (Canada)
Seven Ontario Hydro CANDU Reactors to Shut Down
Toronto -- Ontario Hydro announced on August 13, 1997 that it would shut down its oldest seven reactors within the next year. This includes four 515 MWe reactors at the Pickering "A" nuclear station, just east of Toronto, and three 848 MWe reactors at the Bruce "A" nuclear station on the shore of Lake Huron near the town of Kincardine. Ontario Hydro had previously shut down one reactor at the Bruce "A" station in 1995. Ontario Hydro is also shutting down Canada's last remaining heavy water plant at the Bruce site. CANDU reactors need heavy water for both coolant and moderator. Dave Martin, Research Director of Nuclear Awareness Project, stated, "This is the largest single nuclear shutdown anywhere in the world. It's the beginning of the end for nuclear power in Canada."
The Bruce "A" reactors lasted less than half of their expected 40-year lifetime. The Pickering "A" reactors lasted only 25 years, despite having been re-tubed at cost of $1 billion (Cdn).
The shutdowns will leave Ontario Hydro with 12 reactors -- four at the Pickering "B" station; four at the Bruce "B" station; and four at the Darlington station. Ontario Hydro refers to the current shutdowns as "lay ups", implying that the reactors may be re-started at a later date. However, Nuclear Awareness Project believes that the reactors will never be re-started, for economic, as well as environmental and safety reasons.
"The Ontario Hydro shutdown will also seriously hurt the chances of foreign CANDU sales by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL)." said Dave Martin. AECL is a Canadian crown corporation that designs and markets CANDU reactors. AECL is currently seeking to build reactors in Turkey, Romania, and the Republic of Korea. CANDU performance has declined dramatically in recent years. In 1996, Ontario Hydro's 19 operating reactors ran at an average capacity factor of 66%. The Pickering "A" station had a capacity factor of 36%, and Pickering "B", 49% in 1996. Martin added, "The message is clear: do not buy CANDU reactors".
Closure of the problem-plagued Pickering "A" reactors vindicates ten years of public education work by activists with Nuclear Awareness Project and its local affiliated group, Durham Nuclear Awareness (DNA). The four aging reactors, now over 25 years old, were the oldest operating CANDU reactors in Canada, and have been the subject of several recent controversies.
In May, it was revealed that Ontario Hydro had dumped more than 1,000 tonnes of copper, zinc and other metals in Lake Ontario. The metals were being eroded from the Pickering stations' brass steam condensers over the last 20 years. Durham Nuclear Awareness has requested an investigation under Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights, alleging that Ontario Hydro officials knowingly reported incomplete environmental data to the Province of Ontario.
In July, Ontario Hydro revealed that it had failed to report tritium contamination of ground water on the Pickering site for the last twenty years. In 1979 it found 2,150,000 becquerels per litre (Bq/L) of tritium in ground water, and in 1994 found 700,000 Bq/L. Tritium can cause cancer if ingested. Ontario's current "objective" for tritium in drinking water is 7,000 Bq/L, but in 1994 a provincial advisory committee recommended that this level should be reduced to 100 Bq/L, and brought down to 20 Bq/L within five years.
Ontario Hydro will increase the use of coal and oil-fired stations to compensate for the closed nuclear reactors. In the last four years, the giant utility has decimated its conservation programs, and recently cancelled its first tentative efforts at a renewable energy program for independent power producers. Added coal and oil generation will result in major environmental impacts. The Ontario environmental community is rallying to demand a truly sustainable energy future based on demand management and renewable energy, with the use of gas-fired cogeneration as a transition technology.
August 17, 1997
Some selected 'Significant Events'
at Ontario Hydro's Pickering Nuclear Generating Stations
August 1, 1983 Pickering reactor 2 had a 'loss of coolant accident' (LOCA), after a pressure tube suffered a metre-long rupture. The entire station was shut down. The four reactors at Pickering "A" were eventually retubed at a cost of about $1 billion -- more than the original $716 million cost of the station. November 22, 1988 Pickering reactor 1 had a power excursion caused by operator error that caused damage to 36 fuel bundles. The cooling system was contaminated by radioactive iodine, which was vented over several weeks following the accident. Ontario Hydro did not believe that such an accident was possible, and had to revise its operating procedures and retrain staff. September 25, 1990 Pickering reactor 2 had a "severe flux tilt", with large power shifts in the reactor core, caused in part by the CANDU design. Staff spent two days trying to stabilize the reactor core before shutting it down, and were later criticized by the AECB for not shutting it down immediately. August 2, 1992 Pickering reactor 1 had a heavy water leak from a heat exchanger that resulted in a release of 2,300 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium into Lake Ontario. This was the worst-ever tritium release from a CANDU reactor, and resulted in increased levels of tritium in drinking water from Whitby to Burlington. December 10, 1994 Pickering reactor 2 had a major 'loss of coolant accident' (LOCA). A pipe break resulted in a spill of 185 tonnes of heavy water. For the first time ever, at a CANDU, the Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS) was used to prevent a meltdown, and about 200 workers were involved in the clean-up. The reactor was restarted on February 14, 1996. July 21, 1995 Two technicians carried out work on the wrong reactor (Pickering reactor 5 instead of reactor 6), disabling the second fast shutdown system on reactor 5, which was operating at full power at the time. February 19, 1996 About 500 tonnes of water spilled into the #6 reactor building when employees working on an Emergency Water Supply valve failed to isolate it from the system. An investigation revealed that safety equipment could have failed due to water damage, and both the primary and backup heat sinks were actually lost for a section of the reactor core. The acci- dent blew a 60 lb. valve component 6 feet into the air, almost hitting a worker and shot water up to the reactor building dome. April 15, 1996 Pickering reactor 4 had a heavy water leak from a heat exchanger that resulted in the release of 50 trillion becquerels of tritium into Lake Ontario. The level of tritium in local drinking water peaked at about 100 times the usual level. April 21, 1996 All eight reactors at the Pickering nuclear stations were shut down to repair a backup valve on the Emergency Core Cooling System. The flaw was detected on April 15th, and the system had been tested one month earlier. Hydro did not advise the public of this situation until April 20th. October 11, 1996 "Drug paraphernalia" were found in the 'Operating Island' at the Pickering nuclear stations. A station manager commented: "The continuing discovery of such items in the plant is both embarrassing and a threat to our recovery and survival as a business." This was one of five significant event reports relating to illicit alcohol and/or drug use in the Pickering nuclear stations in 1996. May 17, 1997 A media report revealed that Ontario Hydro had failed to report the dumping of more than 1,000 tonnes of copper, zinc and other metals into Lake Ontario from the Pickering stations, due to the erosion and corrosion of brass steam conden- sers. DNA has requested an investigation under the Environmental Bill of Rights, alleging that Ontario Hydro officials knowingly reported incomplete environmental data to the Province of Ontario. July 30, 1997 Ontario Hydro revealed that it had failed to report tritium contamination of ground water at the Pickering nuclear generating station for the last twenty years. In 1979 it found 2,150,000 becquerels per litre (Bq/L) of tritium in ground water, and in 1994 found 700,000 Bq/L.
For a free copy of the next Nuclear Awareness Project newsletter, "Nuclear Awareness News", send your mailing address to:
Nuclear Awareness Project
Box 104, 34 Church Street Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada L9P 1M6
telephone & facsimile: 905-852-0571
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