Monthly Archives: August 2011

Messages Nuclear News

Point Lepreau Generating Station Refurbishment Project Update

Fuel channel installations in progress

August 12, 2011

The Refurbishment Project team has started the fuel channel installation sequence and has successfully completed approximately six per cent of the 380 installations. The fuel channel installation activities are progressing well along the planned timeline in a safe and quality manner. This sequence is expected to be completed in December 2011.

On July 15, 2011, NB Power announced that AECL had successfully completed the installation and testing of all 380 calandria tubes in the reactor vessel. Following that milestone, workers completed the required transition activities for fuel channel installation and started installations shortly after.

The NB Power and AECL team continues to work around the clock to complete all project activities safely and with the quality expected by New Brunswickers in order to complete the retubing work by May 2012. After the commissioning activities have been completed, the Station is expected to return to service by the fall of 2012 and deliver safe and reliable power to New Brunswick for the next 25 to 30 years.

“We’re pleased by AECL’s quick transition from the calandria tube work to the fuel channel installations,” said Rod Eagles, NB Power Refurbishment Project Director. “The successful early days of this sequence demonstrate that our training and preparation are paying off in field execution. Our team of dedicated and highly skilled workers remains on track to meet the project targets.”

The fuel channel installation sequence is very complex as there are multiple steps that need to be executed systematically in order to complete a full installation of each fuel channel.

A subassembly (consisting of a pressure tube and one end fitting) is assembled at the AECL Saint John mock-up facility and transported to the Station. Following the insertion of this subassembly inside of the recently installed calandria tubes located inside the reactor vessel, spacers are put in place at four precise positions along the length of the pressure tube. These spacers will maintain the distance between the pressure and calandria tubes. A second end fitting is then installed on the opposite end and attached to the pressure tube with a rolled joint. The end fitting outlet ports are then aligned to the proper position and welded to the bellows on both sides of the reactor. Finally, positioning assemblies are installed.

Activities to restart the Station continue. The NB Power team will ensure that the remaining commissioning activities are carried out in accordance with all operating and regulatory requirements.

Project updates will continue to be issued on a monthly basis and will include progress on project milestones. The major milestones include:

  • Fuel channel installation completion (December 2011)
  • Lower feeder installation completion (May 2012)
  • Return to service and generating electricity (fall 2012)
Messages Nuclear Education Nuclear Outreach

Radiation Fears Strike Again: The Culprit? Bad Math.

An online news site based in Vancouver recently posted an article called Japan’s Fukushima catastrophe brings big radiation spikes to B.C.

The article claims that levels of airborne Iodine-131 in Canada shortly following the Fukushima accident, far exceeded the regulatory limits. It says, for example,

For 22 days, a Health Canada monitoring station in Sidney detected iodine-131 levels in the air that were 61 percent above the government’s allowable limit. In Resolute Bay, Nunavut, the levels were 3.5 times the limit.

This is, however, based on flawed calculations and a lack of understanding of the publicly available information presented on the CNSC website.

The CNA responded with this letter to the editor:

I read Alex Roslin’s article “Japan’s Fukushima Catastrophe Brings Big Radiation Spikes to B.C.” and wanted to clear up some misinformation that is presented in the article. There are many instances where it is stated that levels of airborne Iodine-131 exceeds federal limits; however this is not true according to publicly available information from the CNSC and Health Canada.

Airborne Iodine-131 from Fukushima was identified in the article as exceeding 200 milli-Becquerel per cubic meter (200mBq/m3). This value was presented on the CNSC website for the purpose of showing what certain concentrations in air meant in terms of dose if exposed for an entire year. In fact, the CNSC website states “These values should not be construed as regulatory limits set by the CNSC, but rather as reference values provided for context.” The highest recorded level in Canada occurred on March 29, at Resolute Bay in Nunavut and was measured to be 9.76mBq/m3. In this case, the concentration was only present for a single day.

Estimates for the dose to Canadians as a result of Iodine-131 from Fukushima are 500,000 times less than what has been shown to have any negative health effects. Equivalent activities that would give you the same dose include getting 1/50th of a panoramic dental X-Ray, or 6 hours worth of cosmic background radiation.

Radiation is part of our natural environment and has been present in our lives for much longer than human history, at levels that are hundreds, if not thousands of times more than what was received as a result of Fukushima. Canadian knowledge about radiation has saved and improved the quality of life of millions of people, at home and around the world in the fields of medicine and science. The article written by Alex Roslin is poorly researched and I urge all Canadians to think critically and use their own good judgment before believing false arguments.

Any readers wishing to continue this discussion are encouraged to leave a comment on our blog and join the conversation at and


James Harrington
Project Researcher
Canadian Nuclear Association.

Nuclear Pride Nuclear R&D

CNA Visits AECL’s Chalk River Laboratories PART TWO

In part one of the CNA‘s visit to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL)’s Chalk River Laboratories (CRL), we learned about the Waste Analysis Facilities and the Waste Management Areas, a history of CRL, Surface Sciences, materials testing and examination in the shielded facilities (a.k.a. hot cells) and the NRU. Part 2, takes us through the afternoon of our visit.

First stop after lunch was ZED-2. ZED stands for Zero Energy Deuterium. The ZED-2 was initially built to test the fuel arrangement of Canada’s first nuclear power plant, the NPD (Nuclear Power Demonstration).  ZED-2 has supported development of the CANDU industry by testing a wide range of fuel bundle designs and fuel arrangements at low power (usually between 5 to 100 watts) under a variety of operating conditions and simulated accident scenarios. We stood on top of the ZED-2 and were able to look through small windows and see fuel rods suspended in the reactor’s aluminum tank (which is surrounded by a graphite reflector and concrete shielding). Very cool! Many fuel materials have been tested and scenarios simulated here which have contributed to our understanding and the safe operation of Canada’s reactors. As a zero energy or “critical facility” it provides a very sensitive, but very safe working environment for physics research. And, this August (22 – 26) and again this winter, the ZED-2 Summer School will hosts physics and engineering students from across the country, allowing them to work side by side with experienced staff inside the reactor.

Zed-2’s graphite reflector
In Zed-2’s operator room

From there we went on to learn more about the work CRL is doing with Oakville-based Tyne-Engineering on a project to further advance AECL’s tritium technology, specifically the Combined Electrolysis and Catalytic Exchange (CECE) process. Together AECL and Tyne are developing equipment which is capable of removing tritium from reactors more efficiently, cost-effectively and with smaller equipment than before. Using the CECE process, downgraded heavy water can be upgraded to reactor grade and tritium in heavy water can be removed to minimize any personnel exposure or environmental releases.  This has important safety applications for the nuclear power industry and beyond.

CNA’s Alex Wolf checking out the tritium technologies lab

At CRL’s Inspection, Monitoring and Dynamics Branch, scientists, engineers and technologists develop and design solutions, products and services for power plant inspection and to address vibration and wear issues. The branch focuses on R&D for nuclear platform, CANDU reactors, the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor, waste management facilities and other nuclear utility stakeholders. The branch’s five main areas of focus: steam generator (SG) inspection, fuel channel inspection, other non-standard non-destructive examination (NDE) technologies, vibration and tribology, and valve packing, lubrication and diagnostics. For example, we learned about the specially designed probes used to inspect steam generator tubing in different types of reactors. AECL has been a leader in developing – and patenting – new inspection technology that is being used around the world, in both nuclear and non-nuclear applications.

CRL’s Inspection, Monitoring and Dynamics

Last stop on our tour was the Biological Research Facility (BRF). The BRF is a unique facility in North America, and one of only a handful of similar labs anywhere in the world. The BRF does animal and cell-based research into the biological effects of radiation. It’s key in proving and improving the standards for radiation safety and worker protection across the nuclear industry. The BRF also does collaborative studies with Health Canada, Defence Research and Development Canada, and private-sector customers. The animals (rodents and fish) are very well taken care of at the BRF. In fact, trained and experienced animal healthcare technologists and a resident veterinarian all provide animal care and procedure support. The Animal Care Committee of Chalk River Laboratories includes a variety of stakeholders who audit the BRF every three years to ensure the facility meets the guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CACC).   The important work done in this laboratory is helping answer some very fundamental questions on medical issues and diseases that affect the health of Canadians and others around the world.

CRL’s Biological Research Facility

It is impossible to summarize in two short blog posts everything that we saw and experienced in a day at AECL’s Chalk River Labs. We saw so much and yet it was only the tip of the iceberg. The groundbreaking work done by the several thousand talented and passionate employees – engineers, technicians, scientists, tradespeople, and countless others at CRL – has made, and continues to make, so many contributions to our quality of life in Canada, and around the world. From the development of CANDU technology, to the continued improvement of the safety and efficiency of nuclear technologies, to the NRU which produces the majority of the global supply of medical isotopes and Cobalt-60 – Chalk River Laboratories is 10,000 acres of national treasure. We should all be very proud.

For more information on Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and the Chalk River Laboratories, visit their website.

Thanks to everybody at AECL’s Chalk River Labs for having us!

Nuclear Pride Nuclear R&D Waste Management

CNA Visits AECL’s Chalk River Laboratories

Last month, the CNA was invited to tour the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL)’s Chalk River Laboratories (CRL). If you thought Chalk River was all about the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor, you are mistaken. There is so much going on at Chalk River, it’s really quite incredible.

We began our tour by signing in with security at the CRL outer gate. “Safety first” in the nuclear industry extends to security, which at CRL is impressive to say the least. After checking in and receiving our visitor badges, we were off with our tour facilitators, Pat and Philip from AECL Site and Community Affairs.

First stop on the tour was the Waste Analysis Facility (WAF). Completed in 2008, the WAF is where waste that is believed to be clean (known as “Likely Clean”) is checked before being sent for recycling or disposal. It’s the final safety test before clean waste leaves the AECL site. If contamination is found (less than half of a percent of total material) the item is sent for decontamination or storage on-site. Materials verified as clean are taken off-site by trucks, which also pass through sensitive vehicle monitors to make sure no contamination leaves the site. EVER.  This is also a big advantage as it has allowed AECL to implement new programs to recycle more material, and, in many cases reduces the cost of storage. AECL does waste storage for materials generated on-site but it also serves to safely store and secure radioactive waste from hospital, schools and lab facilities from across the country.

Here we are in front of the Brockhouse Building at AECL’s Chalk River Labs

Next we arrived at the Brockhouse Building for a presentation by Bill Kupferschmidt, the Vice-President of Research and Development, at AECL’s Nuclear Labs. But first, a safety brief: alarms will sound if there is an emergency, you go to the predetermined meeting spot, and there is an easy number to call to report an emergency, any questions? No? Then we’ll begin.

The presentation took us through the history of CRL. It’s the birthplace of Canada’s nuclear technology and has a 60-year nuclear legacy. Today CRL is the “knowledge base” of the Canadian industry. It’s a major producer of medical isotopes and a leader in nuclear environmental stewardship. The nuclear labs are applying science and technology for the benefit of Canadians and the world by way of specialized expertise, facilities and the unique ability to work with radioactive materials. It is truly impressive stuff! The Chalk River Laboratories are home to many facilities that can be found nowhere else in Canada.  These facilities, along with the people that work within them, play a big role in the scientific and industrial communities in Canada.

Our next stop on the tour was the Surface Sciences Lab. This is where expertise in a variety of disciplines – metallurgy, chemistry, physics, microscopy – all comes into play to solve any number of industrial materials challenges, and help make the industry safer and more efficient

AECL’s key areas of expertise include: material identification, characterization and qualification; mechanical failure analysis; corrosion analysis; non-destructive testing and analysis; sample preparation for metallographic and surface analysis; metallographic examination; characterization of radioactive specimens; and process qualifications including decontamination and cleaning.

Surface Sciences Lab

Complementary to the surface analysis capabilities are the remote-handling facilities for examining and testing irradiated materials and equipment. The Shielded Facilities include a reactor bay for receiving and initial processing of materials, shielded flasks for transferring highly radioactive materials, and hot cells!

The hot cells contain state-of-the-art equipment used to conduct post-irradiation examination (PIE) experiments and testing of radioactive materials. Mechanical arms behind shielded walls and windows allow the work to be done safely. The hot cells were this blogger’s favourite part of the tour.

Shielded Facilities

But then, we hadn’t yet arrived at the NRU. National Research Universal (NRU); a landmark achievement in Canadian science and technology. Completed in 1957, the NRU provides a unique facility for scientists across Canada through the National Research Council (NRC) and many others. Professor Bertram Brockhouse won a Nobel Prize in physics for his work at NRX (National Research Experimental, NRU’s predecessor) and NRU on neutron scattering. The technique he pioneered enables scientists today at the NRC Canadian Neutron Beam Centre at NRU to investigate materials with neutrons. In fact, each year over 200 professors, students and industrial researchers use this unique and powerful national resource. We are just “beaming” with pride!

NRU is also where the fundamental knowledge required to produce and evolve Canada’s CANDU fleet emerged AND where much of the world’s life-saving medical isotopes are produced.

Waste analysis, a history of CRL, surface sciences, hot cells, NRU — and all before lunch! In the second half of the tour we visit Zed-2, tritium and hydrogen research technologies, inspection technologies, and end with the Biological Research Facility. Read part two of CNA Visits AECL 2011 tomorrow on the TalkNuclear blog.

CNA2012 Messages Nuclear Outreach

Registration Now Open for the 2012 CNA Conference and Trade Show

Registration for the 2012 Canadian Nuclear Association Conference and Trade Show is NOW OPEN!

Click here to register!

The theme of this year’s conference is Leadership Through Innovation, which will focus on the latest developments in nuclear technology as well as unique communications strategies that help share the excitement with the rest of the world!

All remaining sponsorships and booths are now available to all potential sponsors and exhibitors, and you may contact Alex Wolf at for more information on how to become a sponsor at our 2012 Conference! Sponsors and exhibitors receive a certain number of complimentary registrations. Coupon codes for these registrations will be emailed to companies upon receipt of payment.

Follow the links below for the most up-to-date information!

Click here to register!

2012 Conference – Preliminary Agenda (PDF)

2012 Conference – Floor Plan (PDF)

2012 Conference – Sponsorship and Exhibitor Opportunities (PDF)