Tag Archives: Bruce Power

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Setting the Record Straight on the Price of Electricity

By John Barrett
President and CEO
Canadian Nuclear Association

Environmental Defence has a new online campaign in which they are trying to pin the blame for Ontario’s electricity costs on nuclear, while at the same time ignoring nuclear’s role in helping Ontario’s landmark achievement of ending coal-fired electricity generation.

These alternative facts have been discredited by many, including the findings of Ontario’s Auditor General’s 2015 report on electric power system planning.

On electricity prices, the low cost of nuclear was recently highlighted in a news release from the Ontario Energy Board, which indicated nuclear accounted for only 38 per cent of the Global Adjustment while generating 59 per cent of the electricity.
In 2016, nuclear power generated 61% of Ontario’s electricity at well below the amounts paid to other generators. In fact, the average price of nuclear was 6.6 cents per kWh compared to the average residential price of 11 cents per kWh.

Wind and solar make up a small amount of Ontario’s electricity bill because they make up a small amount of Ontario’s electricity grid. Wind generated only six per cent of Ontario’s electricity in 2016 and solar less than one per cent. Despite this modest output, wind and solar nevertheless accounted for 26 per cent of the Global Adjustment.

There is a myth that, due to the capital investments required in nuclear power, the consequence is a high price of power. This simply isn’t true. That’s because nuclear facilities operate for decades and generate large volumes of electricity on a consistent basis. Ontario’s nuclear facilities have a demonstrated track-record of high reliability. That’s why the province is reinvesting in them now.

Environmental Defence has also failed to mention nuclear’s important role in Ontario’s phase-out of coal in 2014 and ending smog days across the province, suggesting it was new wind and solar alone that got the job done.

A fact check would show that between 2000 and 2013, nuclear-powered electrical generation rose 20 percent in Ontario, coinciding with a 27 percent drop in coal-fired electricity. During the same period, non-hydro renewables increased to 3.4 percent from one percent. This major transition to a cleaner Ontario could not have happened without nuclear.

During that period, Bruce Power doubled its fleet of operating reactors from four to eight, becoming the world’s largest nuclear generating station. While more renewable energy did come on line, Bruce Power estimates they provided 70% of the carbon free energy needed to replace the power from the shutdown of coal plants.

The long-term investment programs currently underway across Ontario’s nuclear fleet, including Pickering, Darlington and Bruce Power, will secure this low-cost source of electricity over the long-term, while meeting our needs today.

Nuclear-generated electricity was the right choice for Ontario decades ago. It remains the right choice today.

OPG and Bruce Power recognize the cost of electricity for Ontario families and businesses is an important issue across the Province. Both companies are committed to clean air and continuing to provide low cost electricity for Ontario homes and businesses in the short, medium and long-term.

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Preparing For the Unexpected

Fort McMurray. A city once synonymous with oil is now known for the worst forest fire in Alberta’s history. The massive blaze exploded thanks to hot, dry weather. It has scorched over 200,000 hectares of ground and counting. It will take months before the flames are finally extinguished, and many more before lives can be rebuilt.

Natural threats, like the forest fire in Fort McMurray, are reminders of the challenges that every industry faces and subsequently must address: preparing for severe events that can happen, often with little or no warning.

The nuclear industry is not without its own risks from Mother Nature.  In March 2011 one of the most powerful earthquakes on the planet opened up the sea floor and unleashed a wall of water on the Japanese coast.  The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was hit by an earthquake and a tsunami that were both much larger than its builders had contemplated.  The resulting accident led to a world-wide scrutiny of power reactors for their ability to resist extreme natural events.  The nuclear industry has since instituted what we call “beyond design” safety measures to prepare for events beyond the range used as a basis in the original design process.

FUKUSHIMADAMAGE

Being prepared for severe weather events requires an enormous undertaking by industry.  Different industries are accountable to different regulatory bodies, organizations that operate at an arm’s length from government and aim to ensure that best practices are followed.

Nuclear reactors at Canadian sites, and the facilities around them, have numerous, layered design features and operating procedures that rendered very, very low risk the possibility of an accident because of extreme weather – such as winter ice storms or high winds.  These features and procedures have worked well for the more than fifty years that the industry has generated electricity for Canadians.  In all this time, we have not had a radiation release that harmed people or the environment.

Should nature get the best of all these technological, engineering, construction and operational defences, we know how to respond quickly in response.  The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)  requires all nuclear power plant operators to have a fire response team and the regulator mandates that “the licensee also supports provincial and local authorities in their response efforts.”

For example, Cameco Corporation’s emergency response program at its uranium processing facility in Port Hope, Ontario is comprehensive and includes approximately 60 highly trained employees, most of whom have specialized training in industrial firefighting and hazardous materials. As has been seen in Alberta, a coordinated response to a natural disaster is important. Cameco covers the cost of hazardous material training for all members of the Port Hope fire and emergency services department, which would support the efforts of Cameco’s emergency response team in the event of a natural disaster.

Post Fukushima, reactor operator Bruce Power, which boasts a team of 400 highly trained emergency personnel, worked with other industry experts to develop state of the art fire trucks which included doubling the water capability, night-scan lights and LED technology. In addition to the new fire trucks, the company also purchased portable back-up generators and invested in specific post-Fukushima training. Throughout the nuclear industry and supply chain, organizations realize the importance of investing to prepare for the unexpected.  That is the best and prudent way to minimizing the impacts that severe weather can have on people, the environment and industry.

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Ontario Writes the Playbook for its Nuclear Refurbishment

Editorial - principlesOntario is preparing to refurbish 10 of its 18 nuclear reactors, beginning at the end of this year. This investment will extend the lives of the reactors, keeping their operation safe and effective for decades to come. It will also create thousands of jobs and inject much-needed  dollars into Ontario’s economy. The project comes in at half the cost of building new reactors – and is considerably cheaper over the long term than investing in solar, wind, or gas for a similar amount of power.

As Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said in an interview with Global News, “The best cost deal in replacing the existing nuclear is to refurbish what we have.”

That said, refurbishment still comes at a cost: about $25 billion for the 15-year project. So, Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan for 2013, which announced the government’s decision for refurbishment, set out seven principles for the refurbishment – and everyone involved in it.

“Minimize commercial risk on the part of ratepayers and government”

The people and government of Ontario are making a large investment in nuclear power. They should receive the expected return on that investment without a great risk of having to invest further. The other six principles follow from this one.

“Mitigate reliability risks by developing contingency plans that include alternative supply options if contract and other objects are at risk of non-fulfillment”

Ontario has a diverse power mix. Electricity comes mainly from nuclear power, but hydro, renewables, and gas also play important roles. The province can also buy power from other provinces or states. So, while the Long-Term Energy Plan recognizes the refurbishment of nuclear power plants as the best long-term option, the province will also look at investing in these alternatives. Ontario’s recent agreement to share electricity with Quebec at certain times of the year may create more flexibility for the province.

“Entrench appropriate and realistic off-ramps and scoping”

One way of holding the operators and contractors to account involves “off-ramps” – contract terms that allow the province to limit or stop the project if it goes over budget.

Hold private sector operator accountable to the nuclear refurbishment schedule and price”

As the private-sector operator involved in the refurbishment project of the Bruce power plant, Bruce Power must ensure that the refurbishments stay on schedule and within budget; the company will not be in a position to simply pass additional expenses on to ratepayers.

“Require OPG to hold its contractors accountable to the nuclear refurbishment schedule and price”

Likewise, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is contracting much of the refurbishment at the Darlington station to more specialized companies. A slowdown or cost overrun for any one of them could affect the overall timeline and budget. So, these companies are being held accountable as well.

“Make site, project management, regulatory requirements, and supply chain considerations and cost and risk containment, the primary factors in developing the implementation plan”

Robust project management is at the core of the refurbishment project. For example, at Darlington, OPG did an environmental assessment, which showed that the refurbishment would not have any significant adverse environmental effects. A safety review also demonstrated that the Darlington plant meets modern codes and standards and follows sound industry practices. Safety improvements recommended by both these assessments are now part of the Darlington Integrated Implementation Plan. Finally, an overall risk assessment demonstrated that Darlington is a safe and reliable power plant, and will continue to be after planned safety improvements. Similar measures are underway at the Bruce facility.

“Take smaller initial steps to ensure there is an opportunity to incorporate lessons learned from refurbishment including collaboration by operators”

The refurbishment project will begin with two reactors – one each at the Bruce and Darlington facilities. Through the 15 years of the project, no more than three reactors are planned to be under refurbishment at any one time. This will provide opportunities to assess each refurbishment, learn from it, and apply those lessons to the next ones.

Even the first refurbishments will benefit from experience – such as refurbishments at Bruce Power, at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick, and at the Wolsong 1 reactor in South Korea. OPG has also created a full-scale replica of the Darlington reactor vault for testing tools, training, and ensuring that the teams can coordinate in real time.

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Rolling Out Refurbishment with Reliability and Skills Development in Mind

In just a few short months, Ontario will begin refurbishing 10 nuclear reactors at the Darlington and Bruce Nuclear Generating Stations. Refurbishment means replacing key reactor parts, such as pressure tubes, so the reactors can keep operating safely and at peak performance.

Refurbishment has been planned far in advance. It will extend by decades the lives of reactors that have already provided affordable and reliable electricity to Ontarians for 25 years. And because nuclear plant operations do not emit greenhouse gases, they are also addressing Ontarians’ growing concerns about climate change.

Keeping on schedule

Just as with renovating your home or servicing your car, scheduling the refurbishments is key to minimizing inconvenience. After all, nuclear reactors provided 62% of Ontario’s electricity in 2014, and refurbishing each reactor takes two to three years. Having too many of them offline at the same time would lead to brownouts in the power grid, or force Ontario to buy more expensive – and potentially less clean – electricity from other sources.

Ontario’s 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan, which set the refurbishment program in motion, recognized these challenges. The decision to refurbish reflects three of the five core principles of the Plan: cost-effectiveness, reliability, and clean energy.

To ensure reliability, the Plan set out a sequence for refurbishment at both the Darlington and Bruce facilities:

CNA-100 Nuclear Timeline-D4 (2)

This sequence ensures that no more than three reactors are offline at the same time. It allows spacing of the refurbishments so that the teams of engineers and other skilled professionals can learn from each refurbishment. That will help them to improve their methods and generate cost savings. During the early part of the project, up to 2020, Ontario will keep operating its reactors at the Pickering facilities.

Long-term benefits

The spacing of refurbishments over 15 years will ensure that nuclear power remains the major source of Ontario’s baseload power – the foundation of the province’s electrical supply. It will also provide lasting employment to skilled workers who will have opportunities to continue working on the reactors they helped refurbish – contributing to Ontario’s economy and growing the province’s skills base.

CNA2016

The Nuclear Connection to Combating the Zika Virus

A team of experts at the IAEA is launching a new fight against Zika and it’s totally nuclear.

It’s an astonishing fact. One million people have already been affected by the Zika virus, a number that could quadruple by the end of this year.

zikavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global emergency on the virus and recent reports indicated that it has spread its way into North America. Reports of over 100 cases have already surfaced in the United States.

The Zika virus is not new. It was first discovered in Uganda back in the 1940s and is named after the forest in which it was found. The virus is spread through a mosquito known as Aedes aegypti.

Symptoms can include mild fevers, skin rashes, joint pain and headaches. But far worse, the virus has been linked to brain damage in babies and, according to French researchers, can also lead to brain infections in adults.

The procedure is called the sterile insect technique (SIT) and it’s been around for over 50 years. Very effective in addressing insect pests, the technique requires using a small dose of radiation to make insects infertile. It has been proven successful in other pest insects, suppressing or eradicating them all together. However, this will be first time that the SIT technique will be applied to fight human disease.

“Think of it as a method of birth control. We produce sterile male mosquitos using radiation that sterilizes the sperm in the male mosquito,” says Rosemary Lees, a medical entomologist with the IAEA. “When we release a large number of these males we flood a region with sterile males so that the wild females are more likely to mate with them.”

Since female mosquitos usually only mate once, mating with infertile males would stop the further reproduction of Aedes mosquitos.

The SIT technique relies on something known as Cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope that is currently used to sterilize 40 per cent of the world’s medical devices. In Canada Cobalt-60 is harvested from Bruce Power and processed by Nordion.

“Cobalt-60 from our reactors already plays a major role in keeping single-use medical equipment safely sterilized, and with it now helping to stop the spread of diseases like Zika virus the world’s population continues to benefit from it,” said James Scongack, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Bruce Power. “We look forward to working with Nordion to continue safely harvesting Cobalt-60 during our planned maintenance outages so it can help prevent disease across the world.”

The second half of the program involves understanding the wild mosquito environment through trapping mosquitos. The idea is that if researchers know how many wild mosquitoes there are, they will know how many to release. The hope is that if enough wild mosquitos are trapped and sterile ones breed, that the spread of the virus will cease.

“We are trying to remove the vector. Think of Zika transmission as a triangle. People, virus and the mosquito. By removing one of the three you can stop the transmission,” according to Jeremie Gilles, head of the mosquito group with the IAEA.

The WHO has declared the Zika virus a public health emergency and has advised all pregnant women to avoid affected areas. This is only the fourth time in history that this has happened since International Heath Regulations (IHR) came into place in 2007.

The work being done at the IAEA through the use of nuclear technology may be able to stop the spread of what could soon be a global pandemic in its tracks.

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Risk and Large Infrastructure Projects

The Ontario government has decided that refurbishing 10 of the province’s 18 nuclear reactors is the best plan to ensure affordable and reliable electricity for decades to come. That’s largely because carbon-free nuclear electricity will still be less expensive than solar, wind, or gas – even with the cost of refurbishment factored in.

But opponents of the project ask: How much will that refurbishment really cost? Their concerns are founded on cost overruns in past refurbishment projects – and the fact that large infrastructure projects, from building bridges to hydro dams, have a tendency to run over budget.

However, a closer look at the causes of delays and budget overruns in such projects shows that the Ontario nuclear refurbishment is well positioned to finish on time and on budget.

The challenge of one-of-a-kind jobsEditorial - Infrastructure

The challenge with many large infrastructure projects is their uniqueness, which can lend itself to complexity. While some projects take advantage of improvements in materials or technology, these same factors also require new designs, more training, and more coordination among the people involved. This can add cost and time.

But this is also an opportunity. By learning from experience and applying ingenuity, some infrastructure operations eventually become almost routine. For example, in 2014, the City of Ottawa replaced its 2,100-tonne Lees Avenue overpass in a single night. A time-lapse video of the operation went viral.

What does this mean for refurbishment?

Refurbishing Ontario’s nuclear power plants won’t be as fast as replacing an overpass, but the engineering teams will be working with equipment that is well known, operating on principles that are thoroughly understood. This is not experimental, but an upgrade. And the teams taking on the job now have built up a lot of experience on accumulated industry know-how.

To begin with, Bruce Power has already refurbished two reactors. That project showed how the team learned: On the second reactor they refurbished, the team did several tasks much more quickly, replacing the second steam generator 57% faster than the first, and removing the second set of calandria tubes 77% faster than the first. Bruce Power then delivered another life-extension project on one of the reactors on time and budget, in 2011.

In the first refurbishment, the reactors had been offline for 17 years. It was like starting up a classic car that has been sitting in a garage – a really great car, but one that hadn’t been used. The engineers had to find out exactly what state the reactors were in first before going ahead with the overhaul. In contrast, the upcoming Bruce refurbishment is on reactors that are running now, and running well, so much of the planning is already done.

Every activity Bruce Power will have to do on the site is something it has done before. It’s familiar work. The refurbishment activities are focused on two key elements – replacing steam generators and re-tubing the reactor. Every activity needed to complete these has been tested and its scope defined.

Planning is also long underway at Darlington. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is on track to have all the required regulatory approvals, project contracts awarded, tools tested, staff trained and a detailed schedule and fully committed budget well before the project execution begins in 2016. According to OPG, “After six years of planning, extensive inspections and benchmarking, 40 years of operational and project management experience, and a ground-breaking nuclear training and testing facility … we’re ready for refurbishment.” In that testing facility, there is a full-scale mock-up of a Darlington reactor vault. It’s accurate right down to the exact bend in every pipe, with thousands of components. Every door, light, hallway, and overhead light is replicated. The mock-up will give OPG and contractors a chance to do each of the jobs they expect to do, and make sure they can do them right, before working on the actual reactor.

All systems go

The learning won’t stop once the refurbishment begins. Each system-focused team plans to take lessons from one refurbishment and apply them to the next. That’s one of the reasons why the 10 refurbishments will be spaced over 15 years.

The refurbishments also create opportunities to improve the plants’ systems and materials “while the car hood is up.” At Darlington, in addition to the removal and replacement of reactor components, the refurbishment also involves a tremendous amount of work to maintain, upgrade, and refurbish other important plant systems, such as the turbine and generator sets, fuel handling equipment, and other nuclear, conventional, and safety systems. And because the industry has learned a lot about how materials react to radiation since the Bruce Power station went online, the teams will be replacing some of the parts, such as the fuel channels and steam generators, with materials that are stronger, safer, and longer-lasting.

Finally, the Ontario government has ensured that the contracts will allow it to limit or even stop the refurbishments if they go over budget. That’s a serious incentive for the operators and contractors involved to stay on track.