Tag Archives: Reactors

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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.

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Can Reactor Refurbishment be Done On Time and On Budget?

Editorial - on timeOntario’s nuclear reactors have provided affordable electricity to the province since 1971. Affordable and reliable, nuclear power has become the backbone of Ontario’s electricity system.

Today, over 60% of Ontario’s electricity is currently generated by its 18 operating reactors. So, it’s understandable that Ontarians might be concerned about where their electricity will come from when Ontario begins a new refurbishment project for 10 of its reactors in 2016. The reactors are near the mid-point of their expected lifespans, and it’s time for a major tune-up, to replace key parts and ensure safety and efficiency for decades to come.

A few reactors will be refurbished at a time over 15 years, to minimize the change to baseload electricity generation. But what if the refurbishments are delayed, and what happens if they go over budget? Will Ontarians experience brownouts, or have to pay more for electricity?

The record

The record for CANDU projects, gives a good indication of actual performance when dealing with large nuclear projects. Though first-of-a-kind builds of nuclear reactors in Canada and around the world had a reputation for going over budget and schedule, the Canadian nuclear industry has more than 60 years’ experience in designing, delivering, and operating them – and we’ve learned how to get the right people, skills, and materials together to make these projects work.

So, it should not be a surprise that the most recent new-build CANDU projects around the world have all been delivered on or ahead of schedule, and on budget:

  • In 1996, the Cernavoda Unit 1 reactor in Romania was delivered on budget and on schedule.
  • From 1997-99, three of the Wolsong reactors in South Korea were delivered on budget and on schedule.
  • In 2002 and 2003, the two Qinshan Phase III reactors in China were delivered under budget and ahead of schedule.
  • In 2007, the Cernavoda 2 reactor in Romania went into operation.

The skills, coordination and experience that made these projects successful will now be used in refurbishing the Darlington reactors in Ontario.

Off-ramps

The Ontario government has required assurance in the form of “off-ramps” in the refurbishment contracts. It can stop the work if it goes over budget or schedule, and look at alternatives. That’s an important incentive for the operators and contractors to respect the terms of the deal.

CNA2016

Nuclear at Sea: Floating Reactors

As the world demand for energy heats up, some in the nuclear industry are looking to the world’s oceans to provide sites for the next generation of power plants.

In January, China General Nuclear (CGN) announced an agreement with the Chinese shipbuilding industry to develop a floating nuclear power plant designed to supply electricity, heat and desalination of water and could be used on islands or in coastal areas, or for offshore oil and gas exploration. The plant is expected to begin power generation by 2020.

Russia, meanwhile, expects its floating nuclear plant to start powering the Arctic this year.

Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are working on power plants that can be assembled in a shipyard and then docked at sea.

Professor Jacopo Buongiorno, the associate head of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and the director, Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES), has been spearheading the project for two years.

“The idea is to integrate a nuclear reactor into a floating platform like the type used for oil and gas operations,” according to Buongiorno.

A whole plant, including the turbine and generator, would be built in a shipyard and then anchored a few miles offshore.

For the MIT team, floating reactors are the latest advancement in the field of nuclear technology.

“Economically, you can simplify the design and build it all in one place so you can build it faster,” says Buongiorno. They are more compact, so the amount of materials required for the construction would be less also keeping costs down.

With reactors out at sea, the threat of damage from weather events would be minimized. Waves from destructive storms are smaller out at sea than at the coastline. Also, having a nuclear power plant out at sea would mean a continuous supply of coolant.

“The reactor is under the water line so it becomes easy to use the ocean as a heat sink,” according to Dr. Buongiorno. “The heat exchanger discharges the heat into the ocean so you can’t run out of cooling.”

The group at MIT has a crowdsourcing page to help with the development of their power plant.

While the first floating power plant for this group of MIT researchers is still in the developing stages, Dr. Buongiorno and his team believe they can develop a new wave of floating nuclear plants that would be safe and cost effective in a variety of new applications.