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Restart go-ahead for refurbished Canadian units

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Two reactors at Canada's Bruce A nuclear power plant that have been out of service for over a decade have been given regulatory approval for refueling and restart. Units 1 and 2 at the Bruce A plant have been undergoing a major refurbishment to replace their fuel channels and steam generators plus upgrade ancillary systems to current standards. But refurbishment is over budget by almost $1 billion Canadian dollars, with work more than 12 months behind schedule.

The announcement by regulator CNSC that refueling can go ahead means, according to a November 3, World Nuclear News report the project 'looks to be on line for the projected 2010 restarts'. But that was not the whole truth: operator Bruce Power originally hoped the two reactors would be back in service in late 2009 or early 2010. But one of the project's key investors, TransCanada Corp., disclosed on November 4, that the first of the two reactors now won't be online until mid-2011, with the second reactor following about four months later.

The original cost of the project was Can$ 2.75 billion (1 Can$ = 0.95 US$ and 0.63 euro), but an independent review revealed in April 2008 that costs had climbed at least Can$350 million and the overrun could reach Can$650 million. TransCanada then confirmed this past July that the project would cost at least Can$3.4 billion, adding it "may exceed that amount by approximately 10 per cent" – or another Can$340 million. This would bring the total overrun to nearly Can$1 billion, or 36 per cent above the original cost estimate.

TransCanada estimated that 75 per cent of the project is now complete and that Can$3.1 billion has so far been spent. The question is whether the remaining 25 per cent can be done over the next 20 months without hitting more hurdles.

The government's original 2005 contract with Bruce Power stipulated that all cost overruns would be equally shared for the first Can$300 million. Beyond that, the province would be required to pay only a quarter of the added cost. That contract was amended in July so that the province wouldn't have to cover any costs beyond Can$3.4 billion. "Any potential cost overruns as a result of the delay are going to be covered by Bruce," said Tang. spokesperson for Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure. Industry critics, however, point out that Bruce may simply pass on those additional costs to crown-owned Atomic Energy, meaning taxpayers ultimately pick up the tab.

Bruce Power is co-owned by uranium miner TransCanada Corp., Cameco Corp., BPC Generation Infrastructure Trust, and two unions representing Bruce Power workers. Cameco, however, opted out of the Bruce A refurbishment project.

Units 1 and 2 at the four-unit Bruce A plant started up in 1977, but unit 2 was shut down in 1995 because a steam generator suffered corrosion after a lead shielding blanket used during maintenance was mistakenly left inside. In the late 1990s then-owner Ontario Hydro decided to lay up all four units at the plant to concentrate resources on other reactors in its fleet, and unit 1 was taken out of service in December 1997 with units 3 and 4 in following in 1998. The four units at sister power station Bruce B continued to operate. Bruce Power took over the operations of both Bruce plants from Ontario Hydro in 2001 and restarted units 3 and 4 by early 2004. Bruce A units 3 and 4 are likely to undergo a similar refurbishment once units 1 and 2 are back in operation.

Bruce Power decided to withdraw its application for a third nuclear power station at Bruce in July, saying it would focus on the refurbishment of the existing Bruce plants rather than building Bruce C. It also announced it was scrapping plans for a second new nuclear plant at Nanticoke in Ontario. On June 29, the government in Ontario announced that it has suspended the procurement of two new reactors for the Darlington nuclear site: the bids were 'shockingly high' (see Nuclear Monitor 691, 16 July 2009)

Sources: World Nuclear News, 3 November 2009; Toronto Star, 5 November 2009
Contact: Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, c.p. 236, Station Snowdon, Montréal QC, H3X 3T4 Canada.

Bruce A1Bruce A2