Canadian agency allows limited restart of Point Lepreau nuclear plant

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) said July 23 that it has authorized New Brunswick Power Nuclear (NBPN) to begin activities to restart the Point Lepreau Generating Station, which has undergone a massive refurbishment project.

At this stage, the station will not produce electricity, but the reactor will be restarted in order to perform several safety tests under the oversight of CNSC staff. NBPN will require further CNSC regulatory approvals to increase power above 0.1% of full power and above 35% of full power.

The Point Lepreau plant is located on the shores on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. The CNSC renewed the facility’s license for a five-year period in February.

NBPN fulfilled all the prerequisites for reactor restart as outlined in its license, the commission noted. A team of CNSC onsite staff and technical experts conducted a number of inspections and reviews to confirm that conditions were met and that safety tests were successfully completed. 

“The CNSC is satisfied that NBPN has completed all safety tests required before removing measures that guaranteed the reactor’s safe shutdown state,” said Ramzi Jammal, CNSC Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Operations Officer. “As the power gradually increases and before electricity is produced, additional safety checks and approvals will be necessary.”

New Brunswick Power said in a July 4 project update that the reactor building leak rate test at Point Lepreau had been safely completed, bringing NB Power one step closer to restarting the station in the fall of 2012. The reactor building leak rate test increased reactor building pressure to confirm its leak tightness.

In addition, the flow measurements test on the primary heat transport system has been successfully completed, the utility noted. This test confirmed the expected heat transport flow and pressure throughout the primary heat transport system. This test was also the first time that the main heat transport pumps operated since the refurbishment project began. The completion of this test confirms that the primary heat transport system is available for returning the station to service and commercial operation.

The next milestone in the restart process is to remove the Guaranteed Shutdown State (GSS) once NB Power has demonstrated to the CNSC that the appropriate prerequisite activities have been successfully completed, the update said. Removing GSS will allow the reactor to systematically come back to life and begin the fission process again. This will permit the station to increase reactor power in a gradual and controlled manner.

After GSS is removed, NB Power said it will continue returning systems to service and testing them as power is gradually increased at predetermined levels. Major upcoming activities include warming  up the primary heat transport system, running up the turbines and synchronizing the generator to the grid.

NB Power said it remains on track to restart and operate Point Lepreau in the fall 2012 to deliver safe and reliable power to New Brunswick for the next 25 to 30 years. Once restarted, the plant will produce in excess of one-third of New Brunswick’s in-province energy requirements.

NB Power Nuclear (Nuclearco) operates and maintains a CANDU 6, 635-MW reactor at Point Lepreau. The CANDU pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) was orginally designed by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL). The plant has the first CANDU 6 in Canada and abroad to be licensed and began commercial operation in 1983.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.