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Serious safety concerns about Pickering, Canada’s oldest nuclear reactor

The lack of comparable plants means safety and accident statistics for the industry are based on much newer plants. As a result, he said, it’s questionable whether they should be used to predict events at Pickering.

Gunderson also said that Pickering’s vacuum building, which is designed to suck in radioactive steam and air in case of an accident, can handle only one reactor failure. Pickering has six operating reactors.

Aging Pickering nuclear plant seeks five more years, The Star, Canada’s oldest nuclear power plant is seeking to renew its operating license for five years. Critics say it should be closed By: John Spears Business reporter,  May 29 2013 Ontario Power Generation is confident it can safely operate its 40-year-old Pickering nuclear generating station 18 per cent longer than originally planned, OPG officials told Canada’s nuclear regulator Wednesday.

But members of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission still peppered emergency planners with questions about what happens if a nuclear accident does occur at the station, located in Canada’s largest urban area.

Pickering’s operating license expires June 30, and original plans called for it to be wound down in the next few years.

But OPG now wants to keep it going until 2020 without a major overhaul, to help cover the power shortfall that may occur when the Darlington nuclear station has to throttle back for a major refit starting in 2016.

A key question in this scenario is the lifetime of the station’s pressure tubes – tubes in the reactor core that hold the uranium fuel bundles….. the commission says OPG still has to perform more tests before it will give that clearance. Until those test results are in, it has ordered OPG not to operate any reactor beyond the current limit.

The commission has also cocked a skeptical eye at emergency planning in the area, should a severe accident occur and spread radiation into the surrounding area…..

Arnold Gunderson, a U.S. nuclear consultant retained by Durham Nuclear Awareness, said Pickering’s age – dating from the early 1970s – counts against it.

“There’s no plant out there that’s much older than Pickering,” said Gunderson at a Queen’s Park new conference on Tuesday. He’s due to testify at the hearings on Thursday.

The lack of comparable plants means safety and accident statistics for the industry are based on much newer plants, he said. As a result, he said, it’s questionable whether they should be used to predict events at Pickering.

Gunderson also said that Pickering’s vacuum building, which is designed to suck in radioactive steam and air in case of an accident, can handle only one reactor failure. Pickering has six operating reactors.

But the accident at Fukushima damaged three side-by-side reactors simultaneously, he said.

“There are events that can knock out more than one, in which case the Pickering design is fatally flawed,” Gunderson said.

He also noted that OPG hasn’t yet completed updating risk assessments on two of its operating reactors…..http://www.thestar.com/business/2013/05/29/aging_pickering_nuclear_plant_seeks_five_more_years.html

May 30, 2013 - Posted by | Canada, safety

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