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Friday, June 21, 2024
CNWC Nuclear News

Bruce, OPG accumulate CANDU refurb know-how: new build workforce II?

Every hour of every day of the Bruce MCR and Darlington refurbishment, the project workforces acquire greater knowledge and familiarity with the guts of a CANDU. That’s 87 continuous months, over 62,000 days. OPG reports 700–850 full time employees dedicated to the Darlington project—over 9 million person-hours of CANDU-specific major project experience with those 700–850 FTEs. See OPG’s Darlington Refurbishment Annual Report.

Bruce, no doubt using different metrics, reports 3,500 trades employees on site dedicated to the MCR.

The plot shows the payoff from these projects. Darlington unit 3 is back online early; you can see its steep ramp up beginning early July 12. Unit 4 is now down for refurbishment. It came off late July 18. Bruce 3 and 6 are both undergoing major components replacement.

We should point out that both the Darlington and Bruce refurbs have stayed on schedule and on or under budget, in some extremely testing circumstances, including a major Black Swan event (the Covid Pandemic) and inflation rates not seen since the 1980s. We are confident OPG, Bruce and Canada’s nuclear industry know CANDU refurbishment pretty much inside and out.

This invaluable experience could be directly applied to refurbishing Pickering, and indirectly to a new CANDU build. The refurbishment workforce, at Darlington and Bruce, is the closest thing Ontario has had to the unparalleled workforce that built the original CANDUs in Ontario, and the CANDU-6s in Quebec, New Brunswick, and the rest of the world.

Those CANDUs are racking up very impressive performance numbers, which is no surprise to anyone who follows nuclear technology. In light of this, we urge the Government of Ontario, the Independent Electricity System Operator, and our employers OPG and Bruce Power, to reconsider the implications of electrification in a carbon-constrained world. By simple math, Ontario’s planned capacity additions seem inadequate to handle this coming major development.

Still, we must be realistic. There is a reason that OPG and Bruce, the most likely prospective buyers of CANDU, are also looking at other reactor technologies when thinking about building anything new. Clearly there is a lack of confidence at some level. Either they have low confidence in CANDU technology licensees’ ability to pull off a major new reactor construction project, or there is something about what’s currently on offer that isn’t sitting well for some reason.

The CANDU benefits we have outlined in this article and in previous editions of the CNWC Newsletter are undeniable. But clearly they have so far been insufficient in turning the two Ontario nuclear utilities back into bona fide prospects for a major sale. If the CANDU licensees don’t turn “low interest” into “high interest,” and soon, then we may be looking at the end of an era in Canadian, and world, nuclear history. Let’s not let that happen.

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