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Pickering Nuclear #5414064 04/26/20 09:03 PM
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I find this a weirdly emotional subject for me, which it shouldn't be, heck i don't even work in the industry! but our very Canadian CANDU's are something I hold dear and so to make some sense of this I need to lay out WHY this is such an issue, despite the fact I doubt the government is going to do anything to change the course.

Back in the early 1960's after numerous experiments at Chalk River, the first commercial CANDU, built explicitly for the purpose of power generation, was constructed at what is now known as the Bruce site, home to the world's largest nuclear power plant at 6,420MWe. This single unit, dubbed Douglas Point, was a small (220MWe) proof of concept unit that operated for ~20 years before being shut down. The success of this unit set the stage for the construction of the first major large scale nuclear power plant in Canada: Pickering.

At the time, in the early 1960's, Ontario Hydro was looking to build another large (~4,000MW) coal plant. They were approached by AECL (Atomic Energy Canada Limited, a Crown corporation, wholly owned and operated by the Federal government) with respect to building a nuclear plant instead. The promise was that the nuke would be cheaper to operate and due to the ridiculously low cost of fuelling it (natural uranium), that it would pay for itself within 15 years. This was the deal struck with the government of Ontario at the time and the commitment to build Pickering was on, based on some pretty heavy documentation proving AECL's claims and funding split between the entities. Built adjacent to the largest consumer of electricity in Ontario, the GTA, Pickering's purpose was to directly feed the sprawling metro Toronto area at close proximity.

Pickering, like all CANDU's post Douglas Point in Ontario, was built as a pair of 4-packs. Construction started in 1966 and by 1971 the first A unit was online. All 4x units were grid connected by 1973. Due to the roaring success of this project, as it was coming online, construction of its much larger sibling, Bruce, commenced adjacent to the Douglas Point site. Pickering B units started construction shortly after all the A units were online and were themselves grid connected started in 1983.

Early in the 1980's, there were some issues discovered in Pickering A, which had now been producing power for a bit over 10 years. The annulus spacers, which keep the pressure tubes separate from the calandria tubes were migrating to the ends due to flow and allowing the pressure tubes to sag. This resulted in some localized hardening and resulted in a pressure tube failure in I believe 1983. This resulted in a full re-tube of all Pickering A units and the annulus spacers were revised to provide a tension-fit and became an inspection item. The pressure tube design (materials) was also revised (improved).

Because Pickering was very much an FOAK design, there were many lessons learned from it. One annoyance with Pickering is that during the summer months, due to its shore-level inlet and outlet configuration, it tends to breed algae, which can accumulate and actually result in a shutdown until it is cleared up. Typically, it is only a maximum of 4 units that are impacted by this (either A or B, never both), but this is reasonably rare, and does not happen every summer.

CANDU's are designed to have a mid-life service at what was originally intended to be around the 30 year mark, the acronym for which varies depending on who is running the site. OPG calls it a refurbishment, Bruce Power calls it an MCR (Major Component Replacement). While this was always part of the design criteria, actually executing it was a whole other matter. The first major refurbishment was performed on Pickering A units 1 and 4. This resulted in all the pressure tubes, end fittings..etc being replaced, but due to political volatility at the time, the two other A units, 2 and 3, were NOT refurbished and were instead shuttered. This resulted in the conversion of Pickering into a 6-unit plant, which fortunately, could be facilitated because Pickering A and B share a vacuum building and their turbine halls are directly beside each other. Such a feat would not be possible at Bruce, where there is significant physical distance between the A and B plants.

O/T: "Mid-life" in this context is also a bit of a misnomer, as technically, there's nothing preventing you from doing another MCR/refurbishment 35-40 years down the road, but that's not overly relevant to this rant.

The next refurbishment was Bruce units 1 and 2 at the Bruce facility, whose operation had been outsourced to private operator Bruce Power. The entire Bruce A site had been laid up after these two units had been damaged by contractors and when Bruce Power took over the site, only the 4x B units were operational. This (the refurbishment) was a learning experience for them, it went slightly over budget, but the results have been positive and the 2x refurbished units have exhibited an operating record as good or better than the units pre-refurb. The other two A-units were returned to service with some slight tweaks and all A units are producing significantly more than rated power.

There are different ways to approach the refurbishment process, depending on the intentions of the operator. At Darlington, Unit 2, in addition to pressure tubes, end fittings and the like, it and its siblings get new control systems, new turbines, new generators...etc. At Bruce, the intention is not only new equipment, but to extend the lifespan of existing equipment in the interim (maximize ROI, which they call Life Extension) and more importantly, increase output (uprates) which in turn, makes the site more profitable.

Pickering B, now 37 years old, has never had its mid-life refurbishment. A decision that was made by the previous administration, to retire the site by 2024. Though that's been slightly extended by the current administration, and may be extended further, depending on how things go with the CNSC, things are, at present, expected to start winding down as early as 2023.

The reason, despite the refurbishment of the two A units, appears to centre around the lower output, and thus longer payback period, of the 380 fuel channel Pickering units at ~515MWe (NET) nameplate, versus the 480 fuel channel 800+MWe of the Bruce A units, or 880MWe Darlington ones. However, a recent maintenance outage at Pickering B resulted in A5 coming back at ~545MWe, which points to there being uprate potential, which would help with the payback.

Over the last decade or so, operation procedures and maintenance practices have improved dramatically. This has resulted in all sites having shorter maintenance outages, higher outputs, and generally better operating records. Pickering in particular, is now operating better than it ever has. It was sold on a 60% capacity factor to break even, but in 2019, it produced 26.4TWh, putting it at 88% capacity factor, the best of its operating life, not bad for units using pressure tubes that are up to 7 years past their original intended end of life smirk

Right now, Ontario has enviably low emissions. Today, 88% of Ontario's electricity was being provided by the three nuke plants, despite us being down to 13 units, because spring and fall are when maintenance outages are performed so that we have all hands on deck for the summer peaks. Ontario had the lowest emissions in the world today at 20gCO2/kWh, thanks to our nuke fleet. When Pickering is gone, emissions will increase dramatically and in a time where climate policy is a major subset of any political platform, shuttering 3,100MW of ultra-low emissions power because there's some high CAPEX that needs to be eaten to keep it going for the next 40 years isn't going to be looked upon favourably once emissions spike when it is gone.

Pickering deserves its mid-life refurbishment. Its lower density fuel channel configuration, when compared to the other two sites, is the reason it has been able, and allowed, to operate into its 40's on the original ones. The new pressure tubes are an improved design using better materials, to get 50 years out of them isn't out of the question. We've got Bruce until at least 2064, we could have Pickering that long too if we were willing to put forward the CAPEX to facilitate it, OPEX is, and has always been a wash, the CANDU' are cheap to run, it's the construction and refurb's that are expensive. The A units could be replaced with SMR's once they are EOL, to maintain the viability of the site, something that should be well sorted by virtue of the SMR Roadmap by the time that rolls around.

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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: OVERKILL] #5414085 04/26/20 09:30 PM
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Did you copy and paste that?


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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: skyactiv] #5414087 04/26/20 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by skyactiv
Did you copy and paste that?


No, that's 100% authored by me.


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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: OVERKILL] #5414113 04/26/20 10:15 PM
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The only reason more countries don’t get more of their power from nuclear is because of irrational fear. France even gets 72 percent of its electrical power from nuclear.


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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: OVERKILL] #5414115 04/26/20 10:18 PM
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Much Ado about Nothing ! LOL

Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: PowerSurge] #5414155 04/26/20 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by PowerSurge
The only reason more countries don’t get more of their power from nuclear is because of irrational fear. France even gets 72 percent of its electrical power from nuclear.


I wouldn't say that's the only reason. Lots of companies that tried to build them went bankrupt. That's also a good reason not to build them. They always went over budget and there was lots of protesting and lawsuits. The ROI was no good.

They probably needed to change the laws to allow summary dismissal of lawsuits so that it didn't take years to settle them.

Last edited by Wolf359; 04/26/20 11:19 PM.
Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: OVERKILL] #5414265 04/27/20 06:26 AM
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A big advantage is Canada's willingness to do things right, even if it costs a little more. Not sure if that applies here...


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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: OVERKILL] #5414266 04/27/20 06:30 AM
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To me nuclear used to charge electric vehicles and/or for hydrolysis of water to get hydrogen for fuel cells is about as low as we can do for limiting emissions.


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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: OVERKILL] #5414279 04/27/20 06:56 AM
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I'm pro nuc. I've been working at Indian Point in NY for the last 8 years, since I graduated from college. I hate to see nuc plants shut down because what it means for our environment. With COVID-19 shut downs of many industrial plants and reduced traffic on the road, many places around the world are seeing less smog and pollution. It will get worse when we get back to normal and more nuc plants close. Indian Point has two operating reactors, Unit 2 and Unit 3. Unit 2 will stop outputting to the grid come this Thursday and Unit 3 will permanently shutdown next year around this time.

The political climate in downstate NY paired with a governor looking to become president, and low natural gas prices has made us no longer the cash cow of the mid 2000s. So our company has decided to shut our plant down.


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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: OVERKILL] #5414284 04/27/20 07:00 AM
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So what sort of mix does Canada intend to use once the reactors are decommissioned? Hydro, Solar, Wind, Nat Gas-peaker? Does Canada reprocess its waste?




Nuclear gets a bad rap in the US because cost overruns end up sacking ratepayers and waste reprocessing is not allowed. For example the expansion at Vogtle site in my state is now estimated to cost a total of $25 Billion vs the original $14 Billion. As soon as they fuel the [censored] thing ratepayers are toasted (pun intended). The crazy thing is that my state is actually a good candidate for residential solar, but clearly the state govt is going to deter its implementation in order to force ratepayers buy all their power from the utility to help pay for the new reactors. Nuclear also doesn't play well with solar/wind because they become too expensive operate as the demand fluctuates during the day.

God help us if we have a another drought and the [censored] things have to operate at reduced capacity.

Last edited by BMWTurboDzl; 04/27/20 07:04 AM.

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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: BMWTurboDzl] #5414296 04/27/20 07:19 AM
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Originally Posted by BMWTurboDzl
So what sort of mix does Canada intend to use once the reactors are decommissioned? Hydro, Solar, Wind, Nat Gas-peaker? Does Canada reprocess its waste?




Nuclear gets a bad rap in the US because cost overruns end up sacking ratepayers and waste reprocessing is not allowed. For example the expansion at Vogtle site in my state is now estimated to cost a total of $25 Billion vs the original $14 Billion. As soon as they fuel the [censored] thing ratepayers are toasted (pun intended). The crazy thing is that my state is actually a good candidate for residential solar, but clearly the state govt is going to deter its implementation in order to force ratepayers buy all their power from the utility to help pay for the new reactors. Nuclear also doesn't play well with solar/wind because they become too expensive operate as the demand fluctuates during the day.

God help us if we have a another drought and the [censored] things have to operate at reduced capacity.



Idk about other countries, but this is why the US nuc industry has priced itself out of business. The number of people and paperwork needed to change a light bulb in the power block is ridiculous. The expenses of building a plant is really high since things that are procured as safety-related cost around 10x as much post dedication. A lot of these companies hire contractors and engineers that charge extra for being nuclear related. We see it all the time at our site mainly because of all the hoops everyone has to jump through. The southern states are regulated, meaning that the costs get passed on to the rate payers by the regulator. In the north, we sell power in the open market. When natural gas is cheaper than nuclear, we end up losing. That's why there will probably never be another new nuc plant in the north.


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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: ssamaroo01] #5414301 04/27/20 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by ssamaroo01
Originally Posted by BMWTurboDzl
So what sort of mix does Canada intend to use once the reactors are decommissioned? Hydro, Solar, Wind, Nat Gas-peaker? Does Canada reprocess its waste?




Nuclear gets a bad rap in the US because cost overruns end up sacking ratepayers and waste reprocessing is not allowed. For example the expansion at Vogtle site in my state is now estimated to cost a total of $25 Billion vs the original $14 Billion. As soon as they fuel the [censored] thing ratepayers are toasted (pun intended). The crazy thing is that my state is actually a good candidate for residential solar, but clearly the state govt is going to deter its implementation in order to force ratepayers buy all their power from the utility to help pay for the new reactors. Nuclear also doesn't play well with solar/wind because they become too expensive operate as the demand fluctuates during the day.

God help us if we have a another drought and the [censored] things have to operate at reduced capacity.



Idk about other countries, but this is why the US nuc industry has priced itself out of business. The number of people and paperwork needed to change a light bulb in the power block is ridiculous. The expenses of building a plant is really high since things that are procured as safety-related cost around 10x as much post dedication. A lot of these companies hire contractors and engineers that charge extra for being nuclear related. We see it all the time at our site mainly because of all the hoops everyone has to jump through. The southern states are regulated, meaning that the costs get passed on to the rate payers by the regulator. In the north, we sell power in the open market. When natural gas is cheaper than nuclear, we end up losing. That's why there will probably never be another new nuc plant in the north.


Westinghouse was the original contractor on the Vogtle project and they filed bankruptcy mid-construction. It's a mess of a situation.


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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: BMWTurboDzl] #5414343 04/27/20 08:22 AM
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Originally Posted by BMWTurboDzl
Originally Posted by ssamaroo01
Originally Posted by BMWTurboDzl
So what sort of mix does Canada intend to use once the reactors are decommissioned? Hydro, Solar, Wind, Nat Gas-peaker? Does Canada reprocess its waste?




Nuclear gets a bad rap in the US because cost overruns end up sacking ratepayers and waste reprocessing is not allowed. For example the expansion at Vogtle site in my state is now estimated to cost a total of $25 Billion vs the original $14 Billion. As soon as they fuel the [censored] thing ratepayers are toasted (pun intended). The crazy thing is that my state is actually a good candidate for residential solar, but clearly the state govt is going to deter its implementation in order to force ratepayers buy all their power from the utility to help pay for the new reactors. Nuclear also doesn't play well with solar/wind because they become too expensive operate as the demand fluctuates during the day.

God help us if we have a another drought and the [censored] things have to operate at reduced capacity.



Idk about other countries, but this is why the US nuc industry has priced itself out of business. The number of people and paperwork needed to change a light bulb in the power block is ridiculous. The expenses of building a plant is really high since things that are procured as safety-related cost around 10x as much post dedication. A lot of these companies hire contractors and engineers that charge extra for being nuclear related. We see it all the time at our site mainly because of all the hoops everyone has to jump through. The southern states are regulated, meaning that the costs get passed on to the rate payers by the regulator. In the north, we sell power in the open market. When natural gas is cheaper than nuclear, we end up losing. That's why there will probably never be another new nuc plant in the north.


Westinghouse was the original contractor on the Vogtle project and they filed bankruptcy mid-construction. It's a mess of a situation.


I know. I've been following it. When they started it, I was still new in the nuc industry and it gave us hope since we were up for re-licensing. Westinghouse sub-contracts out a lot of work and I'm sure that that is what really drove up the cost. My site is a Westinghouse design and we have/had a lot of things labeled Westinghouse. Westinghouse sold a lot of the divisions that they used to manufacture, and some things that were branded with the Westinghouse name were never manufactured by Westinghouse. They just carried the brand at Westinghouse's request because they used it in the design.


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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: Wolf359] #5414388 04/27/20 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Wolf359
Originally Posted by PowerSurge
The only reason more countries don’t get more of their power from nuclear is because of irrational fear. France even gets 72 percent of its electrical power from nuclear.


I wouldn't say that's the only reason. Lots of companies that tried to build them went bankrupt. That's also a good reason not to build them. They always went over budget and there was lots of protesting and lawsuits. The ROI was no good.

They probably needed to change the laws to allow summary dismissal of lawsuits so that it didn't take years to settle them.


Ours were all constructed and operated by crown corporations, no risk of anybody going bankrupt there. Darlington went seriously over budget due to Chernobyl, the rest of them weren't that bad (Bruce went over budget, but not by a huge amount). ROI is pretty easy up here, as all the plants are paid a fixed rate. Bruce is $0.077/kWh, a rate at which they make money and will be easily able to cover the cost of their $12 billion dollar refurbishment (MCR).


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Re: Pickering Nuclear [Re: BMWTurboDzl] #5414395 04/27/20 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by BMWTurboDzl
So what sort of mix does Canada intend to use once the reactors are decommissioned? Hydro, Solar, Wind, Nat Gas-peaker? Does Canada reprocess its waste?

It will be gas that replaces Pickering, OPG bought 5x gas plants recently to cover for it.

We will eventually be constructing a Darlington B site, which will allow us to use our existing spent fuel stores as fuel for 4th gen units. That's our "recycling" plan.




Originally Posted by BMWTurboDzl
Nuclear gets a bad rap in the US because cost overruns end up sacking ratepayers and waste reprocessing is not allowed. For example the expansion at Vogtle site in my state is now estimated to cost a total of $25 Billion vs the original $14 Billion. As soon as they fuel the [censored] thing ratepayers are toasted (pun intended). The crazy thing is that my state is actually a good candidate for residential solar, but clearly the state govt is going to deter its implementation in order to force ratepayers buy all their power from the utility to help pay for the new reactors. Nuclear also doesn't play well with solar/wind because they become too expensive operate as the demand fluctuates during the day.

God help us if we have a another drought and the [censored] things have to operate at reduced capacity.


Ours are all cooled by the great lakes, so no issues with a draught impacting capacity. $25 billion for the Vogtle expansion is indeed high, but that's what's happened to the industry due to atrophy. Construction in places like China, the cost is more around what one would it expect it should be. The impact on rates from Vogtle will depend on the payback period. It should be a non-event if it is amortized over 30 years, but the problem with private builds is typically they try and recoup the massive CAPEX rapidly, which is never pretty.


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