A woman basks in the sun outside the Pickering Nuclear Plant, Ontario, Canada. Image Source: CTV News/CP/Kevin Frayer.
After the Japanese earthquake and ongoing problems with the Fukushima plant began last month, the Canadian authorities rushed to reassure citizens that Canada's nuclear sector is safe, with no reactors built on earthquake fault lines. Yet they had already launched a review of the state of atomic energy in the country before the Japanese disaster. Some older plants are being closed: Dalhousie University shut down its nuclear reactor and discreetly moved its uranium core from Halifax, Nova Scotia to an undisclosed federal facility in Ontario under cover of darkness in January, 2011.
The Canadian public remains jumpy. Toronto newspapers report that there are calls to rethink a shift to nuclear energy. For this post, I was going to cover the Chalk River medical isotopes plant that is north of Ottawa (Google has a timeline of incidents at that plant here), which featured Canada's only level 5 incident (the same level as Three Mile Island). But unfortunately, there are news reports of something more pressing - a radioactive leak into Lake Ontario from the Pickering A plant - on 14 March 2011.
Caption for the map above (current as of 2005): Research 1-Univ Alberta, Edmonton (S), 2-Saskatchewan Research Council, Saskatoon (S), 3-AECL Whiteshell (WR-1, S Demo), 4-McMaster Univ, Hamilton (P), 5-Univ. Toronto (S), 6-Royal Military College, Kingston (S), 7-AECL Chalk River Laboratories (NRU, NRX, PTR, ZED-2, ZEEP), 8-Nordion, Kanata (S), 9-Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal (S), 10-Dalhousie Univ., Halifax (S). S=Slowpoke II (20 kw); P=Swimming Pool (5 MW). AECL's Whiteshell reactors and Chalk River NRX and ZEEP reactors are shut down.
[UPDATE, March 2011: Some other plants are shut down, click on the links to check.]
Commercial 1-Bruce and Douglas Point, 2-Pickering, 3-Darlington, 4-Gentilly, 5-Point Lepreau, 6-NPD [Rolphton, Ontario]. Douglas Point, Gentilly 1, and NPD have been decommissioned; Bruce A2 is mothballed.
Canada has focused on the CANDU (Canadian Deuterium-Uranium) design, which uses heavy water as the moderator and coolant and natural uranium as the fuel. Canadian companies operating the reactors are - Ontario Power Generation (Nuclear division), Bruce Power, and Quebec Hydro - and the New Brunswick Power Commission operate the commercial facilities. ... Canadian nuclear reactors are regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), the successor to the former Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB).
The nuclear sector in Canada dates back to the 1940s. The Canadian CANDU reactors are the hallmark of Canadian nuclear plant design. The country's first full-scale operating nuclear plant was the Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station at Kincardine, Ontario. It has now been decommissioned. The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in Tiverton, Ontario is the second-largest plant in the world.
News Report: CBC (16 March 2011). Video Source: Youtube.
Established in 1971, the Pickering plant is east of Toronto. In February 2010, Ontario Power Generation confirmed that the Pickering plant would be closed in ten years. On 16 March 2011, CBC News reported that the Pickering A plant dumped radioactive water with trace amounts of tritium into Lake Ontario on 14 March. From the report:
Ontario Power Generation has notified Canada's federal nuclear regulator about the release of 73,000 litres of demineralized water into Lake Ontario at the Pickering A nuclear generating station. The leak occurred at 11:30 p.m. ET on Monday at the plant located about 35 kilometres east of Toronto and was caused by a pump seal failure. “The radiological risk to the environment and people's health is negligible,” the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission said in a statement.According to a more skeptical online assessment of this event, CTV reported that "Ted Gruetzner of OPG said, 'People are concerned about nuclear power, but this particular incident is normal water with a bit of radiation. It is well below our regulatory and other limits.'" Nuclear critics Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility are alarmed and believe this water came from spent fuel bays, which are not housed in protective vessels - similar to the Fukushima plant. In response, officials have stressed the need for calm. But on 17 March, a 4.3 level earthquake added to tensions, hitting Eastern Ontario (the epicentre was quite far away in Lachute, Quebec). For more detailed reports from CTV, go here.
I'll come back to Chalk River in a later post.
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