More failing grades for Atlantic nuclear plant

Ottawa Citizen
August 12, 1998

FREDERICTON — Safety practices at Atlantic Canada’s only nuclear power plant have received yet another poor report card.

The latest assessment by the Atomic Energy Control Board of New Brunswick’s Point Lepreau nuclear power station reports a continuing decline in operational safety at the 15-year-old plant on the Bay of Fundy.

The AECB, the regulatory agency for Canada’s nuclear power industry, states in its annual review of Lepreau for 1997 that there was a troubling deterioration in performance.

Rod White, vice-president of nuclear operations for NB Power, said the utility has begun a performance improvement program that won’t show results for a few more years.

“These improvements don’t happen in a half a year or a year’s time. … So I wouldn’t expect 1998 to be a nice clean year either.”

The report says AECB staff will monitor Lepreau’s performance closely in 1998 and will make sure NB Power, the provincial Crown corporation that owns and operates the station, addresses the problems.

NB Power was ordered in 1996 to report every six months on actions it has taken to improve the culture of safety at the nuclear station.

But the AECB remains unhappy with the plant’s progress and has ordered a schedule of targets for safety improvements, two of which must be met by the end of this month.

Lepreau’s licence is up for renewal in October.

Rod White, vice-president of nuclear operations for NB Power, said the utility has begun a performance improvement program that won’t show results for a few more years.

“Overall, I wouldn’t have expected this to be a glowing report because we just started the program. But it gives good credit to the initiatives we have taken to improve progress,” White said of the AECB review.

“These improvements don’t happen in a half a year or a year’s time. It’s a three- or four-year program. So I wouldn’t expect 1998 to be a nice clean year either.”

Norm Rubin, senior policy analyst with Energy Probe in Toronto, said lack of safety culture is a frightening poblem in a nuclear facility and he applauded the AECB for keeping a sharp eye on Lepreau.

“If you look at technological disasters in general, you find that this was an organization that was not living and breathing hazard avoidance,” he said, recalling such incidents as the Chernobyl nuclear accident and the Challenger space shuttle explosion.

“The good news here is that the AECB is awake enough to mention it. I’m old enough to remember when the regulator sounded like part of the Canadian Nuclear Association. So it’s good the AECB is being critical. It’s terrible that Point Lepreau has a bad safety culture.”

During the last three years, the nuclear station has been off-line almost as often as it has been on-line, generating as much controversy as electricity.

Among the concerns raised in the AECB report are a maintenance backlog at the nuclear plant, worker fatigue and a general deterioration in the “material condition” of the plant.

“Improvements are needed to cope with an accelerated frequency of aging-related degradations in the plant systems,” says the report, suggesting the plant is aging prematurely.

Lepreau is halfway through its life expectancy of 30 years.

A recent report prepared for NB Power said major and costly repairs will have to be made to the plant by the year 2008.

The utility has yet to decide whether the expense will be worthwhile but plans to run the nuclear facility at least until the overhaul is required.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in New Brunswick Power. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s