When it renewed the operating licence for Canada’s oldest nuclear power plant, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission overlooked perplexing results from inspections of the station’s pressure tubes that nobody could explain – a decision critics say is part of a larger pattern of placing the industry’s interests over those of the public.
In August, 2018, the CNSC extended Ontario Power Generation’s licence for its Pickering Nuclear Generating Station for 10 years – the longest term it had ever received.
In doing so, the CNSC lifted key regulatory roadblocks that would have forced OPG to replace aging pressure tubes – six-metre-long rods that contain fuel bundles of uranium – at great expense.
The tubes – often referred to as the heart of CANDUs, the reactor design found in Canada’s nuclear power plants – deteriorate as they age. If one ruptures, coolant could be lost, which could trigger a range of scenarios from a relatively minor incident that’s contained by the plant’s safety systems but results in costly damage, to a catastrophe in which fuel overheats.
Each of Pickering’s reactors contains 380 pressure tubes; Pickering Station has six operational reactors.
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