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[cdn-nucl-l] Pickering A passes safety review
Posted in the Toronto Star on July 6th, 2004 and at:
Pickering A passes safety review
Agency inspects restarted Unit 4
Spare parts need better handling
The Pickering A nuclear generating station has received a generally passing
grade in a safety review by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
But the review says improvements are needed in some areas, including the way
plant staff obtain and track spare parts.
In a submission prepared for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Association, the
station's owner, Ontario Power Generation Inc,. says it is already at work
fixing some of the issues identified in the review.
The review was carried out in February to look at operating practices at
Pickering A's Unit 4, which returned to service last September following a
The Ontario government is expected to decide very soon whether to return a
second Pickering A unit to service, and then will consider whether the final
two units should also be restarted.
The restart project has been plagued with delays and cost overruns;
conceived as an $800 million project, the board first approved spending of
$1.1 billion to return all four units to service. But it's now estimated it
could cost up to $4 billion to return all four units to service.
The review team said Pickering A has good emergency preparedness practices,
a good safety culture, strong training programs and is receptive to external
But it zeroes in on the availability of spare and replacement parts as an
obstacle to refurbishing the reactors.
Lack of parts "sometimes interferes with the ability to accomplish work,"
the review notes. The same problem was highlighted in a report last December
by a provincially appointed review panel probing the reasons for Pickering
A's cost overruns and delays.
The plant has made progress on clearing the backlog of parts that are
ordered but not delivered, the review says, but that has just increased the
backlog of parts being cleared through quality control checks. Nuclear
plants must meet quality control standards set by the Canadian Nuclear
"Without a more effective strategic spare-parts program, it will be
difficult to maintain appropriate plant material condition," the review
While a new warehouse has been built 20 kilometres from Pickering, the
review says that two warehouses on the Pickering site don't meet
The warehouses are old, dusty and poorly organized, and they lack
appropriate lighting, temperature and humidity controls, the review says.
That could result in "a degraded state of the spare parts and that could
lead to a failure of the equipment on which they have been installed and as
a consequence impair safe and reliable operation of the plant," the review
The review also says Pickering A managers need to do a better job of telling
their staff about operating goals and about new practices.
In a response to the review, station manager John Coleby says Pickering
management invited a team of experts from the World Association of Nuclear
Operators to help OPG fix some of the problems highlighted by the review.
The spare parts issue is difficult, he acknowledges in notes to a
presentation scheduled for Thursday at the nuclear safety commission.
"Procurement of spare parts is an issue facing all of OPG's plants as
equipment becomes obsolete and suppliers go out of business," Coleby says.
Pickering A is the province's oldest operating nuclear station, dating from
the early 1970s. The plant has a set up a "strategic materials availability
initiative" to work on the problem, and has hired more design engineers as
well, Coleby says.