The Globe and Mail reports in its Tuesday edition that 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.
The Globe's Matthew McClearn writes that in August, 2018, the CNSC extended Ontario Power Generation's licence for its Pickering Nuclear Generating Station for 10 years. In doing so, the CNSC lifted key regulatory roadblocks that would have forced OPG to replace aging uranium pressure tubes 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. Each of Pickering's reactors contains 380 pressure tubes; Pickering Station has six operational reactors.
In a worst-case scenario, a ruptured tube could lead to a series of "cascading failures not unlike what happened at Fukushima," says Sunil Nijhawan, a nuclear engineer and consultant referring to the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after an earthquake and tsunami. That scenario is of "low probability," he added, but "the consequences to the nation would be very high."
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