Bruce Power’s Unit 6 achieves ‘first criticality’ following MCR

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Published Aug 14, 2023  •  2 minute read

The Bruce Power site. (submitted/files) The Bruce Power site. (submitted/files) SunMedia

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Bruce B’s Unit 6 is another step closer to returning to service after it achieved a sustained fission chain reaction, which creates the heat needed to produce electricity.

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The unit, which is the first of six that Bruce Power and its partners are refurbishing as part of its Major Component Replacement between 2020 and 2033, achieved what is known in the nuclear industry as “first criticality” over the weekend, the company announced in a news release.

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The initial fission or “approach to critical” came after the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission gave the approval to begin releasing the unit from a guaranteed shutdown state. This enables the many commissioning activities to be completed on the newly installed systems to verify everything is working as expected, the release said.

“This is great progress, made possible by years of planning, preparation and execution by Bruce Power and our partners,” president and CEO Mike Rencheck said in a news release. “We are now in the final stages of returning Unit 6 to service and we’re applying all of our learnings, innovations and experience from Unit 6 to future MCRs to ensure our strong performance continues and improves.”

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Unit 6 was taken offline in January 2020 for the start of its MCR, a process that includes the reactor shutdown and defuelling, reactor preparation, reactor retube and feeder replacement and commissioning.

The planned MCR of units 3-8 at the site near Tiverton will extend the operational life of each reactor for 30 to 35 years, and extend the life of the site to 2064 and beyond. In early March, Bruce Power announced it had removed Unit 3 from service to begin its MCR. Unit 4 is slated to be next in line for refurbishment beginning in 2025.

The overall life-extension program undertaken on the eight operating units was started in 2016 and is expected to produce more than 7,000 megawatts of power following the completion of the MCR.

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Bruce Power has said that with privately funded investment, the Unit 6 refurbishment work has been done on time and on budget, “despite challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The life-extension program will generate billions in annual economic benefits in communities throughout Ontario, directly and indirectly supporting 22,000 jobs annually and injecting $4 billion into the province’s economy, the company says.

The MCR will help Ontario at a time when the province’s electricity demands are continuing to rise and its move to a clean energy supply evolves to help achieve its climate change goals, it said in the release.

“Reaching this important milestone is proof positive that the refurbishment of large-scale nuclear units can help power electrification and Ontario’s growing economy,” Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith said in the release. “I’d like to congratulate everyone who has worked to achieve this success, including Bruce Power’s employees, trades partners, Ontario’s diverse supply chain and the nuclear sector as a whole.”

Formed in 2001, Bruce Power is a Canadian-owned partnership of TC Energy, OMERS, the Power Workers’ Union and the Society of United Professionals that employs 4,200 people. The company refurbished its units 1 and 2 and brought them back online in 2012.

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Author: Jordan Ross