Bruce Nuclear Complex: Chronology of Development

1959 – Ontario Hydro purchases the necessary land at Douglas Point, and construction begins on a 200 Megawatt (MW) Candu prototype commercial reactor (partnership between Atomic Energy of Canada Limited -AECL and Ontario Hydro, though owned and managed by AECL). This was the second prototype Candu commercial reactor. The first was the 20 MW Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor in Rolphton, Ontario on the west bank of the Ottawa River (about 200 km upstream from Ottawa, and approximately 30 km northwest of Chalk River).

1966 (November 15) – Douglas Point reactor achieves criticality.

1966 – Radioactive Waste Operations Site 1 (RWOS 1) is put into operation. RWOS 1 provides storage for solid low and medium level radioactive waste only, although there is a pit in which combustible wastes are burned. Waste is stored primarily from Douglas Point, and to a lesser extent from Pickering and the NPD project in Rolphton.

1967 (January 7) – Douglas Point delivers its first electricity to the Hydro grid.

1968 (September 26) – Douglas Point is declared in-service.

1968 – Conceptual studies for Bruce “A” generating station commence.

1970 (December) – Construction starts on Bruce “A” generating station.

1973 (April) – AECL heavy water plant (“A”) at Douglas Point starts operation. Ontario Hydro buys it in July. Heavy water is used both as a moderator and coolant (heat transfer) for Candu reactors. Heavy water is extracted from Lake Huron water using hydrogen sulphide gas. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the production of a single pound of heavy water requires 340,000 pounds of feed water, and in 1979 the Bruce heavy water plant produced the annual equivalent of 1,542,800 pounds of heavy water, the largest producer of heavy water in the world.

1974 – Radioactive Waste Operations Site 2 (RWOS 2) commences operations. It has facilities for the receipt, processing and storage of low and medium level radioactive waste generated by all Ontario Hydro generating stations and other facilities currently or previously operated by Ontario Hydro. RWOS 2 comprises a Waste Volume Reduction Facility (incinerator with in-service date of 1977) and above and below ground storage structures. Low level waste includes items such as mop heads, floor sweepings, clothing and tools. Medium level waste consists of items such as spent ion exchange filters and used reactor parts. About 3,000 cubic metres of low level radioactive waste is incinerated each year, resulting in about 50 cubic metres of waste ash. An equivalent amount is compacted each year, resulting in about 500 cubic metres of compacted waste. Each year, over 1,000 cubic metres of waste that cannot be incinerated or compacted is stored “as is.”

1976 – After 10 years of receiving waste, RWOS 1 discontinues operations. It is to remain in a static state.

1977 – The first of 4 Bruce “A” 750 MW reactors comes into service, with the remaining reactors coming on line over the next 2 years. In order to increase the unit (reactor) power output over that at Pickering (500 MW reactors), 90 additional fuel channels (from 390 to 480) were incorporated, with 13 fuel bundles per fuel channel. The number of rods per fuel bundle was also increased from 28 to 37 while reducing the rod diameter so as to maintain the same overall fuel bundle diameter.

1978 – Construction starts on Bruce “B” generating station.

1981 – Bruce Heavy Water Plant “B” is declared in service.

1984 – Douglas Point prototype reactor is removed from service and permanently shut down.

1984 – Bruce Heavy Water Plant “A” is mothballed.

1984 – Bruce “B” generating station, consisting of 4 Candu 840 MW reactors commences operations. The first reactor (Unit 6) comes into service in 1984, with the remaining 3 reactors coming on-line in 1985, 1986 and 1987. Bruce “B” is essentially a replica of Bruce “A” but with some detailed improvements incorporated.

1995 (October) – The first of the Bruce “A” reactors (Unit 2) is mothballed, with the remaining 3 reactors all removed from service by 1998.

1996 – Groundwater monitoring wells at RWOS 1 show leakage of radioactive contaminates (e.g. tritium), often in excess of the Ontario Drinking Water Objective and even beyond the regulatory Maximum Permissible Concentration (of tritium) for water (MPCw). Data suggest a plume of contaminated groundwater has now reached neighbouring Inverhuron Provincial Park. All of the waste at RWOS 1 will now be retrieved, segregated and packaged for transfer to RWOS 2. The project commenced in 1997 and is expected to last until 2003.

1996 (July) – The storage capacity of the fuel water bays (cooling pools) at the reactor buildings that currently house used fuel from the Bruce “A” and Bruce “B” generating stations is expected to be exhausted by 1999 for Bruce “A” and 2003 for Bruce “B.” More storage space is required. Ontario Hydro announces plans for a new Bruce Used Fuel Dry Storage Facility (BUFDSF). The facility will house up to 744,000 Bruce used fuel bundles (roughly 18,000 tons), approximately half of the projected total for the Bruce nuclear complex.

1997 – 50 new in-ground storage containers are added to RWOS 2 for radioactive waste, with an additional 13 in-ground containers for heat exchangers.

1997 (August 13) – In response to a peer review report noting that many Ontario Hydro nuclear reactors are running at “minimally acceptable” levels, Ontario Hydro announces the laying up of 7 reactors (including the remaining 3 operating reactors at Bruce “A” and the closure and decommissioning of the Bruce Heavy Water Plant “B”).

1998 (October) – With the passing of the new (Ontario) Energy Competition Act, the former Ontario Hydro is broken up into a number of smaller companies. The provincial generating assets are now under the new company Ontario Power Generation (OPG).

2000 (January 14) – Test bundles of Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) made from weapons grade plutonium arrive at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) Chalk River laboratories to assess if MOX fuel can be used in Candu reactors. Bruce “A” openly lobbies to burn both American and Russian MOX fuel at the site, with Canada having responsibility for the used plutonium MOX fuel waste.

2000 (January 21) – The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), Canada’s nuclear regulator, grants a license to OPG to construct the new dry storage facility for used fuel. The facility, as ultimately designed, will contain approximately 2,000 steel and concrete containers housing 384 used fuel bundles each. Each container, when loaded, will weigh approximately 140,000 pounds.

2000 (March 7) – One groundwater monitoring well at RWOS 2 is now showing levels of tritium in excess of OPG’s operating limit, suggesting leakage. Other documents show a significant upward trend in tritium in three other nearby groundwater monitoring wells. In order to allow for license renewal of RWOS 2, AECB makes a special provision and increases the operating limit for tritium in groundwater at RWOS 2 by 500%.

2000 (May 31) – The new Nuclear Safety and Control Act comes into force. The Atomic Energy Control Board is replaced by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

2000 (July 11) – Bruce Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of British Energy, announces an agreement with OPG to lease and operate the Bruce “A” and “B” nuclear generating stations until 2018, with an option to extend the lease for another 25 years. In addition to an initial lease payment, annual “rent” payments (comprised of base and variable components based on the excess of electricity average market price over agreed price thresholds) will be paid from Bruce Power to OPG. In addition, an annual supplementary payment for the disposal of spent fuel and other waste materials (linked to the volume of electricity produced) will be made to OPG. Bruce Power estimates this amount to be approximately $40 million in 2002. Under the agreement between Bruce Power and OPG, OPG is contractually liable for the plans and associated costs of decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal.

2000 (October 12) – Cameco announces it has acquired a 15% equity stake in the Bruce Power Limited Partnership.

2000 (December 18) – The two main unions representing workers at Bruce generating stations “A” and “B” (Power Workers Union and the Society of Energy Professionals) acquire a 2.6% interest in Bruce Power.

2001 – RWOS 2 is renamed first as the Bruce Waste Management Facility, then changed to the Western Waste Management Facility (WWMF) as the agreement between OPG and Bruce Power gave the latter exclusive use of the word “Bruce” as it pertains to the site. The WWMF is operated by OPG.

2001 (Fall) – Work begins on installing a new incinerator at the WWMF (formerly RWOS 2). The old incinerator emitted toxic dioxins and furans hundreds of times in excess of Canada’s official safe limit. The new incinerator is expected to be in-service in 2002. During the replacement period, combustible low level waste will be stored with the intent to recover this waste for incineration at a later date.

2001 (December) – One groundwater monitoring well at the WWMF has now exceeded the revised operating limit (increased by 500% in 2000) for tritium in groundwater. The tritium levels in this groundwater monitoring well now exceed both Canada’s guidelines and Ontario’s objectives for safe limits of tritium in drinking water. Canada’s guidelines for tritium in drinking water are almost 10 times higher than the regulatory limit set in the U.S. under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act.

2002 (February) – 52 new in-ground containers for storage of low and medium level radioactive waste come into service. An additional 4 in-ground containers for storage of heat exchangers also come into service.

2002 (May) – An 8th low level storage building at the WWMF comes into service.

2002 (October 9) – Ribbon cutting ceremony to open the new “Western Used Fuel Dry Storage Facility.” This facility is part of the expanding WWMF operations, and is licensed to store up to 744,000 used fuel bundles in approximately 2,000 above ground dry storage (concrete and steel) containers. There is approximately 18,000 tons of high level used fuel waste currently stored in the fuel bays (cooling pools) at the reactor buildings. This waste will gradually be moved to the new dry storage facility, freeing up space for another estimated 18,000 tons of high level waste in the cooling pools at the reactor buildings (expected to be generated over the next 15-20 years). The total expected tonnage of high level waste at Bruce of 36,000 tons is almost half that proposed at the controversial Yucca Mountain, Nevada centralized repository for the United States’ high level radioactive waste.

2002 (October 23) – The CNSC announces its decision to designate the WWMF a “nuclear installation” for purposes of the Nuclear Liability Act. Under the Act, the operator of a nuclear installation has a maximum liability of $75 million. The CNSC sets the basic amount of insurance that must be maintained by OPG for the WWMF at $6 million.

2002 (November 15) – Canada’s new Nuclear Fuel Waste Act comes into force (royal assent given June 13, 2002). The new Act has created a Waste Management Organization (WMO), whose board of directors is comprised of nuclear industry representatives. The WMO has 3 years to come back to the Canadian government with its recommendation on how to permanently dispose of Canada’s high level nuclear waste.

2002 (December) – Installation of the new incinerator at the WWMF now completed. Commissioning of the new incinerator still required.

2002 (December 23) – In response to their insolvency, British Energy sells their 82.4% stake in Bruce Power. TransCanada Pipelines and BPC Generation Infrastructure Trust (established by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System – OMERS) each acquire a 31.6% stake in Bruce Power. Current owner Cameco increases its ownership stake in Bruce Power from 15% to 31.6%. The remaining 5.2% stake in Bruce Power is now owned by the unions (Power Workers Union and the Society of Energy Professionals).

2003 (January 6) – The CNSC announces its decision to accept the Environmental Assessment Screening Report for the restart of Units 3 & 4 at Bruce “A” generating station. Units 3 & 4 are expected to be up and running as early as April, 2003.

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