Bruce Power unit reconnected to grid; Westinghouse supplies VVER-440 reactor

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Bruce Nuclear Generating Station control room. (Source: Bruce Power)

Bruce Power’s Unit 6 has been reconnected to the Ontario power grid ahead of schedule and on budget after a Major Component Replacement (MCR) outage, Bruce Power said in a statement.

The MCR began in January 2020 is the first unit to be returned to service as part of Bruce Power’s Life Extension Program which is also refurbishing Units 3-8 over the next ten years.

The extension program, one of Canada’s largest private sector infrastructure projects, will extend the units’ operation period to 2064 and beyond, the company said.

“As one of the largest nuclear operators in the world, refurbishing our units is key to providing clean, reliable energy to the people of Ontario well into the future,” said Bruce Power’s President and CEO Mike Rencheck. 

“We have shown strong performance and we’ve committed to providing the lowest-cost nuclear energy in Ontario and to bettering our performance in each successive MCR outage.”

Westinghouse supplies VVER-440 reactor

Westinghouse loaded nuclear fuel into VVER-440 reactors at Ukraine’s Rivne nuclear power plant in September, the first time they were refueled by a non-Russian supplier, Energoatom said in a statement.

"The greatness of this day is the end of the monopoly of the Russians in this segment of the nuclear fuel market. And I really hope that this day will pave the way for quick sanctions against the Russians in the nuclear energy industry," Energy Minister of Ukraine Herman Halushchenko said during a ceremony to mark the refueling.

The event was also attended by the Energoatom President Petro Kontin, Swedish ambassador to Ukraine Martin Åberg, President and CEO of Westinghouse Patrick Fragman, Managing Director of Westinghouse Electric Sweden Aziz Dag, Chief of Rivne regional military administration Vitaliy Koval, and Rivne NPP Director General Pavlo Kovtonyuk.

The contract for the supply of the VVER-440 fuel assemblies was signed September 2020, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as part of the country’s efforts to move away from dependence on Russian nuclear suppliers.

"When the full-fledged invasion of Russia began, we appealed to our Westinghouse partners with a proposal to accelerate the manufacture of fuel for VVER-440 reactors,” Kontin said.

“With our engineering support, they produced it in a year and a half and delivered it here – to the Rivne nuclear power plant. I’m grateful to our partners for this, thank you to all involved." 

Westinghouse signed a contract with Energoatom to design, manufacture, and deliver Long-Term Containment Cooling Systems for the Rivne NPP in In June, the first time the company has supported Severe Accident Management at the Russian-designed plant.

Rivne’s Unit 1 and 2 are the only VVER-440 operating in the country.

Orano to expand enrichment capacity

Nuclear fuel-cycle company Orano plans to extend capacity and has begun the regulatory process to produce HALEU at its Georges Besse II (GB-II) uranium enrichment plant in Southern France, the President of Orano Chemistry Enrichment said in a video interview posted by the company.

The company has been asked by customers in the United States and Europe since mid-2022 to provide alternative means to secure nuclear fuel in order to bypass Russian suppliers, François Lurin said.

The only way to do so would be to build an extension to existing facilities, he said, with the primary choice being to an extension at the company’s Tricastin site of the GB-II plant.

Orano Tricastin carries out the chemistry (conversion, deflourination, and denitration) and uranium-enrichment activities at the site that precedes the final stage in the manufacture of fuel assemblies for reactors in nuclear power plants across the world, the company says.

“We are happy to say that we will be able to start production in 2028 with a ramp up over two to three years, up to a nominal production in 2030,” Lurin said.

“Obviously, this is subject to the final approval of the board and also to receiving firm orders from our customers given the magnitude of these investment.”

The company has also been asked to supply higher enrichment assays, or material enriched to 5%-8% uranium-235.

The first step is going from 5%-6% and Orano has initiated the regulatory process to obtain approvals and should be able to provide enrichment assays of up to 6% by 2025, he said.

“To go from 6% to 8%, we need higher investments on our GB-II plants. And this will require firm commitments from our customers,” he said.

Lurin saw the regulatory process to reach these enrichment levels to take up to three years.

The company will also be able to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), either via enrichment or deconversion of uranium hexafluoride, he said.

“We have had in the past capacities and equipment to provide such material, and so we know how to do it. We are ready to invest but we need first commitments from our customers or additional funding,” Lurin said.

By Reuters Events Nuclear