CNSC Response to the Article “Michel Duguay recommande la fermeture de Point Lepreau” Published on May 26, 2011 by L'Étoile
To the Editor-in-Chief:
I was surprised by a number of statements made in the article "Michel Duguay recommande la fermeture de Point Lepreau" [Michel Duguay recommends the closure of Point Lepreau – TRANSLATOR] and would like to provide an update on the continued safe operation of this facility.
First, contrary to Michel Duguay’s claims, the mandate of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is quite clear. Our primary mission is to regulate Canada’s nuclear sector in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians and the environment, and respect Canada’s international commitments for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Second, I wish to reassure your readers that Point Lepreau is a robust nuclear power plant, constructed and operated to resist natural phenomena and external attacks.
Like all CANDU nuclear power plants, it is equipped with a series of reliable safety systems. Features specific to the CANDU model include emergency shutdown system redundancy, thick containment and the possibility of cooling the reactor core in the absence of an electrical power supply.
The current refurbishment of Point Lepreau incorporates additional safety systems, which will allow the reactor to exceed international best practices.
In other words, Point Lepreau was safe as originally constructed and will be even safer once the improvements introduced during refurbishment have been completed.
Mr. Duguay’s statement that the reactivity coefficient poses a significant risk merely propagates a myth. CNSC scientists and CANDU reactor operators have studied this phenomenon extensively and understand it well.
CANDU reactors are designed to respond effectively to any possibility of a rapid power pulse in case of a major pipe breach. Moreover, to ensure an optimal safety level, the CNSC sets very high safety margins in nuclear power plant operations.
Finally, as a result of the accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant and even though we are convinced that Canadian nuclear power plants operate safely, the CNSC has undertaken a comprehensive review of the facilities for which it has oversight responsibility.
In this way, we will ensure that the lessons learned from that accident will be incorporated into future nuclear regulatory activities in Canada. Further to our review, Canadian operators will be required to take any action deemed necessary by the CNSC to continue to protect the health and safety of Canadians and the environment.
NB Power has already taken the immediate measures required by the CNSC as set out in our letter dated March 17, 2011 and is working to implement the necessary measures over the longer term.
The CNSC will never endanger the safety of Canadians. We also invite your readers to visit our Web site (nuclearsafety.gc.ca) to learn more about the safe operation of Canada’s nuclear sector.
Ramzi Jammal, Executive Vice-President
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission