Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ontario's inexplicable Vacuum Building Outages

I was away for some of the week and missed a particularly poor report on a particularly lackadaisical scheduling of outages at Ontario nuclear generators.

Planned shutdowns of nuclear plants could mean higher prices for consumers | CTV
The planned shutdowns of two of Ontario's biggest nuclear plants during normally high peak times could mean soaring prices for consumers next year.
The Bruce Power and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations will be shut down at the same time next spring and summer for 16 weeks for planned repairs.
Paul Bliss is usually a better reporter; this statement is wrong or misleading. The outage at Bruce Power is likely to be around 4 weeks, as Bruce Power explains:
There has been some recent interest in planned outages within Ontario’s nuclear fleet in 2015, specifically the Bruce B Vacuum Building Outage (VBO).
This interest is not surprising given the importance of Bruce Power’s nuclear output to meet the needs of the province; however, additional context is important.
The Bruce B VBO will be approximately a month in duration and commence in mid-April. Bruce Power works closely with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to ensure the timing of these outages can be accommodated to meet the needs of the system. These outages are approved just before they begin and discussions with the IESO will continue to ensure the system needs of the province are maintained.
There are 4 reactors, so perhaps Bliss misinterpreted 16 reactor weeks as 16 weeks (not four weeks at each of 4 reactors).

It would be interesting to know if the IESO is orchestrating this, or if Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) just didn't co-ordinate their outages.

OPG's Darlington outage should be a little longer, as it's being done to co-ordinate with some other work.

From an OEB ruling on OPG rates:
The major 2015 Darlington outage is related to moving the planned vacuum building outage from 2021 to 2015. OPG states that the length of the 2015 vacuum building outage is dependent on emergency service water piping work and emergency coolant injection valve replacement. [pg 38]
The decrease in production forecast for 2015 is the result of the decision to combine work at Darlington to include a vacuum building outage, a station containment outage and critical path work related to emergency service water piping work and emergency coolant injection valve replacement. The Board finds that OPG has demonstrated that combining this work results in net positive benefits and has been already approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The Board accepts that this work should be undertaken in 2015...[page 39]
Another CTV reporter, Scott Miller, had an interesting statement in a Facebook post:
Asked why they'd allow 2 big nuclear outages at the same time, the IESO said, because they could.
Despite the scare around 12 weeks of concurrent outages, instead of 4 during the high hydro-supply and low demand spring, it's still astonishing the outages would be planned at the same time.

The only reason I can think the IESO would have to schedule VBO's simultaneously is to see how the system copes without up to 6,800 megawatts of nuclear capacity. 

I can't think of any reason the generators would have planned the outage this way, and if I worked in Ontario's nuclear industry, I'd be very worried that Bruce Power and OPG are allowing the VBO's concurrently.

Particularly if I worked at Pickering.

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