Nuclear Power Demonstration Reactor
The Nuclear Power Demonstration (NPD) reactor is a shutdown reactor located in Rolphton, Ontario. AECL has asked CNL to put forward proposals to decommission the reactor in order to address AECL’s responsibility to protect the environment and address its nuclear responsibilities. The objective is to close the site now and not leave this burden to future generations.
The NPD reactor was Canada’s first nuclear power reactor to supply electricity to the electrical distribution grid. Located on the south bank of the Ottawa River near the town of Rolphton, Ontario it began operations in 1962 and served as an important training facility for future reactor engineers and operators. NPD is known for its iconic red and white chimney, which is home to one of the largest populations of Chimney Swifts in Canada, but the reactor itself was built underground in the surrounding bedrock.
In 1988, following the permanent shutdown of the reactor, and removal of the fuel and power generating equipment from the site, Ontario Hydro transferred the responsibility of the monitoring and licensing of NPD to AECL.
The NPD site currently consists of a limited number of structures and several temporary structures which are being added to support the decommissioning project work.
CNL is proposing to decommission the NPD reactor in-situ. This would mean leaving the remaining reactor components and systems deep inside the thick underground concrete foundation structure which would be filled with grout, surrounded by bedrock. The grouted structure would then be capped with concrete and covered with an engineered barrier and monitored for a minimum of 100 years. The above ground structures, apart from the chimney which is being kept to protect the habitat of the chimney swifts, would be demolished. The objective is to immobilize the reactor in a stable, proven form to allow for continued radioactive decay.
In-situ decommissioning technology
In-situ decommissioning has been used successfully at a number of nuclear sites worldwide, beginning in the 1960s. It is a technique that was used to effectively remediate sites contaminated with toxic and hazardous wastes.
The technique minimizes radiobiological exposure to workers, reduces the need for handling and transportation and overall, minimizes risks to workers and the environment.
As CNL advances this project, it will meet or exceed regulatory requirements that protect the health and safety of workers, the public and the environment.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will only allow projects to proceed if it can assure itself that it is safe.
The CNSC regulates and monitors Canada’s nuclear facilities to ensure that they are being operated safely. The NPD reactor, along with any other nuclear facility, will have rigorous reporting requirements for the operator, in this case, CNL.