Canadian Manufacturing

New radioactive heavy water spill at east Coast nuclear power plant

The Crown company says the water has been recovered for reuse and there is no risk to workers



LEPREAU, N.B.—More than 300 litres of radioactive heavy water spilled at the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant on Monday, the second such spill at the site in less than six months.

New Brunswick’s public utility company NB Power says the spill happened when a test equipment relief valve opened prematurely as officials were working on the plant’s refurbishment.

The heavy water then overflowed from a collection system inside the reactor building.

The Crown company says the water has been recovered for reuse and there is no risk to workers, the public or the environment, though it has launched an investigation into the spill.

In December, four to six litres of radioactive heavy water spilled because of a leak at the plant, which prompted an evacuation. No one was hurt.

“This event is fundamentally different than the event that occurred in December 2011,” NB Power said in its statement. “There were no requirements to evacuate the reactor building as the spill occurred in a room that was designed to contain and collect heavy water.”

Point Lepreau has been out of service since March 2008 for a major refurbishment that’s meant to extend the life of the reactor by 25 years.

The project is about three years behind schedule and $1 billion over the original $1.4-billion budget.

It is scheduled to return to service this fall.

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