TORONTO – A faulty valve leaked radioactive heavy water Friday from a nuclear reactor at the Pickering power plant, Ontario Power Generation says.
The leak was contained and no one was exposed to any radioactive material, an OPG statement Monday said.
The valve was on Unit 7 which was undergoing maintenance at the time.
The radioactive heavy water was contained by one of the back-up systems in place and no evacuation of staff was necessary, OPG said.
The company boasts that no member of the public has been harmed due to a radiation emission from its nuclear plants or waste storage facilities in the more than four decades that the nuclear industry has existed in Ontario.
Bruce Power, a private company which runs nuclear facilities on the shores of Lake Huron, generates 6,300 megawatts.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission requires that potassium iodine pills be distributed to anyone living or working within 10 kilometres of a nuclear facility to prevent thyroid damage in case of a significant release of radioactivity into the environment.
Greenpeace is calling on the province to expand its emergency plans for an area beyond 10 km.
“YOU can take photos. But stay on the road. Don’t step onto the grass.” It is 28 years since the world’s worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, but visitors are still told to be careful. Though much of the plant (at which, even now, 3,000 people work) has been decontaminated, and the roads cleaned up, the surrounding forest has hotspots where fragments of debris and nuclear fuel, ejected by the explosion that destroyed reactor number four on April 26th 1986, emit dangerous radiation.
At the moment, the reactor’s remains are sealed in by a concrete and steel structure known officially as the Shelter Object and colloquially as the sarcophagus. This has done its job for nearly three decades, but there are doubts it can manage a fourth. Wind, rain, rust and time have taken their toll, and the radiation level within it makes maintenance near-impossible. Many fear it may collapse.
That is why visitors to Chernobyl these days will see a huge and growing building looming in front of reactor four’s remains. This is the New Safe Confinement (NSC; it has yet to attract a nickname). It is in essence, as the picture shows, a giant double-skinned stainless-steel Nissen hut, which will have flat walls at each end. It weighs 30,000 tonnes; is taller, at 110 metres, than the Statue of Liberty; and is 165 metres long and 260 metres broad. It is being built by Novarka, a French consortium, and its cost, €1.5 billion, is met by donations from dozens of countries, administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It was scheduled for completion in 2005, but political foot-dragging and wrangling over who would pay have delayed its construction by more than a decade. When it is finished, though—probably in 2017—it will protect the sarcophagus from the ravages of the weather and ensure that, even if that older container does fall down, no radiation will escape. With luck, it will be able to do this for a century.