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Decaying concrete raising concerns at Canada’s aging nuclear plants via National Post

Decaying concrete at nuclear power plants is the latest concern for nuclear safety authorities.

At Quebec’s sole atomic power station, Gentilly-2, eroding concrete has prompted federal licensing officials to suggest that any provincial attempt to refurbish and re-license the 30-year-old plant must satisfy federal concerns over the aging concrete’s ability to stand up to another two or three decades of service.

The move comes as economic pressures force nuclear utilities to consider refurbishing their nuclear plants and operating them well past their 25- to 30-year initial lives.

[…]

Of particular concern for any “life extension” is the dome-shaped containment building that encloses the 675-megawatt CANDU 6 reactor. The metre-thick, steel-reinforced concrete structure serves as the final physical barrier against radioactive contamination escaping into the atmosphere around Becancour, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River across from Trois-Rivieres and an hour’s drive northeast of Montreal.

“Special attention is needed for the containment structure in the longer term since it has been identified that containment concrete suffers from” a common type of concrete decay called alkali-silica reaction (ASR), says a 2010 report by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in Ottawa.

Despite those long-term concerns, the CNSC last year renewed the plant’s operating licence until 2016.

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