Quebec’s only nuclear power plant shut down last Tuesday as a result of two malfunctions, including a heavy water leak that Hydro-Quebec didn’t announce for two months.
A recuperation system overflowed on June 13 inside the Gentilly-2 plant, located 150 km northeast of Montreal.
The company reported the leak immediately to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, said Hydro-Quebec spokeswoman Flavie Cote. She said Gentilly-2 is safe and there was no urgency to inform the public.
“There’s a system that’s responsible for recuperating that water, but the system had a slight leak,” she said.
“So there was a leak of heavy water. But it was in the room where the reactor is which is very, very secure, so our employees were protected.”They were able to recuperate the water within a day or two, Cote said.
She also confirmed a second problem at the 48-year-old nuclear plant. A pneumatic valve malfunctioned inside the reactor building. Workers were attempting to restore ventilation on Wednesday.
Officials had planned to shut down Gentilly-2 for annual repairs on Friday, but the two recent problems prompted them to move that date up to Tuesday night.
Hydro-Quebec said the facility will remain closed for at least 70 days. The Gentilly-2 plant, built in 1963, will reach the end of its lifespan in 2014.
It needs a $2-billion refit that would extend its service life through to 2040, but Quebec has not decided whether to approve the refit or close the plant permanently.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission renewed Gentilly- 2’s five-year operating licence on June 29.
But the commission added that Hydro-Quebec must shut down the plant for refurbishment no later than December 31, 2012, “and obtain approval from the commission before reloading fuel in the reactor after the refurbishment.”