June 19, 2012 07:42 ET

 Striking Engineers Weigh their Options-Darlington Nuclear Refurbishment at Risk

Society of Professional Engineers and Associates bring their work stoppage to Darlington to call attention to the stalemate in contract negotiations with SNC-Lavalin

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 19, 2012) - The current Ontario Power Generation (OPG) refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear power plant runs a very real risk of being shelved if no workers are available to work on the project. Peter White, President of Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA) offered that blunt assessment.

"The current contract negotiations between SPEA and Candu Energy are at a stalemate and there is no end in sight. It's quite possible that our senior engineers, who have expertise and years of experience, may choose to leave Candu Energy soon. This would have dire consequences to the Candu business," said White. "Our design and full service capabilities in CANDU could erode rapidly, and key knowledge and skills will be scattered. This cannot be good news for a major CANDU utility like OPG that continues to rely on CANDUs to supply electricity to the province for the foreseeable future."

"If the professional expertise is disbanded the Darlington refurbishment will become another learning exercise. Seemingly insignificant changes can have huge consequences," White pointed out. "Relearning these lessons under the pressure of a tight schedule, with novices who do not have the background, knowledge and experience is a recipe for skyrocketing costs, delays and boondoggle."

OPG's plan is to begin the Darlington refurbishment work in about 2016; by the end of refurbishment the lives of the Darlington CANDU units will be extended by some 30 years. The major part of this refurbishment project is "retubing", i.e., the replacement of the fuel channels and primary heat transport (PHT) feeder tubes, 'the heart and arteries of a CANDU reactor'.

AECL/Candu Energy is the original designer of these major reactor components. Supporting the retubing work is one of Candu Energy's primary contributions to the Darlington refurbishment project. SPEA members who work on the fuel channels, feeder engineering and PHT process design groups will play key roles in providing technical design and analysis support for this work.

"We are conducting an information picket at Darlington to draw the public and OPG's attention to the real risk to the long term viability of their CANDU operations. Refurbishments are at risk unless a contract with SPEA members is settled shortly," said White.