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Reactor disassembly set to begin at Darlington Nuclear

 Reactor disassembly set to begin at Darlington Nuclear

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​The disassembly of Darlington Nuclear Generating Station’s Unit 2 reactor, the first of four nuclear reactors to undergo refurbishment, is set to commence this July.

The work will involve a series of prerequisite activities to prepare for a safe and efficient disassembly, including the set-up of specialized tooling platforms on either side of the calandria face (also known as the reactor core) that will be operated remotely, and shearing off the feeder pipes that deliver coolant to the reactor.

After the project team has completed these steps, the project enters the removal phase later this year where special tools and technology will come into play. 

“We have to synchronize the work on both sides of the calandria face to push and pull out each of the 480 pressure tubes,” said Roy Brown, Senior Director of Projects, Re-tube Feeder and Replacement and Fuel Handling at OPG.

The reactor mock-up at Darlington Nuclear GS
The reactor mock-up at Darlington Nuclear

​The team will first remove the calandria tube inserts in the reactor vessel using induction heating. The calandria tube inserts securely hold the calandria tubes, which house the pressure tubes that contain the bundles of uranium fuel that generate power.

“Induction heating gets things hot through magnetism,” says Brown. “The process heats up the inserts within half a second and cools them just as fast. The quick temperature change shrinks the inserts, allowing us to remove them.”

Following insert removal, the same push and pull exercise is performed to remove the calandria tubes. The pressure tubes and calandria tubes are then moved to the Re-tube Waste Processing Building where they are safely stored in shielded containers.

After all this removal work is complete, the only action left is a series of quality inspections on the calandria vessel itself.

At a glance:

  • More than 1,600 people are engaged in the disassembly of the Unit 2 reactor
  • The Re-tube Tooling Platform comprises two large elevating platforms on either side of the calandria face
  • The feeder pipes, which carry the coolant required to cool nuclear fuel, will be cut off the calandria face using saws and hydraulic tools