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Fuel Channel Shifting

Fuel Channel Shifting

One of BWXT's most notable successes has been the West Shift project executedat Bruce Power in Ontario, Canada. Bruce Power, one of Ontario’s largest independent power producers, generated enough electricity in 2008 to supply roughly 24 percent of the province’s power needs. Located approximately 150 miles northwest of Toronto, Bruce Power employs more than 3,800 people and operates two nuclear generating stations (eight reactors), which will have been home to 96 BWXT Canada original and replacement CANDU steam generators.

Bruce Power faced an extensive fuel channel replacement program on Unit 3 due to elongation of the reactor’s fuel channel tubes. As a result of the effects of heat and radiation during years of operation, these tubes had grown and shifted to a point where they were going to lose contact with the east-end bearings, resulting in the need to shut down. 

The name West Shift was given to this project to represent the action of moving the fuel channels back (west) to their originally installed location to optimize performance. Ultimately, by west shifting the channels, BWXT extended the life of the reactor. BWXT’s efforts played a critical role in Bruce Power’s ability to keep the unit running, and to continue to supply electricity to the province of Ontario.

A NEW STRATEGY

West Shift had been attempted by others earlier, but Bruce Power sought better performance. Bruce Power turned to BWXT.

Teamwork was a key to the success of West Shift. At the start of the project, BWXT held a two-day workshop with all the stakeholders. This workshop was designed to engage all parties involved. Eighty people from four organizations attended, including subcontractors: GE Hitachi, ODIM Spectrum, Bruce Power and BWXT. The group generated more than 300 actions, a project execution plan and a schedule. Because of the short time frame, this project had to be attacked from several fronts independently and in parallel. The tooling refurbishment was assigned to GE Hitachi and ODIM Spectrum to be fully assessed, catalogued and tested. The process and procedures were developed at BWXT Canada's Savage Drive facility. A training center was built and the training plan was developed by BWXT Maintenance Services. The weld process was designed and developed by BWXT, and the Bruce site was prepared for project execution by the Site Management Team. Due to the radiation exposure dose rate limits associated with this work, a crew of 180 boilermakers and millwrights was required. Training was performed on comprehensive mockups. Each trainee was put through an intensive training program focused on the use of the tooling and the West Shift process. Part of the winning strategy was to integrate the customer into the team to ensure strong lines of communication. Furthermore, Bruce Power had its team at BWXT’s facility to daily monitor the effectiveness of training and provide feedback to the team.

Following completion of training, the team moved to site on September 20, 2008, to commence work. To west shift a channel, the crew had to cut the weld at the stop collar and pull the channel several millimeters to the west, then weld the channel back into position. Due to the location where the actual cutting and welding took place, workers required specially designed equipment that allowed them to manipulate tooling at a distance of six feet beyond arm’s reach. Some major challenges that BWXT faced included developing the weld process, managing a tool set of over 400 individual items, training 180 workers to operate in radiation fields while conducting intricate work on a nuclear reactor, and performing this work during a tight outage window under very close scrutiny.

PLANNING AND TRAINING PAY OFF

Planning and training paid off when BWXT Canada overcame these challenges and finished the work with both speed and accuracy. The project’s target was to complete a total of 64 channels in the outage window of 32 days, at an average of 2 channels per day. Exceeding this target, BWXT processed 96 channels in 35 days, averaging 2.74 channels per day. With the extra channels shifted, it allowed Bruce Power to eliminate a planned outage for 2009, saving the company millions of dollars.

“West Shift was a destiny issue for Bruce Power’s Unit 3 reactor,” said Rob Bouchard, Project Manager for BWXT Nuclear Services. “If West Shift had not been successful, the reactor could have been shut down in 2009.”

The success of West Shift was a combined effort of the extensive planning, training and open communication that went into preparing for the project. To further acknowledge a successful project execution, Site Manager Vic Jakubaitis and the West Shift team were awarded the first Outage Gold Medal Award by Bruce Power.