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One of BWXT's most notable successes has been the West Shift project, which was executed at 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 the elongation of the reactor’s fuel channel tubes. As a result of the effects of heat and radiation over 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 their 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 supplying electricity to the province of Ontario.


Other companies had attempted to undertake the West Shift project earlier, but results were lacking and Bruce Power sought better performance. Thus, Bruce Power turned to BWXT.

Teamwork was key to West Shift’s success. At the start of this 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 - GE Hitachi, ODIM Spectrum, Bruce Power, and BWXT- attended. 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, cataloged and tested. The process and procedures were developed at BWXT Canada's Savage Drive facility. A training center was built, and a 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. A large part of our winning strategy was integrating the customer into our team and ensuring strong lines of communication. Bruce Power also had its team at BWXT’s facility daily to monitor the effectiveness of our training and provide feedback to the team.

Following the training’s completion, the team moved on-site on September 20, 2008, to commence work. To west shift a channel, the crew had to cut the weld at the stop collar, pull the channel several millimeters to the west, and 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 welding process, managing a toolset 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 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 - i.e., working at an average of two channels per day. Exceeding this target, BWXT processed 96 channels in 35 days, averaging 2.74 channels per day. With the extra channels shifted, Bruce Power was able 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.”

West Shift was successful thanks to a combined effort that included extensive planning, training, and open communication. To further acknowledge the project’s successful execution, Site Manager Vic Jakubaitis and the West Shift team were awarded the first Outage Gold Medal Award by Bruce Power.