Nuclear Power Plant Reports Second Spill in Six Months

A public utility company is reporting a radioactive heavy water spill at its nuclear power plant -- the second such spill at the site in less than six months.

LEPREAU, N.B. — New Brunswick's public utility company is reporting a radioactive heavy water spill at its nuclear power plant — the second such spill at the site in less than six months.

NB Power says about 300 liters of heavy water spilled Monday at the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant, Atlantic Canada's only nuclear facility.

The Crown company says the spill happened when a test equipment relief valve opened prematurely as officials were working on the plant's refurbishment. Heavy water then overflowed from a collection system inside the reactor building.

The utility says the water has been recovered for reuse and there is no risk to workers, the public or the environment.

"Highly trained and qualified staff are in place at all times to respond to an event such as this one," refurbishment project director Rod Eagles said in a statement.

"All alarms sounded as per design and heavy water was collected safely and in a timely manner."

NB Power has launched an investigation into the spill.

In December, four to six liters of radioactive heavy water spilled because of a leak at the plant, which prompted an evacuation. No one was hurt.

"This event is fundamentally different than the event that occurred in December 2011," NB Power said in its statement. "There were no requirements to evacuate the reactor building as the spill occurred in a room that was designed to contain and collect heavy water."

Point Lepreau has been out of service since March 2008 for a major refurbishment that's meant to extend the life of the reactor by 25 years.

The project is about three years behind schedule and $1 billion over the original $1.4-billion budget.

It is scheduled to return to service this fall.

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