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Hydrogen events at GE Canada in 1999

On March 2, 2020, during the Commission public proceeding on BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada Inc. (BWXT) licence renewal hearing, an intervenor, the Ontario Clean Energy Alliance, commented they were unable to find information regarding an explosion that occurred at the GE Canada (GE) Toronto facility in 1999. CNSC staff found there were two hydrogen events in 1999 at the fuel fabrication facility located at 1025 Lansdowne Avenue, Toronto. At the time, the facility was operated by GE Canada and licensed by the Atomic Energy and Control Board (AECB).

Event 1

The first event occurred in August 1999Footnote 1 , when a hydrogen leak at the reserve hydrogen tube bank over-pressurized and vented to the atmosphere. At the time of the hydrogen leak, an employee pulled the fire alarm. The fire department responded and evacuated the area and some nearby homes. The hydrogen supply to the building was shut off, and after three hours the situation was deemed stable and residents were returned home. Hydrogen tube tanks were transported to the site, used and removed.

Before restarting the facility, both the AECB and Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) outlined that GE was required to:

  • verify that hydrogen and nitrogen lines were safe and fit for operation
  • conduct a full inspection of lines/joints/supports
  • carry out testing witnessed by the TSSA
  • prepare plans for upgrading its system

GE was also required to implement improvements to its fire protection and preventative maintenance programs and upgrades to its hydrogen system. CNSC staff reviewed the application submitted by GE for the cryogenic liquid hydrogen system.

Event 2

In December 1999, GE reported a hydrogen explosion had occurred when a worker was welding piping on furnace 4. The worker had minor injuries, including a minor cut on the right hand, bruise on the side of the face and ringing in the ears. The investigation reportFootnote 2 Footnote 3 identified the cause of the event was hydrogen gas trapped inside a meter, which had exploded.

In 2000, GE replaced its high-pressure gaseous system with a cryogenic liquid hydrogen system. Currently, BWXT uses a cryogenic liquid hydrogen system that is certified and inspected by the TSSAFootnote 4 . Both the TSSA and the CNSC have reviewed this system and determined it complies with relevant codes and standards, and is therefore safe for the residents residing near the BWXT Toronto facility.

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References (available on request)


Footnote 1

Presentation from GE Canada Nuclear Products on the August 1999 hydrogen leak

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Footnote 2

Fax from the Ontario Ministry of Labour to CNSC staff regarding the December 1999 accident at GE Canada

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Footnote 3

Summary Report on Hydrogen Explosion Incident at GE Canada’s Toronto Facility

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Footnote 4

Certificate of inspection Technical Standards and Safety Act Ontario Boilers and Pressure Vessels Regulation for BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada 1025 Lansdowne Avenue, Toronto, ON, M6H 3Z6

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