July 28, 2005 - 17:29
N.B. government ready to breathe new life into aging
nuclear reactor: sources
(CP) - The New Brunswick government was expected to announce Friday it will
go ahead with a $1.4-billion plan to refurbish its aging Point Lepreau
nuclear power plant near Saint John.
question is: How will the province do it without jolting consumers and
businesses with hefty rate increases? Earlier this month, the federal
government rejected the province's request for a $400-million contribution
toward the project, saying such a grant would set an expensive precedent that
would prompt other provinces to seek a similar deal.
Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord - who had suggested the province could be
forced to build coal-fired generating plants if Ottawa failed to deliver the cash - said
the province had been misled and betrayed by the federal government.
With Ottawa out of the
picture, the province will need a partner with deep pockets to get the job
Energy of Canada Ltd. and Bruce Power of Ontario have both come forward to say they
could help with the project.
with Bruce Power would see the company shoulder most of the refurbishment
risk in exchange for a long-term contract to operate the plant and sell its
electricity back to NB Power.
the province would take on most of the risk while the Crown corporation would
be contracted to do the retrofit, extending the life of the plant 25 years
beyond its projected lifespan.
Lepreau came online in 1983. Its Candu reactor, built by AECL, generates
one-third of the province's electricity. It was supposed to be pulled from
service in 2008.
sources, who did not want to be identified, said the AECL scenario was the
Skidd, a spokesman for AECL, said while officials would not be at the Friday
news conference, they were planning to do a media tour in the province in
think we need to tell our story fully .?.?. whatever the announcement
is," he said.
from Bruce Power was willing to comment Thursday.
companies had been given the last two weeks to improve their offers to the
the provincial government were briefed on details of the decision Wednesday,
but ministers entering a cabinet meeting Thursday said there were still some
decisions to be made.
an interesting concept," said Bruce Fitch, the province's energy
minister. "It's a large announcement and there are pros and cons on both
Galbraith, spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers,
said he expected a positive announcement.
represents 640 of the 700 employees at Point Lepreau.
said his members could work with either AECL or Bruce Power.
operated that plant for a long time and we've relied on AECL for the design
expertise. On the other hand, Bruce Power has a very good reputation in the
nuclear industry, and a good reputation with their employees as well. Either
scenario, I think we can't miss."
leading energy watchdog said he thinks the province could decide to retire
the aging power plant.
executive director of Toronto-based Energy Probe, says if NB Power sticks to
its new business philosophy, it won't take on a money-hungry project like the
retrofit of Lepreau.
project is not economic," he said. "It doesn't stand on its own,
and can't pay for itself .?.?. New Brunswickers simply can't afford it."
Stensil, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said New Brunswick should use the opportunity
to shut down Lepreau and pursue altnernative energy sources.
"New Brunswick is in a
nuclear cul-de-sac," he said. "If you keep throwing money at this
lemon reactor you'll end up in the same place in a few years."