July 28, 2005
government ready to breathe new life into aging nuclear reactor:
FREDERICTON (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.
The 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.
New 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
With Ottawa out of the
picture, the province will need a partner with deep pockets to get the
Atomic Energy of Canada
Ltd. and Bruce Power of Ontario have both come forward to say
they could help with the project.
deal 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
With AECL, 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.
Point 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
Government sources, who
did not want to be identified, said the AECL scenario was the preferred
Steve 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.
one from Bruce Power was willing to comment
Both companies had been
given the last two weeks to improve their offers to the
Members of 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.
"It's an interesting
concept," said Bruce Fitch, the province's energy minister. "It's a
large announcement and there are pros and cons on both
Ross Galbraith, spokesman
for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said he
expected a positive announcement.
The union represents 640
of the 700 employees at Point Lepreau.
Galbraith said his members
could work with either AECL or Bruce Power.
"We've 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."
But a leading energy
watchdog said he thinks the province could decide to retire the aging
Tom Adams, 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.
"The 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
Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a
spokesman for Greenpeace, said New Brunswick should use the
opportunity to shut down Lepreau and pursue altnernative energy
"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