New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
Fri Mar 26 2010
Byline: Jennifer Pritchett Telegraph-Journal
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. says its refurbishment of the reactor at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station is slowly but surely humming along without any major new problems and that its share of the work will be complete by October 2010.
"Some days we're actually ahead of where we're supposed to be "¦ and some days we're behind," said Dale Coffin, spokesman for AECL.
"We're confident we can achieve our objective by the end of October."
At that point, said Coffin, AECL will turn the refurbishment over to NB Power. It remains unknown as to when the plant will become operational.
Premier Shawn Graham said Wednesday that uncertainty about the overall completion of the plant's refurbishment - now 16 months behind schedule - played a role in the collapse of the proposed deal between NB Power and Hydro- Québec. Lepreau was one of the NB Power generating assets that Hydro-Québec was to acquire in the proposed sale.
The only nuclear power plant in Atlantic Canada, Point Lepreau was shut down in March of 2008 for modifications that were supposed to take 18 months.
Ongoing delays during the retrofit may factor into a future lawsuit the province is threatening against Atomic Energy of Canada, which is refurbishing the reactor, Graham said.
The provincial and federal governments have been arguing for months now over who should cover the cost of the delays. The province blames the problems with the retrofit on AECL and is demanding reimbursement money for having to buy replacement power while it's shut down.
Energy Minister Jack Keir said last month those costs could reach $800 million.
The world's first retrofit of a Candu-6 reactor, the Point Lepreau project has faced many hurdles related to equipment problems that have slowed the pace of work at the site.
Coffin agreed the project has had significant challenges with developing first-of-a-kind tools necessary for the retrofit.
"And we've been able to overcome those challenges, but it has certainly been, in some cases, a steep learning curve and so we've been able to develop solutions for them as we were going," he said. "This is a first-of-a-kind and the first time it's been undertaken. It's proven to be an ambitious schedule, but we're working towards completion."
The deadline for the current stage of work, which was already delayed from the beginning of February to the end of March, now won't be complete until April.
Dave Coon of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick said the ongoing problems with the refurbishment, which include difficulties fitting new parts into an old structure, also raises questions about how well the retrofitted plant will operate in the future.
"But if you've got new reactor components "¦ that don't fit well into the reactor enclosure, then that raises all kinds of questions about how well the reactor is going to be able to operate, how often it's going to have to shut down for repairs dealing with leaks and so on," he said. "You're dealing with a 25-year-old piece of metal, which is the reactor enclosure, that was subjected to very high levels of heat and radiation and you're trying to install brand new metal tubes into those holes."
© 2010 Telegraph-Journal (New Brunswick)