Sept. 17, 2009
FREDERICTON (CNB) - Premier Shawn Graham is formally asking the federal government to give a realistic and firm completion date for the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station. The premier expressed his concerns about further delays to the project in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the second this year.
The federal Department of Natural Resources is responsible for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), the general contractor in charge of the refurbishment.
"The successful refurbishment of Point Lepreau is of significant importance to New Brunswickers, and I am very concerned with the impact that these delays will have on our province," said Graham. "That is why I have asked the prime minister and federal Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt to provide us with a firm date and concise timeline for the completion of the project."
Point Lepreau is undergoing a refurbishment to extend its life by 25 to 30 years. It is the first project of its kind involving a CANDU-6 reactor.
"The refurbishment of the Point Lepreau generating station is an important part of NB Power's overall strategy to provide clean, safe, reliable and cost-effective electricity for New Brunswick ratepayers," said Energy Minister Jack Keir. "It is critical to all New Brunswickers that we are given a clear picture by AECL of exactly where the project stands."
In July 2005, the former government decided to proceed with the refurbishment with AECL as the general contractor. The project has three phases: the first and third phases are the responsibility of NB Power; the responsibility for the second rests solely with AECL. The station was safely shut down, enabling the project to begin on March 28, 2008. The first phase was completed by NB Power on schedule, while the second phase continues today considerably behind schedule. The original completion date was this month. Late last year, it became apparent that work on the project had fallen behind schedule. There have been further delays since. The original estimated cost of the project, including the purchase of replacement energy, was $1.4 billion.
"While we recognize the magnitude and complexity of this project, and we appreciate the professionalism of the team at AECL, the delays are now at the point which we view as unacceptable," said Graham. "This uncertainty has gone on for too long. New Brunswickers deserve clear answers from AECL and the federal government as to how long the remaining work will take and exactly when it will be done."
Point Lepreau generates 635 megawatts of electricity, or 30 per cent of New Brunswick's energy requirements; the rest is exported to the United States. The plant, commissioned in 1983 at a cost of $1.44 billion, was originally expected to operate until 2008.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Premier Shawn Graham and Energy Minister Jack Keir will be available to the media around 10:30 a.m. outside the cabinet room, 2nd floor, Centennial Building, 670 King St., Fredericton. MEDIA CONTACTS: Marie Andrée Bolduc, communications, Office of the Premier, 506-444-2286; Bonnie Doyle Creber, communications, Department of Energy, 506-658-2410.