Nuclear critic questions future of Lepreau

May 19, 2001

SAINT JOHN, N.B. – An official with Energy Probe says N.B. Power has a serious problem with the nuclear reactor at Point Lepreau.

Tom Adams says the Power Commission’s latest admission of more cracked pressure tubes indicates the plant is probably not safe to operate.

The Power Commission shut the plant down two weeks ago after a heavy water leak. The leak turned out to be more serious than officials thought.

Last Friday the bad news got worse. More cracks showed up in heavy water feeder tubes. N.B. Power officials said it was a rare occurrence.

But Tom Adams of Energy Probe says they should have known better.

“This is a repeat of an experience they had back in ’97. N.B. Power took the quick way out. The advice of their technologists at the time was to inspect all the feeder pipes in the unit. The decided not to do that, that it would be too costly and too time consuming to go for the full inspection. So we’re very concerned about the current safety status of Lepreau.”

N.B. Power is making plans to refurbish the plant. The power commission wants to spend another half a billion dollars to rebuild it and run it for another 25 years.

But Adams says these latest problems could put a serious crimp in that plan.

“There is going to be a major financial impact in its current fiscal year, in the next fiscal year as well. It may have operational impacts that’ll be very profound and really should cause a major rethink about whether New Brunswick wants to continue to play this nuclear roulette.”

Jim Blyth of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says the cause of the cracks in the feeder tubes is still a mystery. He says the commission won’t allow the plant to start up again until it’s satisfied N.B. Power has solved that mystery and has found a way to fix it.

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