Environmentalists split on Point Lepreau refit

Mac Trueman
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
February 27, 2002

Environmentalists are divided on whether NB Power should rebuild its nuclear power station at Point Lepreau.

The project’s $845-million estimated cost could build an all-new natural gas-fired generator that could provide even more electricity than the refurbished nuclear power plant could, Tom Adams, executive director of the anti-nuclear group Energy Probe, said Monday.

But Gordon Dalzell, whose Saint John Citizens Coalition has campaigned for many years to make Saint John air more breathable, isn’t on Mr. Adams’s side. “Let’s face it,” Mr. Dalzell said Tuesday. “People like Tom Adams don’t live in Saint John.”

Mr. Dalzell emphasized that he is not a proponent of nuclear energy, and that if NB Power were building a power station from scratch, he’d probably advocate for natural gas. “But the fact is, there are no carbon emissions from Point Lepreau. In fact, if you look at all the emissions that have been (not produced) over the years with Point Lepreau, you can see from an air-quality perspective, this nuclear option does have quite a compelling rational around it.”

He also emphasized that Lepreau has other serious problems that must be solved, among them the long-term management and storage of its nuclear waste. He wants Canada to follow the U.S. example and establish no-fly zones and no-boat zones around Lepreau, as a precaution against terrorists. But, “let’s say it’s mothballed,” he proposed. “Where are we going to get this energy, this 30 per cent of energy in New Brunswick. Do we get it from Indiana coal-burning plants? Do we go on the grid with Kentucky and start buying our energy from dirty, coal-burning plants? No. I don’t think I’d like to see this option.”

David Coon, policy director for the New Brunswick Conservation Council, questions why NB Power has to restore its 630-megawatt nuclear generator, when its own evidence to the Public Utilities Board predicts that it would need only 300 megawatts to replace the station if it switches it off in 2006. The power corporation expects the figure to grow to 400 megawatts by 2012. A 400-megawatt plant that runs on natural gas could be built for half the price of refurbishing Lepreau, he said. He argued that NB Power should replace Point Lepreau with a 200-megawatt generator fired by natural gas and make up the difference by building 100 megawatts worth of windmills and by encouraging New Brunswickers to conserve a further 100 megawatts.

The world doesn’t have to completely eliminate its industrial emission of carbon dioxide, he said. It only has to reduce it to a rate the world can consume by natural processes. “It’s the overall scale of emissions, province-wide, that is the problem with carbon dioxide.”

Ken Little, NB Power’s vice-president of regulatory affairs, agreed Tuesday that building a 400-megawatt gas-fired plant would be cheaper than reconditioning Point Lepreau. But supplying a smaller plant with natural gas would cost a lot more than nuclear fuel for Lepreau does, he said. “The advantage of nuclear is that its fuelling cost is so cheap compared to other alternatives, including gas.”

Mr. Little said that when his company predicted to the Public Utilities Board that it would need 400 megawatts by 2012, it already took into consideration the province’s increasing energy conservation, homes switching from electric heat to gas and the future addition of windmills to the province’s electrical grid.


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