Lepreau retrofit likely: Tories

Lisa Hrabluk
May 28, 2003

The Point Lepreau nuclear generating station will likely get a new lease on life as part of Bernard Lord’s overall plan to turn the Saint John region into New Brunswick’s energy hub. “The odds are Lepreau will go ahead,” said Mr. Lord during a short visit to the city Tuesday morning on day 18 of the provincial election campaign.”It’s an important project for southern New Brunswick.”

NB Power, the publicly owned electric company, wants to refurbish the nuclear power plant and extend its life. Without the refurbishment, estimated at $845 million, Point Lepreau will have to shut down in a few years. However NB Power executives have long argued for the refurbishment, citing Point Lepreau’s importance to the provincial power supply and it’s lack of greenhouse gas emissions, something that will help the province meet its commitments under the Kyoto Accord and a regional agreement within eastern Canada and the New England states.

Last year the Public Utilities Board rejected NB Power’s application to refurbish Point Lepreau, stating it wasn’t economically feasible but Mr. Lord says it’s worth reexamining the idea, hopefully with a private partner to help shoulder some of the costs. Just as he tried with the $747-million Coleson Cove generating plant renovation, Mr. Lord wants to find a private sector company or group of investors willing to sign a management agreement to refurbish Point Lepreau in exchange for a share of its profits.

The Conservative government was unable to find a partner for Coleson Cove but Mr. Lord says talks on the future of Point Lepreau continue with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, the federal Crown corporation that builds and sells Candu nuclear reactors like the ones pumping out power at Point Lepreau.

Former Liberal cabinet minister and interim premier Ray Frenette is chairman of AECL. “The PUB came to some conclusions but we (the government) feel and NB Power feels that proceeding with Point Lepreau could be viable,” said Mr. Lord. “We’ve had discussions with AECL . . . I’m still optimistic we will find a good solution for the taxpayers of New Brunswick and the ratepayers of New Brunswick.”

A campaign pledge also suggests Point Lepreau will continue to operate long after 2008. On Tuesday Mr. Lord promised that a Conservative government would build a $40-million international power line between Point Lepreau and Woodward, Me.

The power line has been on NB Power’s agenda for a few years and the application for approval is before the National Energy Board right now. However Halifax-based Emera Inc., owner of Bangor Hydro, may yet pull out of the deal.

Emera was expected to build the American portion of the line at a cost of approximately $100 million but told NB Power earlier this year that it might decline the partnership. The company will inform NB Power and the NEB soon of its plans.

NB Power executives have stated in the past that if that happens they will seek out another U.S.-based power company. If built the line will increase the province’s transmission export capacity between New Brunswick and Maine by 300 megawatts, a 40-per-cent increase.

NB Power wants to build the line so it can sell power into New England in the summer and buy power for New Brunswick in the winter. This, says Mr. Lord, combined with the presence of the Irving Oil refinery – which the premier chose as the backdrop for his announcement – and NB Power’s two largest power plants makes Saint John the province’s power centre. “This means more economic growth in New Brunswick and specifically more economic growth and jobs in the Saint John area,” he said.

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