Proposed power plant may kill plan to fix Lepreau

Chris Morris
Canadian Press
October 29, 2004

A decision on whether to dump or fix up New Brunswick’s aging nuclear power plant could be swayed by a private firm’s plans to build a giant gas-fired generator, says the province’s energy minister.

Irving Oil, one of New Brunswick’s largest industries, announced this week that it plans to build a mega power plant in Saint John, N.B., using gas from a liquefied natural gas terminal.

The New Brunswick government, facing a looming energy crunch within 10 years, must soon decide whether it will spend at least $1.4 billion to upgrade the aging Candu reactor at Point Lepreau, in southern New Brunswick.

“It is an independent decision from that (the Irving) announcement,” Fitch said of the decision on Lepreau.

“But we’ll have to put it on the scales as we make the decision.”

NB Power, the provincial Crown utility, is preparing a recommendation to the Tory government on the future of Lepreau.

Following that step, the Tories are expected to announce the fate of the Lepreau generating station, which has a maximum capacity of 600 megawatts, before Christmas.

Bob Scott of NB Power said Tuesday it’s too early to say much about the Irving Oil announcement, which proposes a 500 to 750 megawatt, gas-fired station to be built somewhere in the Saint John area.

“This idea that has been put forward by Irving Oil company still requires a great deal of work before it would even get to the proposal stage,” Scott said.

Tom Adams of Energy Probe, a national energy watchdog based in Toronto, said private generating stations are becoming common in North America.

“This is how most power plants get built, either by or directly on behalf of customers, rather than the old model where the utility built for itself and then customers were stuck with it.”

Adams is a strong critic of NB Power which he has faulted over the years for its poor decisions and large debts. The utility has a debt of over $3 billion.

In addition to complex problems relating to the Lepreau nuclear station, the utility recently launched a $1-billion lawsuit over a failed deal with Venezuela for the purchase of a special fuel called Orimulsion for the generating station at Coleson Cove, N.B.

Adams said one of the reasons Irving Oil may want its own generating station is its concern about NB Power.

“One of the factors that may be motivating this is a loss of confidence in NB Power,” he said.

Adams said that while the Irving plan may be bad news for NB Power, it should be good news for consumers in New Brunswick.

He said that a large, gas-fired power plant will help ensure a reliable supply of electricity in the future.

The Irving plant would be capable of providing as much as one-third of New Brunswick’s energy needs.

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