N.B. hoping for at least $400 million from Ottawa to fix nuclear plant

Chris Morris
Maclean’s magazine
February 25, 2005

Fredericton: The New Brunswick government is looking for a major cash infusion from Ottawa for refurbishment of the aging nuclear power plant at Point Lepreau, N.B.

Bruce Fitch, New Brunswick’s energy minister, said Friday that based on emission credits under the Kyoto accord, overhauling the 22-year-old reactor at Lepreau should be worth at least $400 million to Ottawa.

“The figure that is being tossed around of $400 million, that’s not out of the question,” Fitch said, adding it could be considerably more.

“That’s based on greenhouse credits.”

New Brunswick is negotiating with Ontario-based Bruce Power to become a private partner in the Lepreau refurbishment, which would extend the reactor’s life by 25 years.

Premier Bernard Lord said this week that if Ottawa doesn’t come through with the cash, the province may be forced to scrap Lepreau and look at another source of power, such as coal-fired generation.

“It’s critical for us to know how much the federal government is willing to pay and support the nuclear industry in Canada,” Lord said.

Shawn Graham, the Opposition Liberal leader in New Brunswick, said Friday it sounds to him like the Lord government is trying to blackmail Ottawa.

Graham said the provincial government has missed every deadline for deciding the future of Point Lepreau.

“Bernard Lord can’t keep his word, he can’t keep his commitments and he can’t negotiate energy files,” Graham said.

“It’s time for a new negotiator in the province of New Brunswick.”

Calls to Ottawa for comment went unanswered Friday.

Tom Adams of Energy Probe, a Toronto-based energy watchdog, said Ottawa doesn’t want to commit huge dollars to New Brunswick with other nuclear refurbishments looming in Quebec and Ontario.

“I’m sure it has dawned on the federal government that if they start shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to help support the renovation in New Brunswick, they could be on the hook for multiples of that sum of money by the time they get through with Quebec and Ontario,” Adams said.

Adams said the province should simply mothball Lepreau and move on with other energy solutions.

The federal budget brought down earlier in the week included $4 billion to $5 billion for reducing greenhouse gases.

But Lord said he has heard that the Kyoto-inspired federal fund does not include money to fix up existing nuclear plants.

“We were disappointed that we didn’t see the words ‘nuclear’ or ‘refurbishment’ in the budget,” Fitch said.

Point Lepreau is Atlantic Canada’s only nuclear power plant.

 

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