AECL paying out $100M for Point Lepreau, Bruce refurbishment delays

CBC News

February 13, 2009

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. is paying out $100 million in extra costs for delays with nuclear refurbishment projects at Point Lepreau, N.B., and the Bruce plant in Ontario.

Delays in the $1.4-billion refurbishment of the Point Lepreau, N.B., nuclear power plant are hitting Canadians in the wallet, according to new documents released by the federal government.

The Treasury Board of Canada reported Thursday that Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. is paying $100 million to cover the cost associated with delays at two nuclear refurbishment projects. The federal Crown corporation is also running late on the refurbishment of a Candu reactor at the Bruce complex near Lake Huron in Ontario, and now Ottawa is budgeting extra money in its latest batch of supplementary estimates.

It’s not clear how much of the $100 million is to cover the Point Lepreau delays and how much is for the Ontario project.

David Hay, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power, has estimated that a four-month delay at Point Lepreau could cost the utility upward of $90 million.

AECL is required to pay penalties to NB Power for any delays at Point Lepreau, which was a key part of the refurbishment agreement in 2005.

Hay said the penalties protect New Brunswickers from higher delay costs.

“My view was I negotiated it on behalf of New Brunswick taxpayers,” Hay told reporters on Friday.

“And do they have some element towards federal responsibility? Of course. When we hired AECL, everybody knew that. But we’re getting a pretty good share of it.”

This is the first Candu-6 reactor refurbishment project, which is expected to extend the life of Atlantic Canada’s only nuclear power plant by 25 to 30 years. AECL is hoping to market these refurbishment projects to other Candu-6 reactor facilities around the world.

The Point Lepreau project was supposed to be finished at the end of September, but now it may take until Christmas or later.

Norman Rubin of the Toronto-based environmental group Energy Probe said it’s unacceptable to not know how that money will be divided up when taxpayers are footing the bill.

“The sad thing here is that you and I and all of your listeners have signed on … to cover AECL’s penalties and overruns, but we’re not allowed to look at the contract that triggers those penalties and costs for overruns,” Rubin said.

Rubin said if this happened in a private company, heads would roll.

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