New Brunswick to accelerate plan to study possible second nuclear reactor
Canadian Press
Thursday, June 07, 2007
by Kevin Bissett

SAINT JOHN, N.B. (CP) - With nuclear power enjoying a worldwide renaissance, New Brunswick must speed up a feasibility study on a proposal to build a second nuclear plant in the province, Premier Shawn Graham said Wednesday.

Graham, speaking to the Canadian Nuclear Society, said a proposal for the study will be presented to his cabinet within a few weeks.

"No stone will be left unturned," he told the crowd. "Everything from the business model, the economic benefits, the technology and the market potential for electricity - it's all on the table.

"Clean power will be very important in our province in the years ahead, and as such, the possibility of a second nuclear unit at Point Lepreau is very interesting to us, and will be closely examined."

The crowd responded with a standing ovation.

New Brunswick has had nuclear power since 1983, when the existing reactor at Point Lepreau, near Saint John, went into production.

The facility is about to undergo a major refurbishment to extend its life by another 25 years.

Rising fossil fuel prices for the province's other power generating facilities have been blamed for rising electricity prices in New Brunswick. Just last week, NB Power was granted an interim rate increase of 9.6 per cent.

"There is a need for diversification and to move away from our thermal power plants, which are presenting challenges on global emissions pertaining to greenhouse gas," Graham told the crowd.

"New Brunswick is the only province in Atlantic Canada certified to produce nuclear power. We have a real advantage here in first-mover status in moving forward with the private sector - and that's what the feasibility study will be undertaking."

The Point Lepreau facility has a Candu reactor.

But Energy Minister Jack Keir has said he has been talking to numerous suppliers around the world in a bid to find the best technology and price.

John Froats, president of Candu Owners Group Inc., said he's confident the Canadian Candu design will win out. "It's all about performance," he said. "We have a Candu option we can put on the table and, I think, compare favourably with other energy options. Our performance speaks for itself in the industry."

The news of the feasibility study moving ahead doesn't sit well with David Coon, policy director of the New Brunswick Conservation Council. "We haven't even begun rebuilding the reactor from the old one that wore out early, which is going to cost at least $1.5 billion, and they're speeding ahead with this," he said. Coon said he agrees the province must diversify its energy sources and move to cleaner power, but believes nuclear should not be the choice. "We absolutely need to be doing that but with green energy sources that are based on resources right here ... wood, wind, water and sun," he said.

During last fall's provincial election, Graham made the commitment of making Saint John the energy hub of Atlantic Canada.

"I'm sure it will happen," said Saint John Mayor Norm McFarlane. "We came closer to being the energy hub when the pipeline was approved ... because everything works around that. And now the EIA guidelines have come out on the second oil refinery, and then the announcement of the possibility of a second nuclear reactor." "We can't be anything but the energy hub for Atlantic Canada."