Another Nuclear Folly

The refurbishment of New Brunswick’s 680 MW Candu reactor, it’s only one, is in trouble. There are three things that we can count on. Death, taxes, and nuclear cost overruns.

The project started in March of 2008, and was scheduled to take 18 months. That was 29 months ago, and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) now says it will not be completed until early 2012. It costs $20 million per month to buy replacement power. The cost estimates, which will likely be revised again, have risen from $500 million in 2001 to over $2 billion and counting today.

AECL is owned by the Federal government. NB Power owns the reactor, and is in turn owned by the Provincial government. So naturally, this issue has turned political. The New Brunswick government has written to the federal government requesting financial assistance with the refurbishment. After all, the Federal government owns AECL – there should be some responsibility here. Of course the New Brunswick government is equally culpable. After all, NB Power gave the contract to AECL that obviously allows cost overruns and time delays to be the responsibility of NB Power.

Meanwhile, the Federal government is reportedly trying to sell AECL, or parts of it. Good luck with that.

The Gentilly reactor in Quebec, was also scheduled for refurbishment. It is Hydro Quebec’s only reactor. Wisely, they have announced a delay in the start of this refurbishment, as they wish to see the outcome of the sale of AECL, as well as the outcome of the refurbishment in New Brunswick. They would be wise to reconsider the refurbishment altogether.

When will they figure out that nuclear always takes longer than expected, and always costs more than estimated?

New Brunswick has a great wind resource. That means its cost of wind energy is lower than elsewhere. But development of New Brunswick’s wind resource is stuck, and not moving forward due to the policy framework. It seems to me that the solution to LePreau is at hand. It is time it was used.

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