Canadian Consulting Engineer

Point Lepreau nuclear power plant to be fixed at fixed price

Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) has been hired to refurbish the Point Lepreau nuclear plant near Saint John, New Bru...

August 12, 2005   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) has been hired to refurbish the Point Lepreau nuclear plant near Saint John, New Brunswick — the only nuclear power plant in the Maritimes.
The government of New Brunswick decided to go ahead with the refurbishment because it is expected to be less expensive than closing down the plant and building new coal-fired plants to replace it.
However, the province is going to have to spend an estimated $1.4 billion on the overhaul. The project is intended to give the 22-year old plant 25 more years of active life.
Crown corporation AECL will receive $700-million for its role. Its responsibilities for NB Power and will include retubing 380 fuel channels and associated feeder tubes, and constructing a nuclear waste storage facility on site.
Opponents say that New Brunswick is accepting too much financial risk, since similar projects involving reactors about the same age in Ontario have run into huge overruns and ballooning costs. The recent refurbishment of CANDU reactors at Pickering nuclear station east of Toronto, for example, cost four and five times their original budgets and were three and four years behind schedule.
AECL were involved in some of the work at Pickering. Their contract in New Brunswick is for a fixed price and involves strict penalties if they do not finish the work on time. However, details of the penalties and terms have not been released.
Refurbishing a nuclear power plant is a mammoth undertaking, not least because of the extensive safety precautions that have to be put in place. The projects can involve thousands of engineers and technicians. At the end of July, the Pickering A Unit 1 reactor was restarted and operating for the first time since 1997. The refurbishment involved 1.9 million hours of work and a peak workforce of 2,879. Almost 3 million new parts were installed. The cost was $1 billion.


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