Refurbishment Problems in New Brunswick?

Are fiddleheads hallucinogenic?


The reason I ask is that it could be an explanation for the upbeat optimism of the New Brunswick government on all matters nuclear. They have repeatedly expressed the desire for a second reactor apparently to produce electricity for export to the New England states. What’s more instead of just cloning their first and only reactor, the CANDU 6 at Pt. Lepreau, they want to take on the first-of-a-kind ACR-1000. In my opinion this would be an extremely daunting task for a relatively small utility in a one of the smaller provinces. Massive federal support would be essential but New Brunswick seems sanguine about getting it.


New Brunswick is the best prospect for the first ACR-1000. I believe that a few years from now,  after the current recession,  when Alberta and Saskatchewan get around to choosing reactors to build, they will probably choose the AREVA EPR in part because they would prefer a foreign reactor rather than one from eastern Canada on political grounds. The past tells me that both Bruce Power and OPG would prefer not to have any more CANDU reactors and if the Ontario government can get a low-risk fixed-price deal from AREVA, they will go with two EPRs for Darlington, assuming that Westinghouse is indeed out of the contest.


With respect to Ontario there was a recent newspaper report that some unions involved in the nuclear business would be content with foreign reactors and willing to work with offshore companies. They must be using the same crystal ball as I am. Of course, the AECL professional union was not in favour but whatever the outcome of the Ontario competition, their members will still have decades of work on CANDU refurbishment.   


By the above reasoning New Brunswick is the most likely site for the first ACR-1000. Unfortunately for AECL, the refurbishment of the Pt. Lepreau reactor has run into problems. The expected cost overruns as yet are only up to $90M on a total budget of $1.4B – a mere bagatelle in the refurbishment business- but still enough to cause rumblings in the local press. I note that the refurbishment of the very similar Gentilly II reactor in Quebec has been estimated to cost $2B so I’d advise the NB media to hang on to their hats in terms of the final cost. There was a Keystone Cops episode concerning turbine rotors falling off a barge and the demise of a local NB firm making the new end fittings involved in retubing, particularly distressing because the refurbishment was supposed to grow new industrial activity in the province and enhance exports sales.


Whether the above developments are making a dent in the provincial government’s nuclear optimism and what impact that might have on the plan for a second reactor remains to be seen.

4 Responses to “Refurbishment Problems in New Brunswick?”

  1. Dave Todd Says:

    Any indication that the New Brunswick government is ready to cough up the feasibility reports / business plans that the premier and energy minister have kept under wraps for more than a year?

    D Todd,
    Canada Editor
    SNL Energy

  2. Don Jones Says:

    Remember, New Brunswick went with a new reactor, CANDU 6, back in 1975 before any had been built. The fiscal management, construction and project skills being developed in refurbishing Point Lepreau puts them in a much better position to build an ACR than when they started construction of Point Lepreau. In any case if New Brunswick wants an ACR-1000 just to export much of it’s output to the US and not to meet future power shortages there is no urgency to order. They can afford to wait and let someone else be first, either Ontario or India.

    I don’t think the conventional wisdom that an ACR has to be built in Canada before it can be sold abroad applies to India. India is a special case. India would not be averse to being the first to build an ACR-1000 since it knows as much about PHWRs as we do and is all set to go from it’s 220 MW and 700 MW size to a 1000 MW size pressure tube reactor. The ACR saves them a lot of development costs. India understands how politicians play games and understand the game being played between Queen’s Park and Ottawa. They have more faith in our technology than in the astuteness of our politicians.

    After the present economic crisis the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan will be grateful to Canadian taxpayers (mostly in the East) for helping to pay for all the infrastructure projects in their provinces that provided work when oil was in the doldrums. Bruce Power may have it’s own reasons for favouring foreign reactors but I trust the people in these two provinces to know where their real friends live when the time comes to order reactors.

  3. Nuke Eng Newby Says:

    Let’s say all the designs came from Canada. If it was purely a technical decision, whereby the reactor design would be selected on the basis of it’s safety and performance, what would win?

    Since the decision also appears to include additional factors, how are recent AECL performances (NRU, MAPLE, NPF, Bruce Refurb, NBP Refurb, successes overseas, LVRF), the economic implications in Ontario of the highly skilled workforce at AECL, Organization of CANDU Industries, overall Canadian industry PWR knowledge base etc…, being factored into the scoring system of the competitive process? What about the recent performance of AREVA in Finland or the recent design changes from Westinghouse (impacting the USNRC design certification of the AP-1000)? What about the long term implications of maintaining nuclear design expertise in Canada, the RFP cannot possibly consider this, but it is worth considering as CANDU technology has some advantages for alternative fuel cycles (for now). So many factors to consider without even getting into the political inputs (Provincial/Federal/International) that must be playing a role.

    As a Canadian, in my heart I wish for AECL to succeed. More importantly however is that I want the best possible solution for Ontarians, me, my family, my friends, and my colleagues (Is this even possible? Some colleagues may suffer if the best solution for Ontario is not the ACR).

    Most of us are mere flies on the wall and do not have all the information to make a sound decision. We can speculate on various things, but we really don’t have enough information to provide a definitive yea or nay. Hopefully the RFP process is robust and captures the critical factors and those tasked to make various informed judgements perform the duty to the best of their abilities. If that happens, hopefully AECL comes out on top as the best solution for Ontario.

    PS. Great blog. Any news from the CNA conference in Ottawa?

    PSS. And to note, it is possible that the HQ Refurb includes additional work beyond what is underway for the NBP Refurb so the difference in $ between them may be less of a concern.

  4. Dr Singh Says:

    By now, AECL and Team Candu companies and contractors have lots of experience with refurb.
    Pickering retubing in 80’s
    Pick 1 & 4 refurb in ’03 and ’04.
    Point Lepraeu, hopefully finish by EOY
    Bruce A 1 & 2 due to finish in 2010.
    Bruce A 3 & 4 partial refurb, to be completed in following years.
    and Gentilly 2 about to start.

    AECL is kept VERY busy. And things will only get more hectic once inevitable BruceB refurb and new nuclear builds are underway.

    If all AECL projects on the table did go through, would AECL be able to handle them all? Back in ’04 even with experience with previous Pickering unit, with all effort focused on refurb of just 1 unit, things were rough, and Pickering A continues to suffer low (60-70) capability factor, trailing far behind stellar Darlington and BruceB.

    Hence, I envision few or no Pick B will refurb, followed by Bruce B refurb and NB ACR-1000, but Ontario will side with 2xEPR and the west nuclear dream will continue to be just that, at least until better things and times 2020-2025.

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