10 JANUARY 2013
Mr. Coon is an observer at the EUB hearings on Point Lepreau.
It is beyond belief that NB Power is claiming the refurbished nuclear power plant at Point Lepreau will operate trouble free for 27 years at 89% capacity. The operating history of CANDU reactors in general and Point Lepreau specifically makes the utility's claim amount to little more than magical thinking. Even AECL would only guarantee an 80% capacity before paying penalties to NB Power in the warranty for the refurbished Point Lepreau - which NB Power ripped up.
The performance of the original nuclear reactor at Point Lepreau's began to drastically decline in 1995 after 12 years of operation. Between 1995 and 2002 it ran at a capacity factor of 70%. Over those seven years, it was out of commission for almost two years because of human error, equipment failure and corrosion.
The four re-tubed Pickering "A" CANDU reactors in Ontario only managed capacity factors of between 62 and 65% over their operating life following refurbishment.
Under cross-examination by myself during the 2002 hearings into the original proposal to refurbish the nuclear power plant, NB Power indicated that premature aging mechanisms such as the lengthening and sagging of pressure tubes which shortened the life of Point Lepreau the first time around, would occur again in the refurbished Point Lepreau. Further, major components such as the boilers, which were replaced in refurbishments of Ontario CANDU nuclear reactors, were not replaced at Point Lepreau. This increases the likelihood this expensive upgrading will have to be carried out during its operating life, requiring an extended shut-down.
Making realistic predictions about the performance and life-expectancy of the refurbished nuclear power plant at Point Lepreau is essential to determine how much power rates will have to be increased to pay for it. It is incumbent on the public intervenor to carry out careful cross-examination of the witnesses on these points so our public utility is not burdened with even more debt down the road.