Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station Works Like a Newborn

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The 37-year-old Point Lepreau nuclear plant in New Brunswick quietly finished a full year of uninterrupted power generation earlier this week, the first in its pre-teen years in the early 1990s.This is an important development which, if it is sustainable, could change the financial situation of NB Power.

“This achievement, especially thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, is something the station is proud of,” the utility said in a statement about the milestone.

The nuclear power plant was closed for a week last summer for an unexpected repair, but since it was put back online on July 15, 2019, it has been operating without problems.

Former Premier Richard Hatfield loved large modern economic development projects and pushed for the adoption of nuclear energy in New Brunswick. After years of construction and controversy, Lepreau went into commercial production in 1983. (CBC NEWS)

Over the past year, Lepreau has generated nearly 5.8 terawatts of electricity for distribution, approximately $ 400 million at market prices, and nearly 100% of its maximum capacity.

NB Power believes that it has been the longest that the plant has operated without shutting down since at least 1994, and perhaps never, because previous records are not readily available.

“It’s a little harder to go further than the 26 year old (1994),” NB Power spokesperson Marc Belliveau said in an email to find out if it had ever lasted longer.

Lepreau’s flawless year of operation follows the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the plant to solve serious performance problems that arose following its $ 2.4 billion renovation which ended in 2012.

It produced only 90% of the electricity expected from that electricity in the first seven and a half years after refurbishment due to a number of non-nuclear equipment malfunctions that had not been put into service upgrade during efforts to replace nuclear components.

$ 500 million in repairs

Lepreau began what was to be an 18-month refurbishment of $ 1.4 billion of its nuclear components in 2008. The renovation ended three years behind schedule and $ 1 billion more than budgeted, and the plant operated below expectations until recently. (Photo submitted)

Multiple unplanned closings caused by failures between 2012 and last July cost NB Power over $ 200 million in lost power generation and pushed the cost of repairs and capital upgrades to improve reliability in Lepreau at over $ 500 million.

This weighed on NB Power’s bottom line and undermined debt repayment plans.

In rate hearings before the Energy and Utilities Board for several years, utility officials predicted that the heavy spending at Lepreau would pay off by increasing reliability.

NB Power has not been able to repay its multi-billion dollar debt as scheduled since 2013, in part due to production problems and maintenance costs at the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant. (Submitted / NB Power)

It has done so and NB Power now expects Lepreau to fuel an increase in its profitability.

“If we think about the main factors that have led to below-average (financial) performance in recent years, we can report the performance of Point Lepreau following the renovation,” said CFO Energy. NB, Darren Murphy, during the February hearings during Lepreau’s error-free race.

“Unfortunately, it did not work as we would have liked. However… we were able to significantly improve the performance of Point Lepreau, thereby reducing the risk that Lepreau was the (cause) of poor performance. ”

Originally, Lepreau was scheduled to go offline in April for annual maintenance, but COVID-19 restrictions in the province derailed these plans until September. Instead, it continued to operate and establish production records.

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