'Ambitious' Point Lepreau refurbishment delayed

28 September 2009

The project to extend the life of the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant in New Brunswick has proved to be more complex than expected, with the head of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) announcing a revised schedule.


Point Lepreau plant (NB Power)
Point Lepreau (Image: NB Power)

AECL has said that 15 October 2010 would be the new completion date for refurbishing Point Lepreau, and its president and CEO Hugh MacDiarmid has passed the news on to New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham, provincial energy ministerr Jack Keir and NB Power president and CEO David Hay.


MacDiarmid said the previous deadline of July 2009 was "overly ambitious from the start," adding that "AECL will continue to work diligently with NB Power and the province of New Brunswick to deliver against this revised plan."


In a statement, AECL said that "the complexity of certain issues, particularly with regard to sophisticated tooling, has made schedule adherence problematic."


The single reactor at Point Lepreau, which provides up to 30% of New Brunswick's electricity, was shut down at the end of March 2008 for a refurbishment outage expected to last some 16 months. The main activities to be conducted during the outage include the replacement of all 380 fuel channels, calandria tubes and feeder tubes, as well as other station maintenance work. The C$1.4 billion ($1.3 billion) refurbishment of the 680 MWe Candu 6 pressurized heavy water plant, which began commercial operation in 1983, will extend its operation by an additional 25 to 30 years.


One hiccup in the project was the accidental dropping of two turbine rotors into the harbour at St John, New Brunswick. After five days underwater the 107-tonne components had to be sent back to a Siemens facility in the UK for repair, but the complication did not delay the overall project.