First new Candu for New Brunswick

05 February 2008

A study has declared that building the first new-design Candu reactor could be feasible in the Canadian province of New Brunswick - if Team Candu's separate proposal gets the financial details and the risk levels right. 


Point Lepreau
 Point Lepreau 

As part of its push to become an 'energy hub', the government of New Brunswick last year commissioned two reports on the idea of building a second nuclear power reactor at the Point Lepreau site.


They have now both been submitted to the provincial government. First came a feasibility study carried out by MZ Consulting. Its major conclusion was that a project to build a first-of-a-kind Advanced Candu Reactor (ACR-1000) at Point Lepreau was feasible under certain conditions.


Meeting the conditions would be down to Team Candu, a consortium led by Candu designers Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) consisting of SNC Lavalin, GE Canada, Babcock & Wilcox and Hitachi. That group came together in 2006 to put together fixed price contracts for new Candu nuclear power plants. It has also submitted its report, which was accepted by New Brunswick for review.


  "When it comes
  to a growing
  energy hub that
  is truly making
  a major impact
  on the eastern
  seaboard, New
  Brunswick is the
  place to be."

   New Brunswick
   premier, Shawn Graham
The MZ Consulting report primarily considered an ACR-1000 unit operating on a 'merchant' basis - that is, selling its power to a range of customers rather than supplying one major utility. MZ said about half the output from the ~1000 MWe unit would go to New Brunswick itself, the rest could be exported to the neighbouring Atlantic coast province of Nova Scotia as well as New England, USA.


MZ said that New Brunswick should not bear the risk of first-of-a-kind nuclear build - which is notorious for cost overruns and technical hold-ups: "This risk must be both managed and borne by the members of Team Candu." In addition, Team Candu would be required to privately raise the money for the project.


Another option for the project structure would be for New Brunswick to propose the plant and take what steps it could to increased its share of risk. This would be a "lower cost alternative structure," but would require increased commitment from leaders.


The province would already contribute a lot to any new nuclear project, MZ noted, in terms of the Point Lepreau site, supportive community and government support. The government noted that up to 4000 jobs could be created during construction, with 500 permanent jobs remaining.


New Brunswick premier Shawn Graham welcomed the report as an important step towards his goal of "building and growing a world-class energy hub."