AECL Credibility Meltdown in New Brunswick

Here are links to media reports and commentary in New Brunswick discussing developments with AECL’s role in the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau reactor based on information current to late September 2009.

The story of the Lepreau reactor from 1995 onward is extremely significant from the perspective of regulatory effectiveness, nuclear economics, Candu 600 viability, and electricity politics. A few reporters and editors, such as Dan McHardie, Neil Reynolds, Lisa Hrabluk, and Mike Holmes, deserve special mention for getting on the story early as does the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

In other parts of Canada concerned with nuclear matters, the lessons that just jump out from the facts of New Brunswick’s experience, are virtually unknown.

AECL competence must be addressed
AECL issues status report on the Point Lepreau Life Extension Project
AECL says N.B. reactor delay now 16 months
Refurb meltdown


  1. Here is the text of a letter published by the New Brunswick Times and Transcript newspaper October 2nd:

    re. AECL competence must be addressed (editorial that was published September 29, 2009)

    Lepreau situation was foreseeable

    To The Editor:

    New Brunswick electricity consumers should thank their Board of
    Commissioners of Public Utilities for saving them from what would have
    been a much worse situation than they now face with the troubled Point
    Lepreau nuclear refurbishment.

    The board conducted a review of the agreement between NB Power and AECL in 2002.

    The two government agencies testified that, “the scope of the work to
    be performed under the contracts has been clearly defined as a result
    of an extensive condition assessment of the plant.”

    When the board recommended against proceeding with the refurbishment
    on the grounds of risk to consumers, the pressure on the board from
    government must have been intense.

    The result of the board’s foresight was a revised refurbishment plan
    with greater protections for ratepayers.

    Unfortunately, no further public review of that contract was
    undertaken before NB Power’s course became irreversible.

    Tom Adams,

    Toronto, Ont.

    You can review the NBPUB decision at:
    Decision re. NBP Point Lepreau GS Refurbishment Sep 24, 02

    I would urge those who are arguing that AECL alone is to blame for this situation to review NB Power’s assurances to the regulator that all the necessary technical preparations and plans were in place.

    On a personal note, I was the only independent witness to appear at the hearings in 2002. There was no cost recovery process, but Energy Probe bought the plane tickets and I got billeted with a generous supporter. I got up on the stand without a lawyer, which is a dangerous, crazy thing to do. I conducted my own examination-in-chief — a hysterical send-up on proper administrative law process. I warned the Board panel on risks to their independence, urged them to learn about the Maple reactor problems then developing, and presented the Pickering ’80s retube and ’90s refurb tales of woe. Lawyers for AECL, NB Power and their friends fired slap-shots at me from the goal crease. There was barely any press coverage and EP had only about 400 supporters in NB at the time. Eventually, David Nicholson, the panel chair and a very dignified gentleman, let me stand down. The Board’s decision is a thing of beauty and powerfully demonstrates the value of public hearings into such matters.

  2. Pingback: Bill the Children: NB Power’s Solution for Hidden Nuclear Costs | Tom Adams Energy - ideas for a smarter grid

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