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Lepreau refuelling problem could cost up to $600,000 daily: NB Power

Electricity production at the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station has been cut to 35 per cent because plugs at each end of the fuel channels are too tight, slowing the ability to refuel.


A refuelling problem at the Point Lepreau nuclear reactor in New Brunswick could cost NB Power between $400,000 and $600,000 a day in replacement power, the president of the Crown utility company said Tuesday.

Gaetan Thomas said the reactor is producing 35 per cent of its power capacity but rising river levels will allow NB Power to use more hydroelectricity to help offset that.

Electricity production at Point Lepreau was cut to 60 per cent two weeks ago and further reduced last weekend because plugs at each end of the fuel channels are too tight, slowing the ability to refuel.

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Sean Granville, the station's chief nuclear officer, said reducing power will allow crews to reduce the rate needed to refuel while they examine the issue. Mr. Thomas said he expects NB Power will know in the next couple of weeks what repairs need to be done to resolve the problem, adding that they will be covered by a warranty.

The 660-megawatt reactor has been online since November following an overhaul that began in 2008. The original $1.4 billion project to refit the plant cost an extra $1 billion and took three years longer than expected.

Despite the refuelling problem, Mr. Thomas said he has no concerns about the quality of the work done during the shutdown.

"The quality of the refurbishment is exceptional," he said.

NB Power told the Energy and Utilities Board last year that it expected Lepreau to operate at a level of 89 per cent over the next 27 years once the refurbishment was complete. Mr. Thomas said the current problem won't affect that.

"You can't look at these numbers in a two-week period or one-month period," he said. "You have to look at averages over time."

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