NB Power says it did not miss the latest completion deadline on the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station’s refurbishment on Monday, even though the utility told regulators last spring it would be up and running by Oct. 1.
"The Oct. 1, 2012, date that has been reported is a date that was used for financial planning purposes only," NB Power said in a in a statement issued late Monday afternoon denying the project missed another completion date.
The Point Lepreau refurbishment has operated under five separate completion deadlines since it began in 2008.
Originally scheduled to come back online in September 2009, that date was moved to December 2009, January 2011 and then February 2012 as various problems attacked the project and wrecked the schedule.
Two years ago, NB Power scrapped the February 2012 date and set a fifth target for the nuclear reactor, which NB Power's senior solicitor John Furey publicly revealed to be Oct. 1, 2012, in hearings in front of the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) last March.
NB Power was appearing in front of the EUB as part of a procedure to sort out how many deferred costs the refurbishment has piled up and how they should be paid for.
EUB transcript from March 13
Cyril Johnston (EUB): I guess my question is should we be looking at that operating life as beginning at the return to normal service?
And if that is so, can you give me any indication — I understand that there is a planned date for a return to service on October 1st.
But is that a return to normal service? Or is that a start up date which is gradually going to ramp up to a return to normal service?
John Furey (NB Power): Might I take a moment, Mr. Vice Chairman, to consult with my more technical colleague? …
Sorry, Mr Vice Chairman. So I think I -- maybe I am not agreeing, but our view is that the operating life of the facility begins after the return to normal operation.
And the return to normal service is, assuming a successful refurbishment as we are, after commissioning activities cease and the station is commissioned.
And that's built into — the commissioning activities are built into the schedule that has a return to normal service in our planning by October 1st.
So we would receive the return to normal service in — as being that date October 1st, it might be earlier, and the operating life of the plant would commence at that point.
Furey said the plant was scheduled to be in service Oct. 1 or "earlier".
That would mean Point Lepreau missed its fifth completion deadline on Monday.
But Gaëtan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power, says it is clear from transcripts of that hearing that the Oct. 1 date was put forward as an academic exercise and shouldn't be taken seriously.
"They had to pick a date," Thomas said of Furey and the team of NB Power executives who appeared in front of the EUB. "They picked a date of Oct. 1 for financial purposes only, clearly stated in the [transcript]."
However, the exchange between Cyril Johnston, the vice-chairman of the regulator, and Furey, which mentions the Oct. 1 start date several times makes no mention of it being hypothetical.
"I understand that there is a planned date for a return to service on Oct. 1," says Johnston according to the official transcript of the hearing.
"But is that a return to normal service? Or is that a start-up date which is gradually going to ramp up to a return to normal service?"
"Might I take a moment, Mr. Vice Chairman, to consult with my more technical colleague?" responds Furey, who then discusses the issue with other executives before responding.
"(Lepreau) has a return to normal service in our planning by Oct. 1," he eventually tells Johnston.
"So we would perceive the return to normal service as being that date Oct. 1. It might be earlier, and the operating life of the plant would commence at that point."
Along with the three-year delay, the nuclear refurbishment project is roughly $1 billion over budget. The Point Lepreau refurbishment project was the first time that Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. attempted to rebuild a Candu-6 reactor.
AECL started another refurbishment project in Wolsong, South Korea, after the Point Lepreau refurbishment began. AECL finished the Wolsong refurbishment in 2011.
The provincial government has said it is seeking financial compensation from the federal government for the cost overruns.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has consistently said the federal government would only pay its contractual obligations.