The Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station is experiencing new operational problems and is to be shut down for two weeks in late summer for repairs, documents filed with the Energy and Utilities Board reveal.
According to the filings, Point Lepreau has developed a vibration in a non-nuclear pipe that transports steam, likely to the plant's turbines, and has been unable to achieve full power because of the problem.
The vibration problem appears to contradict claims made last week by Gaëtan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power, that Point Lepreau was finally operating trouble free.
"It's running well," Thomas told reporters last Thursday.
"We have no issue limiting high power operation at Lepreau right now."
NB Power defended its decision not to publicly announce the setback.
"During the refurbishment, we put out monthly updates that reflected progress at the plant. Now that we are in production, we put out releases when we have a major development; you can see our monthly production on the NBSO website and we have this new compliance filing with the EUB," said spokeswoman Kathleen Duguay.
But at the EUB, the utility indicated it has been dealing with the steam line problem for weeks.
It's also clear the issue has been limiting the reactor's power output and will soon cause additional downtime.
"As at June 22, 2013, the station was at 90 per cent full power as a result of steam line vibration issues," the documents, which were filed in early July, state.
"The plan is to safely increase power to 95 per cent full power by early July. A short [14-day] outage is planned for September 2013 to address this issue."
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The vibrating steam line is the fourth problem to hit the reactor and limit its output since it came online last November following a four-and-a-half year refit that cost NB Power and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. more than $3 billion.
Liberal MLA Victor Boudreau said NB Power needs to be more open about problems it encounters at the reactor given the money spent on its refurbishment.
"People have a right to know about these issues when they happen," said Boudreau.
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy also said the public should be given more information about the reactor.
"Just bombard people with information." said Cardy.
"Be more transparent. The more information you give people the less they'll worry that something is being kept from them because there won't be."
Budgeted to run at 93 per cent capacity over the first 18 months following refurbishment, the utility says in its filings production at Lepreau was 50 per cent of budgeted levels as of March 31.
Production was also significantly below budgeted levels in April, May and June and will be again in September.
However, the utility says after addressing the vibration problem, it expects no further trouble until a scheduled shutdown next spring
"We expect to return to 100 per cent full power after this [September]
maintenance outage and remain at full power until the planned 45-day maintenance outage, scheduled for April/May 2014," it states in documents.