New Brunswick's Point Lepreau nuclear plant has begun producing electricity for homes and businesses for the first time in more than four years.

It's part of the process to bring the station back online after a major refurbishment to extend operations by an estimated 25 years.

"This test and synchronization to the New Brunswick grid is a key milestone in the restart process," NB Power president and CEO Gaëtan Thomas stated in a release.

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Gaëtan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power, says the refurbishment is "very close" to being complete. (CBC)

"We’re very close to completing this project and having this valuable asset once again providing our customers with safe, reliable and emission-free electricity," he said.

The refurbishment project is about three years behind schedule and $1 billion over budget.

NB Power still needs permission from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to increase Lepreau's power level above 35 per cent.

The 660-megawatt plant is expected to back in full service before year's end, said Thomas.

It will produce enough electricity to power more than 333,000 homes per year, he said.

"Returning the Point Lepreau Generating Station to service will provide us with greater opportunities to export power from New Brunswick and to generate revenue that will help us to reduce debt and keep rates low and stable for our customers while pursuing our overall goal of helping our customers reduce and shift their energy demand."

The final stages of commissioning the plant will include increasing and decreasing reactor power, and disconnecting and reconnecting the reactor to the grid.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will continue to provide onsite inspections and technical reviews of the remaining tests and commissioning activities, officials said.

Point Lepreau, Atlantic Canada's only nuclear reactor, has been out of service since March 2008.

This project is the first time Atomic Energy of Canada has refurbished a Candu-6 reactor.

The New Brunswick government is attempting to get the federal government to cover the cost overruns.