Point Lepreau restart further delayed

The Point Lepreau nuclear generating station will not be back online by the end of the month as hoped, but failure during testing last week is not to blame, says the president of NB Power.

Test failure of output transformer not to blame, say officials

The Point Lepreau nuclear reactor won't be producing power for a few more weeks, says the president of NB Power. (CBC)

The Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station will not be back online by the end of the month as hoped, according to NB Power's president and chief executive officer.

But Gaëtan Thomas denies the failure of one of the plant's main output transformers during testing last week is causing any new delays.

"It should be a few more weeks," Thomas told reporters in Moncton following a speech to the Rotary Club.

"We're on the last few steps of the startup and we believe that it will be done as committed all along in the fall, so no change to that plan," he said.

NB Power has been using Oct. 1 as a tentative date for Point Lepreau's return to service for nearly two years, including in evidence filed with the Energy and Utilities Board just two weeks ago that was supposed to estimate the total amount of deferred costs accumulated by the project.

"The total forecasted ending deferral balance is $989 million to the project completion Oct. 1, 2012," the NB Power documents state.

But Thomas suggested that startup may now be closer to Nov. 1 as NB Power slowly tests all of the nuclear reactor's rebuilt systems prior to gaining regulatory approval to put it back in service.

Repair strategy

During such testing last week, one of Point Lepreau's main output transformers that connects the plant to provincial transmission lines crashed.

Thomas says the cause of the malfunction has been identified and would not slow the restart further, although late Monday the utility issued a statement saying it was still developing a "repair strategy" for the transformer problem.

Commissioning Lepreau, like the refurbishment itself, has proven much more difficult than expected.

Originally scheduled to take three months, starting with plant refueling, Lepreau is now six months into the process with weeks to go.

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

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.