Lepreau expected to be shut down for weeks

An official at NB Power says a heavy water leak at the Point Lepreau Nuclear plant will keep the generating station closed for weeks.

Engineers found the source of the leak Wednesday in one of the tubes leading from the reactor.

Four years ago, a feeder tube carrying heavy water from the Lepreau reactor to the boilers developed a one-centimetre crack letting heavy water leak out. After months of investigation engineers concluded that the tubes were more likely to crack than they first thought.

Rod White, vice-president of NB Power, says since then they've been using ultrasound to check the tubes for any signs of cracks before they leak but he says they missed one.

"Now does that mean that the technology can't find it today or does that mean that it was there and we couldn't find it? Or does the technology not even exist today to be able to find it at the levels we're looking?"

Until White gets a good answer as to why they didn't find the crack, Lepreau will stay off-line for what will very likely be weeks.

In the meantime, White estimates the cost of replacing Lepreau's electricity to be about $650,000 a day.

"We're in the warmer weather of winter months now," he says. "We normally get the water flows coming in the river sometime in April so it will be cheaper in those days."

White says the problem won't have a big effect on the plans to refurbish the plant. He says if the plant is refurbished all the tubes will be replaced.