New Brunswick

Point Lepreau nuclear power plant gets 5-year licence renewal

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission announced its decision this week to renew the NB Power nuclear generating station’s operating licence until June 30, 2022.

Commission says it's satisfied plant will protect environment, safety and security

Lepreau was built more than 30 years ago, but all nuclear plants were required to undergo safety reassessments in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that began with a tsunami in Japan in 2011. (CBC News)

Point Lepreau's nuclear power reactor is good to go for another five years.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission announced its decision this week to renew the NB Power nuclear generating station's operating licence until June 30, 2022.

The current licence runs out on June 30 of this year.

In a summary report, the commission said it found NB Power, "in carrying on that activity, will make adequate provision for the protection of the environment, the health and safety of person and the maintenance of national security," as well as follow international obligations.

Lack of transparency

The commission said it considered a number of issues and submissions related to NB Power's qualifications to receive an extended licence, including an environmental assessment and emergency plans in the event of a nuclear emergency.

An environmental assessment found that "adequate measures are in place to protect the environment and human health."

An environmental assessment of the Lepreau nuclear power station found that "adequate measures are in place to protect the environment and human health." (Photo submitted)

However, the commission noted a lack of transparency and public availability of emergency planning documents, and directed the utility to disclose them.

In a statement to CBC News, NB Power spokesperson Paul Doucet said the nuclear generating station "can confirm that it will be making its nuclear emergency technical planning basis document, Technical Planning Basis - Radiation Emergency, publicly available by August 2017."

The commission said it appreciated the efforts made by the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization to publish a "public-friendly" emergency planning document later in 2017.

Indigenous land

In making its decision, the commission also considered information presented at two public hearings in January and May, including submissions from members of several Indigenous groups.

The Commission is satisfied ... that the renewal will not cause adverse impacts to any potential or established Aboriginal and/or treaty rights and that the duty to consult was not triggered in this matter- Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Summary Record of Decision

They told the commission the plant was built on traditional and ancestral territories, and the facility "adversely affected their Aboriginal and treaty rights."

While the commission recognized that Indigenous groups were not consulted when the plant was built, it "acknowledges the current efforts and commitments made by NB Power in relation to Aboriginal engagement," the report said.

The commission is satisfied "the renewal will not cause adverse impacts to any potential or established Aboriginal and/or treaty rights and that the duty to consult was not triggered in this matter," it added.

Disaster-proof

A good portion of the first public hearing in January 2017 also focused on Point Lepreau's ability to withstand a significant earthquake and other potential risks, including dam failures, shipping disasters, plane wrecks and meteor strikes.

The Point Lepreau site was approved for more than one site when it received its environmental permitting in the 1970s. A second reactor was first contemplated when the plant was finished in 1981.

NB Power technical adviser Derek Mullin told the commission at the time that potential risks such as earthquakes, shipping disasters, plane wrecks, tsunamis and even meteor strikes had been evaluated and were not considered likely to cause public safety problems.

Lepreau was built more than 30 years ago, but all nuclear plants were required to undergo safety reassessments in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that was the result of a tsunami in Japan in 2011.

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