New Brunswick

Point Lepreau nuclear plant taken offline after power loss

The Point Lepreau nuclear generating station has been taken offline, following a partial loss of power, and assessments are now underway.

No injuries, radiation contamination or spills reported, says federal safety commission

N.B. Power crews are working to get Point Lepreau back online. (CBC)

The Point Lepreau nuclear generating station has been taken offline, following a partial loss of power.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was informed of the incident Wednesday around 5:30 a.m. and has staff onsite, closely monitoring the situation, according to a news release late Wednesday afternoon..

"At the time of this update, NB Power has not identified any reports of injuries, radiation contamination or spills into environment," said the commission, whose mandate includes protecting health, safety, security and the environment.

N.B. Power says further assessments are underway to perform the maintenance required to reconnect the station to the grid.

"This work poses no risk to employees, the public or the environment," it said in a news release.

N.B. Power spokesperson Dominique Couture did not immediately respond to a request for more information, such as when and why the power loss occurred, or how long it's expected to take to get the plant back online.

Point Lepreau, located about 35 minutes southwest of Saint John, is a 660-megawatt nuclear generating station and a major contributor to New Brunswick's electrical grid.

It's Atlantic Canada's only nuclear power generating station.

'Major equipment replacement' delayed until April

Point Lepreau was shut down for a week in August due to an undisclosed "equipment issue."

That outage came only five days after the generating station came back online following scheduled spring maintenance,  which dragged on for more than 100 days and wasn't completed as planned.

Supply and personnel shortages and more significant problems with station equipment than anticipated all contributed to the delay, Couture had said.

She said a 22-day outage is planned for April 2023 to deal with the unfinished work — a "major equipment replacement … to ensure predictable, reliable station operations going forward."

Shutdowns at Point Lepreau cost N.B. Power between $8 million and $10 million per week. (Mike Heenan/CBC News file photo)

According to N.B. Power's annual reports, unscheduled outages at the nuclear plant cost the utility between $28,500 and $45,700 per hour, depending on the time of year and market conditions, plus the cost of any required repairs.

But Couture said those are old costs related to the 4½-year, $2.4-billion refurbishment completed in late 2012. She could not provide an updated estimate. It will be reported as part of the financial statements in the annual report, she said.

According to filings with the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board, Lepreau has experienced 8,000 more hours of downtime than projected since the refurbishment, not including the spring outage.

Lepreau's operating licence was renewed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in June for 10 years. N.B. Power had sought an unprecedented 25-year licence renewal.

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