Nuclear shutdown costing Island utility

A closure of the Point Lepreau nuclear plant in New Brunswick is costing Maritime Electric up to $100,000 a day. Now, Energy Probe says the plant is not safe to operate.

Tom Adams says the power commission's latest admission of more cracked pressure tubes indicates the plant is probably not safe to operate.

On the Island, Maritime Electric is paying up to $100,000 a day to buy energy, to replace the quota which is usually supplied by the nuclear station.

The New Brunswick Electric Power Commission shut Lepreau down two weeks ago after a heavy water leak. The leak turned out to be more serious than officials thought.

Last Friday the bad news got worse when more cracks showed up in heavy water feeder tubes. N.B. Power officials said it was a rare occurrence.

Tom Adams of Energy Probe says they should have known better.

"This is a repeat of an experience they had back in '97. N.B. Power took the quick way out. The advice of their technologists at the time was to inspect all the feeder pipes in the unit," says Adams.

"They decided not to do that, that it would be too costly and too time consuming to go for the full inspection. So we're very concerned about the current safety status of Lepreau."

N.B. Power is making plans to refurbish the plant. The power commission wants to spend another half a billion dollars to rebuild it and run it for another 25 years.

Jim Blyth of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says the cause of the cracks in the feeder tubes is still a mystery.

He says the commission won't allow the plant to start up again until it's satisfied N.B. Power has solved that mystery and has found a way to fix it.