3 nuclear reactors finish ahead of Point Lepreau

The Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, scheduled to be the first of four Candu reactors to return to service following a complete refurbishment, will now be the last project to return to service.

Two reactors went online in Ontario last month — including one last week — and a third in Korea has been operating for more than a year.

Point Lepreau was supposed to be operating before the other three reactors.

Unit 2 at Ontario's giant Bruce A nuclear facility went into commercial production on Oct. 31, the first time the plant has been in service in nearly 15 years.

Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley said it was a big day for the province and Bruce Power, the company that owns the nuclear plant.

“Bruce Power should be congratulated on achieving this important milestone,” Bentley said.

But Unit 2's operation signalled another milestone as well, leaving Point Lepreau as the last of four major Candu refurbishments to finish, although three years ago it was scheduled to be the first.

In 2009, one year into the refurbishment project, NB Power was predicting it would beat Bruce Units 1 and 2 to the finish line even though Bruce had a head start.

"We started later and we have a possibility to catch it and even pass it," said Gaetan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power.

"We're doing in my view as well as any other nuclear project you see around the world."

When Thomas made the comment he was the vice-president responsible for the utility’s nuclear division.

The Bruce reactors ran into significant problems but although going years late and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget, Point Lepreau could never catch up.

Finally the Unit 1 reactor at Bruce went online three weeks ago with Unit 2 following right behind.

A third refurbishment, Lepreau was expected to beat into service was a Candu reactor owned by the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Corp.

That Wolsong project started a full year after Point Lepreau but finished in 2011 and that plant has been producing power for nearly 15 months.

NB Power says Point Lepreau is in the final stages of commissioning and should return to commercial production, the last of the four, in the next few weeks

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission gave final regulatory approval for the reactor to return to full power earlier in November.

The refurbishment is expected to allow the 660-megawatt plant to generate power for another 25 to 30 years.

The project is about three years behind schedule and $1-billion over the original $1.4-billion 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.

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