Canada's nuclear regulator starts hearings on Lepreau

·4 min read
The Point Lepreau nuclear plant is seeking a 25-year extension of its operating licence. (Submitted by NB Power - image credit)
The Point Lepreau nuclear plant is seeking a 25-year extension of its operating licence. (Submitted by NB Power - image credit)

Chief Hugh Akagi says his 15 minutes is coming in May.

That will be his time to tell Canada's Nuclear Safety Commission that he objects to having a CANDU-6 reactor on traditional Peskotomuhkati land.

"If anything goes wrong," said Akagi, his voice trailing away as he contemplated the possibility of a nuclear accident.

"Nuclear is being touted as green energy and I just do not feel that there is any compatibility there at all."

Submitted by Cynthia Howland
Submitted by Cynthia Howland

Akagi will be speaking for the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group.

The organization has been granted $45,000 in federal funding to research and prepare a presentation that will take place this spring.

That's part two of the licensing hearings that start today, as NB Power seeks approval to operate Lepreau for another 25 years.

N.B. Power will try to make the case that Lepreau has an outstanding record for safety and reliability.

There's never been an industrial accident on site since it started operating in 1983.

However, the off-site emergency plan does raise the spectre of some devastating possibilities.

Submitted NB Power
Submitted NB Power

They include an active attacker on site, a hostile takeover of the control room, a potential aircraft impact, a credible bomb threat and the accidental release of radioactive material.

Akagi says he's disturbed by the idea of having radioactive waste stored on site, and so close to the Bay of Fundy.

"This is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world," said Akagi. .

"The damage... if anybody could imagine the damage. You're sacrificing all the fish, the clams... everything would be gone."

At 75, Akagi says he's been before the CNSA at least three times before.

Most recently, he presented to the Commissioners in 2017, when the regulator agreed to a five-year renewal of Lepreau.


Even though his community did not get its way, Akagi thinks there's still value in showing up.

"I didn't move any mountains but I was surprised. because they did hear my words," he said. "That alone encouraged me."

"It's about repetition and catching the ear of someone who is listening."

Hearings start at 10 a.m. AT

Heather Davis says the success of the CNSC depends on public engagement.

She works for the Commission as Point Lepreau's on-site office supervisor.

She and the inspectors on her team are tasked with evaluating daily operations to ensure they comply with regulatory and licensing requirements.

Their observations helped inform the 330-page staff report that recommends Lepreau be renewed for 20 years.


That would take the station to 2042, 30 years beyond its 2012 refurbishment.

Davis says people who want to know more about that or any aspect of Lepreau's performance, should know that part one of the hearings start at 10 a.m. AT today on the Commission's website.

"You'll see N.B. Power and CNSC staff make their presentations and answer commissioners' questions," she said.

"And if you're interested, if you have an interest, and an expertise or information that may be useful to the commission in coming to a decision... you can apply formally to participate as an intervenor."

To be an intervenor doesn't require giving a speech.

At the 2017 hearings on Lepreau, the Commission received 95 written submissions.

Doctors for Nuclear Energy

Dr. Chris Keefer hopes the Commission will also hear from people who support nuclear power.

He says it has its challenges but remains critical to Canada's effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He says solar and wind technologies are still too dependent on the sun actually shining and the wind really blowing.

He supports renewing Lepreau for another 25 years.

"If that plant is closed, it's going to be replaced by fossil fuels," said Keefer, an emergency medicine physician and the founder of Doctors for Nuclear Energy and president of Canadians for Nuclear Energy.

"We see that everywhere where nuclear plants are shut down."

Submitted by Chris Keefer
Submitted by Chris Keefer

Keefer provided the Indian Point reactor in New York state as an example.

Deactivated last year, its output was replaced by three natural gas plants.

"And our Pickering nuclear station in Ontario is scheduled to close," said Keefer, who also hosts the podcast Decoupling.

"An electricity systems operator says it will be replaced almost entirely by gas."

"That's going to increase Canada's national emissions by one per cent and erase about one third of our progress so far as a country in terms of greenhouse gas reductions"

Keefer says CANDU reactors are Canadian technology that also provide well-paid jobs.

N.B. Power says Lepreau employs approximately 900 highly skilled people.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting