New Brunswick citizens staged a protest at noon on Jan. 26, 2011, in Fredericton, outside the headquarters of NB Power. They protested the incompetence of those carrying out the reconstruction of the Point Lepreau nuclear reactor. The Mouvement sortons le Québec du nucléaire (MSQN) is asking Hydro-Quebec why they are not informing Quebeckers about the massive delays, cost overruns, and technical blunders associated with this reconstruction project.
Because the Point Lepreau reactor is the twin of the Gentilly-2 reactor at Bécancour, which Hydro-Quebec wants to rebuild using the same techniques as those being used in New Brunswick, Hydro-Quebec has stationed observers at Point Lepreau to monitor the entire operation. Yet there have been no reports given to the Quebec population of the unrealistic assumptions that have been made and the errors that have been committed.
Like the proposed Gentilly-2 project, the rebuilding of the Point Lepreau reactor was supposed to take only 18 months to complete. It is already taken three years. The cost of delay is about a million dollars a day, according to the NB government.
Like the Gentilly-2 project, the Point Lepreau rebuild was supposed to cost less than two billion dollars. But it is already at least one billion dollars over budget.
As in the case of Gentilly-2, all of the 380 metallic calandria tubes in the core of the Point Lepreau reactor have to be replaced with new ones, while the old ones are stored as radioactive waste for centuries. But after installing all of the new tubes over a course of 9 weeks, it was decided to remove them all again and start all over because the installation was not leak-tight.
But the unacceptable nature of the calandria tube installation was apparent from the very beginning, when only a fraction of the tubes had been installed. Why did Hydro-Quebec not report this fact to the Quebec population? Why didn’t Hydro-Quebec notify NB authorities that an unacceptable installation was continuing?
The MSQN believes that the rebuilding of the Gentilly-2 reactor is a huge mistake and should not be undertaken. It will be far more costly than anticipated, and will create entirely new categories of radioactive waste that will have to remain in Quebec for permanent storage because the federal government takes no responsibility for such wastes. It will also add about 100 tonnes of high-level waste to the existing stockpile for every year of continued operation. And it will require the services of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., a federal crown corporation that the government is trying to sell due to its incompetence.
At the very least, Hydro-Quebec should be required to report honestly to the Quebec population all of the difficulties and costly errors which are being experienced at Point Lepreau, since this unhappy history may prove directly relevant to the Gentilly-2 project.