Remarks at New Brunswick Power’s Point Lepreau Licence Renewal and Restart

December 2, 2011

Remarks by Denise Carpenter, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
at New Brunswick Power’s Point Lepreau Licence Renewal and Restart
December 2, 2011

Good afternoon Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission and the public.

I am here today to speak on behalf of the Canadian nuclear industry.

The Canadian Nuclear Association has some 100 member companies, representing about 70,000 people employed in the production and advancement of nuclear medicine, uranium mining and exploration, and fuel processing and electricity generation. This includes the approximately 800 employees who operate the Point Lepreau Generating Station and the 1500 to 2800 employees responsible for its refurbishment.

Before I get into the details of New Brunswick Power’s application, I would like to first talk a bit about their employees. In our industry, we recognize that we are only as good as our employees, as they are responsible for maintaining our 50+ year safety track record.

So I was pleased to see that in their application, New Brunswick Power listed the qualities that they expect of their employees as: openness, respect, teamwork, commitment and integrity. I was also pleased to see that in their interventions, local community members used these same words to describe Point Lepreau staff.

Other words used to describe Point Lepreau staff included: knowledgeable, professional, competent and responsible. These statements say a lot about the true character of Point Lepreau employees and they should be commended for it.

With respect to New Brunswick Power’s application to renew their Power Reactor Operating Licence and restart the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, we would like to discuss four main points: 1) the obvious commitment to safety; 2) the need for clean reliable energy; 3) the contribution to New Brunswick’s energy mix; and 4) the many socio-economic benefits that Point Lepreau provides.

Regarding the safety of the Point Lepreau Generating Station, we believe that there is no better predictor of future performance than past performance. The Point Lepreau Generating Station has been safely operated for 28 years. It has consistently met safety requirements leading up to the 2008 outage and can reasonably be expected to meet safety requirements following the proposed restart.

As indicated in their application, New Brunswick Power will address the known and manageable risks, that they have become familiar with over three decades of operations, through their Emergency Preparedness Program and Emergency Operating Procedures. These Programs and Procedures also describe how New Brunswick Power will manage even the most improbable of events, such as the March 2011 events in Japan.

New Brunswick Power participated in the recent investigations by the Fukushima Task Force and while the probability of a major earthquake occurring at one of Canada’s nuclear power plants is negligible, it was confirmed that our nuclear power plants could withstand conditions similar to those at Fukushima.

When it comes to safety, Point Lepreau staff are never complacent. As a result of the lessons learned from Fukushima they are considering the risks of less probable events and events of greater magnitude.

The Point Lepreau Generating Station also provides a clean and reliable source of energy.

As with all low carbon energy sources, fossil fuels are required during construction and refurbishment, but once in operation, nuclear power plants produce virtually no greenhouse gases. In fact, they offset the greenhouse gases that are produced by Canada’s fossil based energy sources. Point Lepreau alone has avoided the emission of about 87 million tonnes of CO2 since 1983.

Point Lepreau also compares favourably when you consider the waste generated from nuclear power generation. In the 2009 inventory of radioactive waste in Canada, Point Lepreau reported the production of a mere 17 cubic meters of fuel waste. Once produced, our industry relies on their decades of experience in transporting and managing these small volumes.

Nuclear power is increasingly recognized as a solution to the challenge of climate change. As Canada and the global community work to address the challenge of climate change, nuclear power will be an important part of Canada’s clean energy portfolio.

Point Lepreau is also an integral part of New Brunswick’s plans to meet future energy demands.

Because Point Lepreau has the capacity to produce large amounts of energy over a very long time period, it not only provides the stability needed to meet New Brunswick’s energy demands, but also provides the stability needed to support less reliable energy sources, such as wind and solar.

The province of New Brunswick is committed to ensuring the reliability and diversity of that energy supply. Point Lepreau plays a vital role in New Brunswick’s energy mix, which includes hydropower, coal, oil, wind and solar based energy sources.

As a 24/7 baseload power source, nuclear power can act as an enabler to support emerging renewable energy sources. As I often like to say, there’s room for all of us in the mix.

Point Lepreau is not only an integral part of the local energy mix, it is also an integral part of New Brunswick’s economy.

This is apparent not only in the hundreds of highly-skilled jobs that New Brunswick Power provides, but also in the many contracts that it awards for refurbishment and other activities at Point Lepreau. In 2009, Point Lepreau was reportedly injecting a total employment income of about $70 million per year into the local Saint John economy and spending approximately $34 million per year on contractors.

Our industry also invests millions of dollars to insure against events or accidents that could place an undue burden on Canadians. Nuclear Liability Insurance is required under the Nuclear Liability Act, which came into effect in 1976. However, I am proud to say, that such an insurance claim has never been filed in Canada.

Nationally, Canada’s nuclear sector is a $6.6 billion dollar industry generating $1.5 million dollars in federal and provincial revenues from taxes.

To sum up, we would like to remind you of New Brunswick Power’s mission, which is -to proudly serve their customers “by demonstrating the values of safety, quality and innovation” in everything they do. As I’ve just explained, the Point Lepreau staff are instrumental in meeting these objectives.

Given that that is the case, I am pleased to recommend that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission approve New Brunswick Power’s request to: 1) renew the Power Reactor Operating licence for the Point Lepreau Generating Station, and 2) reload fuel and restart the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station.

At this time, we would be pleased to answer any questions.

Thank you.

My logo