NB Power applies for a 25 Year licence to operate the Point Lepreau nuclear facility to 2047

NB Power has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for renewal of the licence to operate the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (PLNGS) for 25 years, from 2022 to 2047.  The nuclear reactor at Point Lepreau is currently scheduled for shut-down in 2040, when it will reach its end of life.

The Coalition for Responsible Energy Development-New Brunswick (CRED-NB) will make a joint intervention with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) to oppose the 25-year licence and argue for a shorter licence period.  CRED-NB will provide updates on the process on its website, and we invite all New Brunswickers interested in nuclear issues to check back for updates.  

On January 26 2022, Part 1 of the CNSC’s public hearings, will be conducted virtually.  NB Power will present its case for the licence and the CNSC will provide recommendations.  The virtual format for the hearing, which will be webcast publicly, raises concerns about public engagement.  Will New Brunswickers be aware of the licence process and have their interests represented? 

The hearing will happen in two parts.  Part 2 on May 4 and 5 of 2022 will be held in New Brunswick (likely Saint John), or virtually if COVID restrictions require.

CRED-NB and CELA believe that 25 years is far too long for a licence period.  It is well in excess of past operating licence renewals in Canada, that ranged from 2 to 5 years.  After the rebuild (refurbishment) of the Lepreau reactor (from March 2008 to November 2012), PLNGS and was expected to operate safely for another 30 years.  Many unscheduled shut downs have, however, been required since that time, including 40 days in February-March of 2021.  

NB Power and the government of New Brunswick are also supporting the development of new nuclear reactors (so called SMRs) as well as a nuclear waste reprocessing/plutonium extraction facility on the site, within a decade. 

CRED-NB wrote to the CNSC requesting specific arrangements to adequately address those concerns (letter below).

November 23, 2021
To: Marc Leblanc, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
From: Gail Wylie, Coalition for Responsible Energy Development -New Brunswick 

Request for the CNSC to publicize the Part 1 Hearing of NB Power PLNGS Licence Renewal 

The Coalition for Responsible Energy Development – New Brunswick (CRED-NB), will be preparing a request to intervene in the NB Power Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (PLNGS) licence renewal.  We understand that the Part 1 public hearing will be virtual and that the purpose is for NB Power to present its case, and for CNSC staff to present their recommendations. 

As the CNSC will be considering a request from NB Power for an unprecedented licencing term of 25 years, we need the New Brunswick public to have maximum awareness of this hearing.  Part 1 of the hearing may also reveal issues to be responded to by public intervenors in Part 2 of the hearing in May.

We are requesting that the CNSC conduct a broad public information campaign, with advertisements in New Brunswick media as well as a social media campaign.  The rationale:

  • New Brunswick residents (and NB Power ratepayers) must be informed about the hearing and their options to participate, well in advance of the hearing date.  
  • The CNSC must provide notice of the hearing beyond online means (i.e., via print and radio); alternative arrangements must be made for New Brunswickers who are without access to personal internet.
  •  Building public trust in the CNSC’s process and decisions is crucial, and ensuring that there is awareness of the upcoming hearing is a preliminary first step.  
  • Wide public observation of the CNSC Part 1 proceedings will begin to address concerns about transparency with regard to the CNSC and NB Power, that have persisted over the 38-year history of the PLNGS. 
  • NB Power’s presentation needs to be accessible for the public to observe and evaluate, so that New Brunswickers can understand the licence renewal process and repercussions on our energy future.  

Critically, citizens who have a direct interest in the proceeding, must be provided the procedural rights to effectively participate in all parts of the hearing.  CRED-NB requests that the CNSC exercise its discretion to further public participation and build trust in the process through meaningful involvement. 

Thank you for considering our request to mount a broad awareness campaign including alternatives for those without internet access.  We look forward to your response and trust that the CNSC appreciates our genuine concerns where New Brunswickers have so much at stake. 

Author: CRED-NB

Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick