Point Lepreau nuclear power plant gets 5-year licence renewal

Commission says it's satisfied plant will protect environment, safety and security.

By CBC News
Monday, June 19, 2017

Point Lepreau's nuclear power reactor is good to go for another five years.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission announced its decision this week to renew the NB Power nuclear generating station's operating licence until June 30, 2022.

The current licence runs out on June 30 of this year.

In a summary report, the commission said it found NB Power, "in carrying on that activity, will make adequate provision for the protection of the environment, the health and safety of person and the maintenance of national security," as well as follow international obligations.

Lack of transparency
The commission said it considered a number of issues and submissions related to NB Power's qualifications to receive an extended licence, including an environmental assessment and emergency plans in the event of a nuclear emergency.

An environmental assessment found that "adequate measures are in place to protect the environment and human health."

However, the commission noted a lack of transparency and public availability of emergency planning documents, and directed the utility to disclose them.

In a statement to CBC News, NB Power spokesperson Paul Doucet said the nuclear generating station "can confirm that it will be making its nuclear emergency technical planning basis document, Technical Planning Basis - Radiation Emergency, publicly available by August 2017."

The commission said it appreciated the efforts made by the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization to publish a "public-friendly" emergency planning document later in 2017.

Indigenous land
In making its decision, the commission also considered information presented at two public hearings in January and May, including submissions from members of several Indigenous groups.

They told the commission the plant was built on traditional and ancestral territories, and the facility "adversely affected their Aboriginal and treaty rights."

While the commission recognized that Indigenous groups were not consulted when the plant was built, it "acknowledges the current efforts and commitments made by NB Power in relation to Aboriginal engagement," the report said.

The commission is satisfied "the renewal will not cause adverse impacts to any potential or established Aboriginal and/or treaty rights and that the duty to consult was not triggered in this matter," it added.

Disaster-proof
A good portion of the first public hearing in January 2017 also focused on Point Lepreau's ability to withstand a significant earthquake and other potential risks, including dam failures, shipping disasters, plane wrecks and meteor strikes.

NB Power technical adviser Derek Mullin told the commission at the time that potential risks such as earthquakes, shipping disasters, plane wrecks, tsunamis and even meteor strikes had been evaluated and were not considered likely to cause public safety problems.

Lepreau was built more than 30 years ago, but all nuclear plants were required to undergo safety reassessments in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that was the result of a tsunami in Japan in 2011.

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