Light water nuclear arrives in Canada: NB breaks with AECL

Canada’s first light water–based power reactor will be built in New Brunswick, if an agreement between Areva, the Province of New Brunswick, and NB Power is implemented. The reactor would be one of Areva’s “mid-size” machines, the 1,100 MW Atmea PWR or the 1,250 MW Kerena BWR. Both are exactly in the range of AECL’s ACR-1000. NB’s interest in the competition can therefore only be seen as a potentially major defeat for AECL.

Areva’s success, if this actually turns out to be a success (let’s not forget the scuppered Hydro Quebec takeover of NB Power), signals a major in-road to a reactor market the company’s critics have said it was shut out of. Up to recently, Areva’s only reactor on offer has been the EPR, which is rated at 1,600 MW. Now, with NB signaling interest in the smaller machines, and Areva’s offer of the Atmea to Jordan, that alleged limitation may have been overcome—with billion-dollar implications in the global market.

The NB-Areva deal is going to have interesting public opinion repercussions across Canada. NB has just essentially told AECL it is not interested in further dealings. (AECL is refurbishing the Pt. Lepreau CANDU 6, and is months behind schedule.) By extension, NB has told the Canadian federal government, which owns AECL and is trying to sell it, the same thing.

The Canadian government had hoped to receive formal authority to sell AECL tomorrow, when the omnibus budget bill is expected to pass the Senate. However, the clause that would have facilitated the sale was removed by opposition senators. If it doesn’t go back into the bill, then authorization for the sale will have to be legislated through the minority Parliament, where the election-shy opposition could kill it without risking an election.

As far as the NB development goes, that just delays settling the AECL issue and therefore makes AECL’s offering even less attractive. NB is impatient: it wants to become an energy hub, and it especially wants to export clean nuclear power into the U.S. Northeast, which is home to the only operating carbon cap and trade system in North America.

It will also be interesting to see how this deal is financed. New Brunswick has been after federal dollars ever since it decided to refurbish Lepreau. Time and again, the feds have said no. Eventually NB decided to refurbish anyway, and it is unclear exactly how this is being financed. If NB was too poor to pay for Lepreau on its own, how will it pay for the Areva machine(s)?

3 comments for “Light water nuclear arrives in Canada: NB breaks with AECL

  1. July 9, 2010 at 08:55

    The path to commercial success for NB is full of potholes. More details at this URL.
    http://djysrv.blogspot.com/2010/07/canadas-rocky-road-with-nuclear-energy.html

  2. July 9, 2010 at 09:46

    Dan, yes—nuclear proponents enter NB at their own peril. The Hydro-Quebec deal tanked only in late March, and HQ would have picked up the tab for the Lepreau refurbishment.

    And a further point. The ACR is demonstrably further ahead in its design in the applicable country—Canada—than either the Atmea or Kerena (see http://www.cnsc-ccsn.gc.ca/eng/licenseesapplicants/powerplants/newapplicants/vendorpreproject/status.cfm). All the Areva LoI does is confirm NB is looking to buy a new reactor in the 1000 MW range.

    There is really no risk for NB to talk with Areva. Areva should be aware that NB’s real interlocutor is the Canadian federal government.

  3. Roy H
    August 8, 2010 at 18:14

    Too bad they couldn’t put the money toward research and finish the LFTR design. Stick with the tried and true, and add to our problem of stockpiling nuclear waste.

    Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors were invented in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. They ran one for almost 5 years. LFTRs use cheap thorium, are inherently safe, do not produce long term radio-active waste and were abandoned because they are not suitable for making bombs. See:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWUeBSoEnRk
    and
    http://energyfromthorium.com/
    Although the principles are proven, there is still some research required for the best materials to have long 50 year plus life. This should be our highest priority to solve our energy and pollution problems.

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