Hydro-Quebec CEO quells fears about Point Lepreaus future in proposed deal

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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SAINT JOHN, N.B. - The CEO of Hydro-Quebec is quelling fears about the future of New Brunswick's Point Lepreau nuclear generating facility under the proposed sale of most of NB Power to the giant hydroelectric utility.
Thierry Vandal says there is "no doubt" the nuclear power station will be back up and running soon and is an important part of the imminent energy deal.
Point Lepreau is currently undergoing a refurbishment.
"The very difficult part of the refurbishment was the dismantling because you're dealing with very intense radiation," Vandal said during an editorial board meeting Monday with the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.
"Rebuilding is actually a simpler process but of course it takes time. Right now we have no doubt that the facility will be back up and running."
The tentative deal between Hydro-Quebec and NB Power includes most of New Brunswick's energy assets.
Point Lepreau, however, will only be acquired by Quebec's utility once the refurbishment is complete and the nuclear power plant is online.
Also, a portion of the $4.8-billion deal will be withheld until Lepreau is running.
Vandal skirted questions about how much of the multibillion-dollar transaction would be frozen until that time.
"That's something that finance is looking at," he said. "They've suggested some numbers we're looking at and we should be coming out with something shortly."
The refit of the reactor was scheduled to be completed in September but is now only expected to go back online in February 2011, 18 months later than planned.
The delays could double NB Power's original $400-million estimate for replacement power, Energy Minister Jack Keir has said.
He said the deal with Quebec would save ratepayers at least $275 million of those additional costs.
David Alward, New Brunswick's Opposition leader, has argued the nuclear plant is worth almost $8 billion, which he says casts doubt on whether New Brunswick got the best deal in its proposed sale of NB Power.
But Vandal dismissed that figure.
"No one would build it at that level, no one would buy it at that level and no one would want to pay for power that would come out of a plant with that cost," he said.

Organizations: Hydro-Quebec, NB Power, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal

Geographic location: New Brunswick, SAINT JOHN, Quebec

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