N.B. one of four provinces waiting for Ottawa to give it green light on small-scale nuclear reactors
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- New Brunswick is among four provinces now waiting for Ottawa to give the green light to a new nuclear technology.
The federal government has promised an action plan for small-scale nuclear reactors to power the electrical grid, although critics warn the technology is unproven and costly.
The project would no longer be called Lepreau 2, but nuclear energy supporters say Point Lepreau would be an ideal place for a "small modular reactor."
These are small-scale facilities with a fraction of the output of a traditional Candu reactor.
"It would mean $190 million in direct and indirect impacts in New Brunswick," Blaine Higgs said during the provincial election campaign.
Small reactors provided one of the few areas of agreement between the two major parties.
"We can transform our economy," Liberal leader Kevin Vickers said.
One study says developing small scale reactors could provide a billion dollar boost to the New Brunswick economy, although not everyone is on board.
"It's totally uneconomic," said environmentalist David Thompson, who warns that ratepayers and taxpayers will be worse off.
"Right now, any type of nuclear energy that we can think of is at least four or five times more expensive than a lot of renewable energy projects, and the renewables are continuing to go down in price all the time," Thompson said.
New Brunswick has joined Ontario, Saskatchewan and, more recently, Alberta in agreeing to develop the technology. The provinces are waiting for Ottawa to give the go-ahead. A federal action plan has been promised for this fall.
"If this opportunity passes us, it will not be revisited," says Colleen D'Entremont of the Atlantica Centre for Energy. She says other countries are moving ahead with the technology. This month, U.S. officials approved a reactor design and there are plans to build a series of reactors in Idaho.
Supporters say the small reactors are an alternative to carbon.
"This is probably our best shot at getting mainstream, viable, 24 hour a day non-emitting energy to compliment renewables such as wind and solar and hydro," D'Entremont said.
The most optimistic timeline says a small-scale reactor at Point Lepreau would be operational within a decade.
The groups that are pushing for small modular reactors fear that the window of opportunity may soon close, as other countries, especially the United States, begin to develop the technology.