A nuclear boost

Energy Grit Leader Michael Ignatieff reaffirms support for nuclear power


Federal Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff reaffirmed his support for nuclear energy before a receptive audience in Saint John on Thursday.

Ignatieff told the Saint John Board of Trade that, while Canada risked losing its place as a world leader in nuclear technology, it is a crucial part of the country's energy portfolio and its goals for reducing carbon emissions cannot be reached without it.

"This does require federal leadership and so, as I look to our energy future, nuclear is right in there," Ignatieff said.

The strong support for nuclear power gained applause from at least one of New Brunswick's politicians, who sees nuclear energy as an important part of the province's goal of self-sufficiency and as central to developing Saint John's energy hub.

"We've been a leader in nuclear industry, certainly in New Brunswick, for the last 25 years. Although I knew that (Ignatieff) was a strong supporter of nuclear energy, I'm glad to hear him reaffirm that," provincial Energy Minister Jack Keir said.

In his speech, Ignatieff criticized the current state of the nuclear industry in Canada, citing the shutdown of the Chalk River reactor in Ontario and the subsequent isotope crises. He said a lack of proper management of crucially important nuclear energy projects was causing Canada to lag in nuclear technology, despite being a global leader for decades.

Keir and the provincial government have pushed hard to develop the Saint John energy hub, which aims to develop economic growth through various energy projects in the area. The nuclear reactor at Point Lepreau and a proposed second reactor are a large part of that.

Ignatieff's reaffirmed support for nuclear energy was also welcomed by Keir because he said nuclear energy will play a more significant role in the province's economy in the future.

It might also fill the hole left in the energy hub vision by the recent cancellation of a proposed $8-billion oil refinery in East Saint John.

"It's a piece of our puzzle," Energy Minister Jack Keir said of nuclear energy. "Same as renewable energy is and same as the (liquefied natural gas) terminal is. All this plays a huge part in the energy hub, as does nuclear power. It's important for the Greater Saint John area and all of New Brunswick."

Keir is one of the many proponents at the forefront of a proposal to build a second reactor at Point Lepreau, the site of New Brunswick's, and Atlantic Canada's only, nuclear reactor.

But the proposed second reactor is being negotiated at a time when Canada's nuclear crown corporation - Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd - is being looked at for possible sale to the private-sector. The proposed sale comes after the Chalk River reactor shut down, the ongoing isotope crises and the crown corporation's problems finding international buyers for its CANDU.

Keir said he hopes the uncertainties of AECL will be resolved soon.

"I've been saying all along in any discussion I've had with the federal government: you got to move quickly with what you're going to do with AECL," he said.

If built, the second reactor at Point Lepreau will use a merchant model, meaning the facility will be owned by a private consortium. AECL is part of the consortium, dubbed Team Candu.

Keir said in May that despite the uncertainly of AECL's future, that a sale to the private-sector would not affect plans for the Lepreau 2 nuclear reactor.

"It's not going to have any impact at all," Keir told reporters, stating that the announcement of the sale was "good news."