Blog: What it Means for Environmental Justice when a Nuclear Power Plant Wants a 25-Year Licence

Photo: Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (Shutterstock)

Blog post by Susan O’Donnell

NB Power’s 5-year licence to operate the nuclear reactor at Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station on the Bay of Fundy, the only nuclear power plant in the Maritimes, will expire in June 2022. They have asked for a 25-year licence extension. The decision will be made by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) after a public hearing in May 2022.

The Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) submitted a joint intervention to oppose the licence request. You can read or download our intervention document HERE. Our intervention includes 40 recommendations for the Commissioners to consider in their deliberations.

The team is expecting to participate in-person at the hearing in Saint John on May 11 and 12. The public is invited to watch.

In our intervention, we argue that a 25-year license is too long, as is the 20-year recommendation by CNSC staff. Long licence periods for nuclear reactors are not in the public interest, are unprecedented in Canada, and would limit public oversight and participation for a generation.

NB Power’s licence application fails to consider the impact of new developments, including potential Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs/SMNRs) and a reprocessing facility to extract plutonium from the existing spent fuel on the site. It also fails to adequately address the potential impact of climate change on the Point Lepreau site.

Our intervention underscores that NB Power’s consideration of off-site emergency planning and preparedness at Point Lepreau is insufficient to protect human health and the environment. In particular, the proposed size of emergency planning zones does not align with international guidance.

Finally, we submitted that NB Power’s consideration of cyber security in their licence application is insufficient to protect the health and safety of persons and maintain national security.

Our intervention requests that the CNSC deny NB Power’s request for a 25-year licence and instead consider a short licence period that would also allow the public to weigh in more frequently on the advisability and timing for shutting down and decommissioning the Lepreau nuclear plant.

An early shutdown of the Lepreau reactor has the added benefit of ending the production of radioactive waste which is expensive to store and which has no proven-safe method of disposal.