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Canada : Energy officials to discuss second nuclear plant at Point Lepreau.

When New Brunswick energy officials meet with Areva executives in coming weeks, they will be discussing technology never used in Canada - technology that could spell the end of the made-in-Canada reactors that have been the hallmark of the country's nuclear program.

Earlier this month, the province signed a letter of intent with French nuclear giant Areva to explore the feasibility of constructing a second nuclear plant at Point Lepreau.

The province will have three models to choose from, said Bill Cooper, senior project manager at Areva Canada Ltd.

They include a large reactor such as ones under construction in Finland, China and France, as well as two mid-sized reactors that haven't been built, but are advancements on existing plants.

The company's preparing to have technical discussions with NB Power and the Department of Energy over the next few weeks. But the best choice of reactor will depend on a number of factors, including load requirements of both the province and its export markets in the Maritimes and New England, as well as what technology will best fit with Canada's nuclear regulations, Cooper said.

All three are all light-water reactors, which is significant since all of Canada's nuclear plants, including Point Lepreau, use heavy water.

Heavy water is refined from natural water. It has two atoms of deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, making it denser. It allows a reactor to use natural uranium rather than more expensive enriched uranium.

Light-water reactors use regular water, which is cheaper than heavy water, but require enriched uranium.

However, heavy-water reactors are facing extinction, said Toronto-based energy consultant Tom Adams.

"The disadvantages of heavy-water reactors strongly outweigh the advantages," he said. "I think the days are numbered for heavy water reactors."

Canada is the only country to pioneer a major reactor design.

Its CANDU model is based on heavy water. India is developing its fleet of heavy-water reactors derived from CANDU.

Much of the rest of the world has gone with light-water reactors, which were designed in the United States to propel naval submarines and were later adapted for power generators.

Canada has shut down its heavy water refining plants and has been left with large stockpiles of heavy water it can't export as more countries move toward building light-water reactors.

Although light-water reactors use more expensive fuel, they have proven cheaper to build and operate and are more productive, Adams said.

Since they're used by most other countries, New Brunswick would benefit from shared expertise and suppliers. With heavy water reactors, Canada is pretty well on its own.

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Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jul 26, 2010
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