Brett Plummer, NB Power’s chief nuclear officer, has not had his contract renewed.Adam Huras/ Brunswick News Archive

The American nuclear engineer who makes a seven-figure salary to ensure New Brunswick’s troubled Point Lepreau generating station is run properly will no longer have a job with NB Power at the end of this month.

Under questioning on Friday, Sept. 22, at the legislature’s public accounts committee, Lori Clark, the public utility’s president and CEO, said Brett Plummer’s contract expires at the end of September and won’t be renewed.

The utility and the Progressive Conservative government have been under fire because Plummer is making $1.3 million this year, plus travel expenses, even though he lives in neighbouring Maine and performance at the nuclear plant near Saint John has been poor.

“He was hired to fix Point Lepreau’s problems,” said Green party Leader David Coon. “That was the justification for his significant salary.”

Since Plummer was hired in 2017 as the chief nuclear officer, Lepreau has been beset with problems, most recently suffering a 35-day unplanned outage in December that wiped out NB Power’s profits this year.

The aging plant, refurbished in 2012 at a cost of $2.4 billion, is a hugely important generator in New Brunswick’s electrical fleet and under full capacity could power a majority of the homes in the province.

Clark said she would take on the position of chief nuclear officer, despite the fact she’s not a nuclear engineer and is a chartered accountant by profession. The utility is required to have a CNO in a permanent position.

Instead of Plummer, NB Power is hiring three managers from Ontario Power Generation (OPG), who are relocating to New Brunswick to help run the plant.

It’s part of a three-year deal that will cost $2 million annually, said Clark, who will be supported in her new role by the OPG’s chief nuclear officer Steve Gregoris.

The other three managers are already at the station getting familiar with the operations and will begin their new roles Oct. 1. Their salaries are on par with what they earned in Ontario.

Clark said the deal was completely separate from the partnership NB Power has been negotiating with OPG that would see the Ontario Crown corporation use its expertise to help run the plant over the long term.

“We’ve done this in the past,” she said. “Before Mr. Plummer came, we actually had five or six from OPG who helped support the station from a leadership perspective.”

When Brunswick News asked NB Power last Friday whether Clark would get a raise for the additional title of chief nuclear officer on top of her CEO salary, spokesperson Dominique Couture replied: “The CEO pay band ranges from $388,000 to $582,000. Lori Clark is being paid within that pay band.”

Clark told the politicians the point of hiring the Ontario managers was to improve performance and reliability at the nuclear plant, which first began running 40 years ago.

She said OPG has a lot of experience running more Candu reactors – six of them – and recently finished a planned outage on budget and on time.

“We will be able to be part of their discussions with their fleet and be challenged on our performance compared to some of their other fleet on how we can improve our performance at the station,” she said. “So it’s a package we’ll be getting.”

When Liberal MLA Keith Chiasson asked why OPG was being leaned on so heavily, Clark mentioned that it was getting much harder to find people with qualified nuclear expertise because of a renaissance within the industry, including a renewed push for the creation of small nuclear reactors.

By John Chilibeck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 26, 2023 at 05:47

This item reprinted with permission from   The Daily Gleaner   Fredericton, New Brunswick

Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated