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AAR makes Mactaquac project's future unclear

Faulty concrete is forcing Canadian utility NB Power to evaluate the long-term viability of its 672-MW Mactaquac hydroelectric plant on the St. John River in New Brunswick.

Completed in 1968, the Mactaquac station was intended to have a 100-year lifespan. However, the concrete used to build the two dam spillways and the generating station is suffering from alkali-aggregate reactivity that is causing the concrete to expand.

NB Power president and chief executive officer Gaetan Thomas said the utility has three options, which include replacing the complex's concrete structures and installing new generators and turbines; decommissioning the powerhouse but continuing operation of the dam; or removing the dam in its entirety.

Sources report a complete rehabilitation of the dam could cost US$3 billion. Because the structure poses no immediate threat to the surrounding community or infrastructure, NB Power said it will determine Mactaquac's fate.

The hydropower project supplies about 20% of the province's total power, and a highway that runs across the dam connects the banks of the St. John River.

NB Power said it anticipates studies and public consultations about Mactaquac's future will likely begin next year.

Niagara Tunnel now supplying water to Sir Adam Beck plant

The Ontario government held a celebration in April to commemorate completion of the Niagara Tunnel Project, which directs water to the province's 2,000-MW Sir Adam Beck plant on the Niagara River in Ontario. The project is now in service, propelling 500 cubic meters of water per second to Sir Adam Beck, producing clean, renewable power.

"This project is a source of pride as an engineering feat and as a practical solution for meeting Ontario's energy needs through clean sources," said Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli during the celebration. "The completion of this project will provide Ontario with a source of clean energy for the next 100 years."

Jake Epp, chair of project owner Ontario Power Generation (OPG), said, "The tunnel has claimed the attention of the entire world." The project is "a fitting representative of Canada's, Ontario's and OPG's great legacy of electricity development and operation," he says.

The Niagara Tunnel Project is considered of the most valuable renewable energy projects in Ontario, staying within the originally planned budget. Technically, the project cost $100 million less than the budgeted $1.6 billion. The project was brought on-line sooner than projected, according to OPG.

"Congratulations to our contractor STRABAG and the hundreds of men and women who worked with extremely difficult rock conditions to safely complete this engineering marvel. This was a large, complex project that will serve Ontario for one hundred plus years," said OPG president and chief executive officer, Tom Mitchell.

The ceremony hosted a number of guests, among them Jim Bradley, the Minister of Environment; Jim Diodati, Mayor of Niagara Falls; and the 2nd and 3rd grade students of Port Weller Public School in Welland. The students performed a song about the tunnel and were honored with certificates of appreciation by Minister Chiarelli for their role as "ambassadors" of the project.

Peladeau to chair Hydro-Quebec board

Former head of Quebecor Inc., Pierre Karl Peladeau, is taking on a new role as the chairman of Hydro-Quebec's board of directors, effective May 15, according to the office of Premier Pauline Marois. Peladeau volunteered for the position, and Marois did not interview other candidates.

In addition to his leadership role with the board, the controversial Peladeau will also serve as an independent board member. According to sources close to Peladeau, the new chair is looking forward to playing a valuable role in the organization.

His role as chair will not be a compensated position, nor will it impact Hydro-Quebec's current president and chief executive officer Thierry Vandal's position.

Peladeau resigned as CEO of Quebecor in March 2013. He has remained connected to the company, however, as chairman of subsidiary Quebecor Media. Peladeau inherited the company from his father, who founded it in the 1960s. During his 14 years as CEO, Peladeau experienced tremendous growth in the media company, as well as considerable controversy.

Hydro-Quebec has about 21,600 employees and generates 98% of its electricity using hydroelectric facilities.


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