Panel to review nuclear plant bid

Hamilton Spectator: Eric McGuinness - May 8, 2009

NANTICOKE: Bruce Power's bid to build a two-reactor nuclear plant on the shore of Lake Erie is headed for a full panel review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

That's the most comprehensive form of assessment, which is no surprise considering the potential size and significance of the project.

The operator of Ontario Power Generation's Bruce nuclear station on Lake Huron announced last October it would undertake a two-to-three-year environmental assessment that could cost $30 million, even though the province has expressed no interest in a nuclear plant on the site.

Bruce Power has applied for a site preparation licence from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which said late Wednesday it was asking the federal environment minister to appoint an expert panel to conduct a review, which has to be done before a licence can be considered.

Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer, who supports the idea of a nuclear station on 900 hectares owned by U.S. Steel Canada Inc., said yesterday: "Certainly having the panel review is excellent. Any questions people have been asking, any concerns, will hopefully all be addressed.

"Most people are worried about storage of the spent fuel. They want to know what's the worst-case scenario? What precautions will be taken? Those are legitimate concerns."

Bruce Power spokesperson Steve Cannon said the company fully expected, and in fact asked for, a full panel review because: "This is the first time in a generation people will be considering a new nuclear station." He also said: "This is the very front end of what is a very lengthy process."

Jim Elve, spokesperson for the citizens' group Grand Erie Energy Quest, similarly said the commission action was expected, but questioned the need for any more electrical capacity, even when Ontario Power Generation's huge Nanticoke station, adjacent to the Bruce Power site, stops burning coal in 2014.

Elve said the economic downtown has accelerated a drop in demand, and argued emphasis should be on conserving energy and developing renewable sources such as solar power.

He confirmed what Trainer said, the other big concern is storage of used fuel that remains dangerously radioactive.

If the minister decides to refer the application to a panel, as is likely, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency says there will be public consultation on terms of reference before the panel is established.


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