Is the Ontario government taking the right path by promoting nuclear energy?

CATCH News - February 22, 2007 -

Clark challenges Nanticoke nuclear plans

Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark says secret discussions about building a nuclear power plant upwind of Hamilton require the city to publicly challenge the provincial government. And he points to a string of safety problems and the exemption of nuclear plants from environmental assessment as additional reasons for his call for a city moratorium on new nuclear facilities.

"We implement the moratorium and we state our concerns publicly," he recommended to city council last week. "And let the government of Ontario now deal with this matter in a public manner, not behind closed doors."

In December, Stelco officials offered to sell lands at Nanticoke for a new nuclear station, but provincial officials said the site was not on their list. Clark thinks otherwise, pointing to statements by Haldimand mayor Marie Trainer that she had discussions on this more than a year ago.

"So, while the government of Ontario stated publicly that there were absolutely no discussions about the construction of a nuclear power facility in Nanticoke - and that was their official position - the mayor of Haldimand Marie Trainer stated to a CH interview that she had been contacted and had had discussions with the minister about 14 months ago," noted Clark.

He pointed to the unresolved nuclear waste issue as evidence that the technology doesn't qualify as clean energy, and he cited several expert reports identifying safety and reliability problems over the last 15 years at Ontario's existing nuclear facilities. In one 1995 document, Clark noted that the Atomic Energy of Canada Board threatened to close down Pickering nuclear facilities because of a significant number of serious events.

Clark's motion seeks to put on record "that the city will oppose the construction of a nuclear power plant within Hamilton's air-shed." It notes opposition to nuclear plants by the Sierra Club, the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, the Pembina Institute, and numerous other groups.

He told councillors that his main concern, however, was a recent provincial decision to exempt new electrical generating facilities from the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act, and the weaknesses in federal assessment legislation which doesn't require consideration of alternatives.

"If there's no environmental assessment process, when do we as a municipality make our concerns known for our constituents?" Clark asked. "I don't know any other time to do it except now while the discussions are happening behind closed doors without public involvement."

Letters opposing Clark's motion were received at the same council meeting from the Organization of CANDU Industries and from two individuals - the first time in many months that correspondence from individual citizens has been included in the council agenda.

Noting the interest, Terry Whitehead moved to defer Clark's motion to a future committee meeting "so that we have a full fledged debate on this issue before we can actually finalize the decision."

The motion was narrowly approved by a 7-6 vote with support from Russ Powers, Maria Pearson, Robert Pasuta, Bernie Morelli, Bob Bratina and Scott Duvall.

Postponement was also the fate of a supporting motion by Brian McHattie that also urged the province to shut down the Nanticoke coal-fired power station that has been identified as the biggest single air pollution source in Ontario.

"I brought this forward in consultation with our Public Health Department," explained McHattie, "and they clearly felt that Nanticoke with it's coal operations is not acceptable from a public health perspective and they're asking that the facility be converted to a gas burning operation no later than 2009."

A letter from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance supporting his motion was received at the meeting.

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