Nuclear plant plan draws fire:

Environmentalists question impact on area land and water; company touts 'clean, safe, reliable' power

The Edmonton Journal; Jamie Hall, August 28, 2007

CREDIT: Courtesy of Bruce Power, file The Bruce A and Bruce B nuclear generating stations on Lake Huron, about 250 kilometres southwest of Toronto, are one of five operating Candu nuclear power sites in Canada.

EDMONTON - Energy Alberta Corporation has chosen Peace River as the site of a proposed nuclear power plant. The Calgary-based company Monday filed an application with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to build a pair of twin-unit Candu reactors on private land adjacent to Lac Cardinal, 30 kilometres west of the town.

The move ends months of speculation about the intended site of the corporation's $6.2-billion nuclear power plant, which was said to be between Peace River and Whitecourt.

Energy Alberta president and co-chair Wayne Henuset says the decision marks "a historic moment for Canada, for Alberta and for the nuclear power industry" and touted the benefits of "clean, safe, reliable nuclear power."

Ontario currently operates five of the Candu 6 reactors, which AECL said were some of the top-performing units in the world last year, with greater than 95 per cent capacity factor rankings.

But environmentalists gave short shrift to the claims, expressing worries over impacts a reactor might have on the area's land and water.

"The nuclear power industry has a long history of over-promising and under-delivering, so I'm skeptical," said Marlo Reynolds, executive director of the Drayton Valley-based Pembina Institute. "I'm still not convinced there's a need for nuclear power given all the other resources we have here in Alberta."

The institute won't support any form of government financial support for the project and Reynolds said all environmental impacts must be fully accounted for in the final cost of the facility. "That business case has never been made clear... once you factor in the full environmental cost I don't believe nuclear power competes."

David Schindler has serious concerns, too. "There are huge issues involved in building this," says Schindler, a professor of ecology at the University of Alberta who teaches environmental decision-making, "and one of them is reactor safety. "I would want to know where the waste is going to be stored, how it's going to get there and what the use of the power is supposed to be for. "(Nuclear power plants) use a lot of cooling water, so I guess this is one reason for putting it in Peace River, so they can get water from the Peace. The needs are around a cubic metre a second, so it's like a small oilsands plant."

Elena Schacherl insists the proposed plant is "a far different beast" than the existing Candu reactors currently in Canada, which are located in Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec. "They're approximately half the size of just one of the (twin reactors) that are being proposed," says Schacherl, who represents Concerned Citizens Advocating Use of Sustainable Energy. "What's being proposed has never been built before." She fears the plant will get "fast-tracked" before "the other side" can fully air its arguments in front of an environmental assessment panel.

Henuset said the Peace River region was chosen because of its demonstrated support from the community, the existence of essential infrastructure and support services, and technical feasibility.

Lorne Mann, the mayor of the Town of Peace River, says the plant would bring economic stability to the region. "Today's announcement ... has given our region an opportunity for a more vibrant, exciting and sustainable future," said Mann. The corporation has partnered with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, the federal Crown corporation and maker of Candu reactors. Initially, Energy Alberta plans to build one twin-unit ACR-1000 that will produce 2,200 megawatts of electricity with a targeted in-service date of early 2017. "Building a nuclear power facility is a long and rigorous process," said Henuset. "This is the beginning of a public and regulatory process that will include environmental, health and safety assessments."

Press conferences will be held in Calgary, Peace River and Whitecourt today to provide more details about the project.

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