Debate continues on nuclear east of Port Dover

Toby Barrett - June 5, 2009

Comments in the Ontario Legislature from the Minister of Energy, coupled with a number of recent reports, have continued to raise questions about a nuclear facility east of Port Dover.

As some may recall, I sent out a news release last Fall indicating that Ontario, “has not encouraged or solicited a proposal to build a nuclear generating station in the Haldimand-Norfolk region”. Picking up on that theme, MPP Peter Tabuns recently questioned the Energy Minister George Smitherman at the Standing Committee on Estimates regarding the nuclear proposal. Smitherman stated: “it’s not the province of Ontario's intention to be involved in the encouragement or purchase of any power that might theoretically be created by such a facility.”

Also recently, a news release and letter to the Premier from 13 prominent environmental groups indicate electricity demand has continued to fall since 2005, eliminating the need for additional reactors. They add that the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) has warned surplus nuclear baseload capacity is already threatening system stability and we are already paying companies to consume excess electricity. They further suggested that surplus baseload, against a backdrop of falling demand, calls into question the need for new nuclear generation in Ontario.

Last month, The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) asked the federal Minister of Environment for a review panel to analyze Bruce Power's environmental assessment (EA) with respect to constructing two nuclear reactors east of Dover.

The Safety Commission said public and stakeholder concerns "warrant an early referral" to a review panel - made up of third party nuclear experts - to hold hearings, allow public comment and make recommendations to the ministry.

One significant issue, both for the EA and Bruce Power itself, is the question of whether our area is a "willing host community" - Bruce officials indicate they will not set up shop in a community that is not.

Bruce and media reports alike have pointed to the Haldimand and Norfolk County councils’ resolutions supporting the start of an environmental assessment as indication of the area's willingness to host. However, given the results of three years of unscientific surveys from my office, I would say the jury is still out.

The surveys that have been sent to every door in the riding – three times over - placed at my front desk, and at fair booths, indicate a majority against the proposal for nuclear at Nanticoke. To the question of, “Are you in favour of nukes at Nanticoke”, 76 per cent have answered “No”, with 23 per cent voting “Yes” (1 per cent indicated “Undecided”) – while the last survey shows more support, the majority of returns still reject the proposal. More detailed surveys at my Jarvis energy symposiums show similar numbers.

In the Legislature last week I read in petitions titled, “Nuclear Nanticoke – Not so Fast” with over 1,000 local names requesting a “moratorium” on new nuclear until, “issues of contamination, cost, security and public consultation are adequately addressed.”

I have written several letters to the Premier asking him to fulfill his promise for full consultation on new nuclear.

As I await the Premier’s response, the EA referral and hearing announcement represents an opportunity to make local voices heard. While the current panel review is slated for Ottawa, given local interest and further to my three years of request for public consultation, I am forwarding a letter to the CNSC for the panel review to be held locally.

Stay tuned.

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