Nuclear safety on everyone's minds

SIMCOE REFORMER: Ashley House - November 3, 2008

Safety is on the minds of Nanticoke residents after an announcement from a private nuclear generating company Friday.

Bruce Power announced, following site approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, they would be launching an environmental assessment of a nuclear power plant in Haldimand.

Two nuclear reactors within the Lake Erie Industrial Park could produce enough energy to power three million homes.

"It's probably a good idea," said Robert Winegarden. "It will cut down on pollution and employ more people. As long as it's safe I don't see a problem."

Winegarden felt comfortable with today's modern technology and practices in nuclear safety, but not everyone feels the same.

Some are concerned with the practice of burying radioactive waste and used fuel in deep cement culvers in Bruce County, which is the current practice.

"I don't think that's the answer," said Larry Weaver, though he admitted it is hard to judge a project like this. "I only have a rough idea of how it all works."

Bucky Erwin, a retired refinery worker, agreed burying radioactive waste isn't safe.

"What if there's a crack in the cement, then it's in our groundwater system," Erwin said. "Or what if there's a little spill and no one says anything, it's in our water table. No, we don't want that here."

MPP Toby Barrett, who was present for Friday's announcement, said he's been fielding concerned calls from people for two years now, most of which have been opposed to the idea.

Barrett concedes there are other, better energy sources to replace coal-fired plants, which the province has deemed to close by 2014.

But he'd like to see the Ontario Power Generation Nanticoke station kept open and "move forward with vigorous carbon dioxide capture" that separates the CO2 and pumps it underground.

Barrett invites everyone to attend the Energy Symposium in Jarvis Nov. 20 to become more informed on the plethora of energy options.

Bruce Power has been invited, though it is not confirmed if they will be there.

Grand Erie Energy Quest, a citizen's group who is against the idea of nukes in Nanticoke, will be there.

Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive officer of Bruce Power, anticipates opposition. "Those against will be active and vocal in these discussions, which is why the silent majority can't be as silent," Hawthorne said.

Horror stories of accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile nuclear plants always come to the forefront when nuclear is mentioned, but Hawthorne again said he is prepared. "Chernobyl was operating outside its safety parameters," Hawthorne said. "It was also a plant that would not be able to get licensed in Canada today. But again, I welcome this dialogue."

Three hundred project proposals and information packets have gone out to area residents.

Information sessions and open houses will follow to educate the public and address their concerns.

"We need to educate them on our science and safety regulations," he said. "Everyone needs to be engaged and active in this process."

Weaver doubted the company would listen to the community much, remembering when residents didn't want Stelco, now US Steel Canada, to come into the area.

"They exerted some force but didn't get very far," Weaver said.

Article ID# 1278176

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