Nuclear plant becomes more than a mirage

Dunnville Chronicle: KAREN BEST - November 14, 2008

An environmental assessment initiated by Bruce Power has already sparked lively discussion in Haldimand County. Over the next two years, a process will unfold where scientific data is shared and public input is gathered as the county and the private power generation company move on their proposal to create a clean energy hub in Nanticoke.

"We see this as an opportunity for the company to develop another option for Ontario," Bruce Power president Duncan Hawthorne said of the company's interest in constructing a nuclear power plant in Nanticoke.

Considered a viable option by the company, up to $30 million will be invested in studying the 2,300-acre Nanticoke site for its suitability for a plant.

On Oct. 31, Hawthorne announced Bruce Power's application for a site preparation licence. It will act as a trigger for the federal Environmental Assessment act, explained Hawthorne in a telephone interview with The Chronicle.

Once Bruce Power's request is reviewed, he expected the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will accept it and will refer the request to the federal Ministry of the Environment.

In an October press release, Haldimand County said the assessment will allow a comprehensive review of the proposal through rigorous studies and discussion with stakeholders. If the project proceeds, it will bring significant economic benefits to the county including construction employment and new property tax assessment.

In general, Bruce Power's announcement is good news because this will potentially create more than 1,000 jobs for 60 years, said Coun. Buck Sloat. The average Bruce Power wage is $80,000, he noted expecting to see economic spinoffs including housing.

He is the chair of a special purposes committee struck by council to pursue energy generation options including nuclear power generation in the Nanticoke industrial park. able energy projects.

"We are now looking forward to the public input process," said Sloat recently.

"We've always been told by the province that there wouldn't be a nuclear facility built if a community was not a willing host," said Sloat.

"We feel we are a willing host and the environmental assessment process will prove it one way or another," he The county will have an opportunity for giving input but will have no decision making role."

Cayuga resident Janet Fraser said Bruce Power has support from Haldimand and Norfolk County council members but not necessarily that of the communities.

"More than anything, the community needs to know there are other options and this is not a done deal," she said.

The nuclear plant site licence application took Fraser by surprise because in August Haldimand County council told her it was premature to share some community concerns about this power generation option.

Last year, she and others established the Grand Erie Energy Quest, a group exploring power generation options and providing information on their website to inform the public.

After the Oct. 31 announcement, Fraser said it was obvious that Bruce Power was planning this for some time. With them going ahead without provincial government approval, it's almost as if they are certain this will happen, she added.

South Cayuga resident Donna Pitcher, who supports clean coal technology for the Nanticoke coal fired plant, said she thought Bruce Power would not risk spending $30 million on an environmental assessment unless the company was certain it will receive provincial approval. For her, lack of due process and lack of public consultation to this point are big issues.

The day of the announcement provincial energy and infrastructure minister George Smitherman said the project was not solicited and was not endorsed by the Ontario government.

Despite the province's stance, Bruce Power will proceed with an environmental assessment which will be a very formal process including release of scientific data and risks. Hoping to discover the counties are willing host communities, the company will engage in open and transparent dialogue with residents, said Hawthorne.

"No decisions will be made about the project until the community is sufficiently informed about the project and the environmental assessment process," he stated in a letter.

Community and aboriginal consultation will occur in open houses, updates, workshops, information sessions and on the company website.

Based on support from Haldimand and Norfolk Counties, the company had the confidence to proceed with the site licence application, he said. Both councils sent letters of support for an assessment to the provincial government which stated in 2006 that new nuclear power generation would be built at existing plant sites.

Those letters led Bruce Power to believe that it had at least enough support in the community to explore plant construction further, said Hawthorne.

A potential nuclear power plant appeared on the Haldimand County radar after the Ontario government announced in 2005 its intention to close the Nanticoke coal fired generation plant in 2009.

At a December 2005 meeting, Coun. Tony Dalimonte, who was a Stelco employee and is now a U. S. Steel employee, told council new technology makes nuclear power generation safer and this options should be considered in order to retain jobs and $3 million in property tax revenue.

A year later in a Dec. letter sent one month after the municipal election, Stelco announced its interest in siting a nuclear power plant on its Lake Erie property in Nanticoke. The company asked council if it was willing to pursue this option. Earlier in 2006, Atomic Energy Canada noted attributes during site tour and the Ontario Integrated Power System Plan considered Nanticoke as a potential site for a nuclear plant.

Council support began to emerge more clearly in 2007. In January of that year, council unanimously passed a motion expressing interest in alternative Nanticoke power generation including nuclear. In February 2007, only Coun. Lorne Boyko and Mayor Marie Trainer voted against a motion endorsing pursuit of nuclear plant construction due to lack of prior notification to the public of this direction.

In March 2007, Sloat told council that Bruce Power was doing preliminary work to determine if the Nanticoke site was suitable. Council unanimously supported a motion asking any proponent of a nuclear plant to hold public meetings as soon as possible. In May, council endorsed writing a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty to express support for an environmental assessment on a nuclear power plant.

About 18 months ago, Bruce Power began its investigation into the potential of a Nanticoke nuclear plant. Given access to the U. S. Steel property (formerly owned by Stelco) awhile ago, assessment began before Bruce Power secured an option to buy it.

In his first appearance in the area at a Simcoe chamber of commerce meeting in March 2007, Hawthorne said he was acting in his capacity as the chairman of the Canadian Nuclear Association.

At that time, both Haldimand and

Norfolk Counties were exploring options because the provincial government planned to close the Nanticoke Ontario Power Generation plant eliminating 600 jobs, he said.

Bruce Power understands that the Ontario government has no plans for nuclear plant construction in Nanticoke, said Hawthorne. Even so the company is trying to develop an option for future consideration, he added.

"Bruce Power is a private company and we chose our own route," said Hawthorne. "That doesn't mean the government will approve it. But we will explore the option. This one has some merit."

He said it was difficult to speculate whether proceeding with the federal environmental assessment will influence the Ontario government to look positively on the Nanticoke site.

"We understand there's no obligation for the government to pay any attention to us" he said "This is just good business planning," Hawthorne said of going ahead without any guarantees. "An environmental assessment is a feasibility study and a planning tool."

Bruce Power spokesman John Peevers said, "We understand that nuclear is new for the community and there are a lot of questions. We understand this is a big deal for the people of Haldimand Norfolk...We are trying to take the emotion out of it and get to the facts."

He said it was important for Bruce Power to get out to talk to people very soon and possibly host open houses before the end of the year.

Bruce Power is proposing construction of two Generation III reactors capable of creating between 2,200 and 3,200 megawatts of new power for 60 years. According to the company's project description report, the plant will produce reliable, emission-free electricity and will use existing grid infrastructure on existing industrial lands.

Under the federal Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the project will go through five phases and will require five licences: to prepare the site, to build, to operate, to decommission and to abandon. Several other federal laws must be adhered to including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Site preparation is expected to begin in 2010 and finish two years later when construction begins. By 2017, the first reactor will be commissioned and the second one will go on line the following year.

Scheduled for 2077, decommissioning will require a separate environmental assessment that will be launched before closure.

In the first map in the project description report, the Lake Erie Industrial Park is delineated and so is the Haldimand Proclamation Lands. The company learned from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada that no First Nation had a comprehensive claim on the proposed plant site. This type of claim deals with land rights not covered in treaties or other legal documents. Specific claims deal with grievances related to Canada's obligations as set out in treaties.

Home to 1,500, Jarvis is the closest Haldimand County community to the site which is 6.5 kilometres away.

Lower level radiated waste will be stored for a year in the reactor building on the Nanticoke site and then transferred to an on-site waste management building or to an Ontario Power Generation waste facility at the Bruce County Bruce Power site.

Used fuel will be stored in the reactor building for up to 20 years and then transferred to a national used fuel waste facility. If that is not available, used fuel will be put into dry storage at the Nanticoke site.

A proposed deep geologic repository for radiated waste is planned in stable bedrock beneath Bruce Power's site in Bruce County.

In a section on existing environmental conditions, the project report refers to an earthquake database that is over 100 years old. Compared to areas along the Ottawa River and in Quebec, Nanticoke has a low to moderate level of seismic activity with only two or three quakes in the past 30 years. Three moderate earthquakes occurred in the Great Lakes region in the 250 years of European settlement but all were in the United States.

Based on a review of available data, the project report concludes that there is no evidence of geological, hydrological or seismic issues that would preclude nuclear plant construction. A company fact sheet said Generation III plants are designed to safely withstand "any earthquake greater than predicted by Natural Resources Canada for the Nanticoke area.". In the unlikely event of a quake, safety and security systems would prevent release of radioactivity to the environment, according to the fact sheet.

Instability and a fault running through southern Ontario was raised as a concern at two 2007 public meetings in Norfolk County.

Near the end of the project report, Bruce Power describes its intention to consult with aboriginal peoples who may be affected by the project or have asserted or established aboriginal rights or treaties in the project area. Both Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mississaugas of the New Credit are within the 30-kilometre radius of the site.

Recognizing the unique government systems in Six Nations, Bruce Power will consult with both the Haudenosaunee Confederacy council and the elected band council. Both bodies received the project report as did New Credit leadership.

Drawing on experience from earlier discussions with First Nations on similar projects, the company will develop an agreement to identify a consultation process and "capacity funding" to facilitate meaningful participation in environmental assessment. Proposed consultation will be described in an aboriginal information and engagement planning document.

Through this process, potentially affected First Nations will be involved so the environmental assessment can identify how the project will impact the environment and current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes. The planning document will be provided for First Nations input to ensure they can determine how best to be involved in the environmental assessment.

Article ID# 1296315

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