Bruce Power meets with Whitemud landowners

Peace River Record-Gazette: Michelle Higgins - July 17, 2009

For the first time since Bruce Power identified the Whitemud site as its preferred option for a potential nuclear power plant last March, representatives of the company have met exclusively with adjacent landowners.

Bruce Power’s Lead Alberta Affairs Albert Cooper and Vice President of Corporate Affairs Murray Elston conducted an invite-only meeting at the Sawridge Inn in Peace River last Tuesday with about 70 landowners who live within an eight-kilometre radius of the proposed site.

One hundred and ninety-seven people had been invited to the meeting, although about a dozen households did not receive invitations because they were incorrectly addressed, Elston said.

Before the meeting, he said its primary goal was to collect input from landowners about their concerns.

“We believe we have an obligation to begin the communication process with people in the immediate area,” Elston said.

Those who attended received a binder containing information materials and a workbook asking landowners for their input on concerns such as nuisance effects, property values, family health and public safety.

Along with a project update, the binders contained a report on radiation and health in Durham Region, Ontario, where two nuclear stations are located 28 kilometres apart; two reports on property value research; a list of 100 questions submitted by landowner Lorraine Jensen, and a letter written by Cooper in response to that list.

Elston said Bruce Power would mail the information and workbooks to all those who were not at the meeting.

The landowners, divided among about a dozen tables, were given time to fill in the workbook before each table had an opportunity to ask a question.

But some landowners expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of the answers they were given.

One landowner, Barbara Johnson, said she asked if there would be any emissions from the plant, but the answer she got was vague.

McNamara said Elston was “evasive and told only part-truths,” while Joan Jensen, whose house is less than half a kilometre from the proposed water cooling pond, said questions were “kind of skirted around. They were not always answered.”

“Things that I could answer, I answered,” Elston said. “Things that are yet to be discovered through the environmental assessment in in-depth studies, I can’t provide answers for yet.”

But Johnson said, “Many of our concerns are outside of that arena and more about quality-of-life sorts of things.”

Landowners also complained that some of the information provided was outdated or too complex.

“The pamphlet they handed out was way too technical for the majority of the people there to understand,” Jensen said. McNamara called the property studies “antiques” and said the information in one of them was “incomprehensible to lay people.”

Elston defended the property value reports, which were published in 1982 and 1998 respectively and include references dating as far back as the ‘70s. “The techniques of analyzing property values haven’t changed that much,” he said.

He acknowledged that some of the language was complex, but said, “We can’t change the nature of documents and articles that are printed. At the end of the day, we have to identify actual articles that are written by experts in the field.”

Johnson said the findings in the Durham health report, which indicated that nuclear stations were not affecting the health of the region’s population, were inconsistent with other research she had read.

Cooper’s response was that “there are all sorts of reports circulating around. What I have found is that the reports that talk about the risks of cancer have usually had some serious flaws in them.”

Elston called the meeting the “first step in a long process.” But Jensen said the company should have taken that step a long time ago.

“It’s about two years late,” she said. “I think that we should have been asked those questions previous to them coming in and dropping their little gift in our neighbourhood.”

“Some people won’t be satisfied, ever,” Elston said. “There are a lot of people who on the other hand were quite pleased with the extra effort that we’re making to share with them the progress of the project, so I think overall we’re happy with this first step.”