People must be heard at Nanticoke

Hamilton Spectator: Janet Fraser - November 24, 2008

Bruce Power and local politicians are moving ahead without consultation

Citizens of Haldimand and Norfolk counties are deeply concerned about the process that has taken place in our community regarding the possibility of building a nuclear generating plant here -- and the lack of transparency in that process.

On Oct. 31, Bruce Power, Canada's only private nuclear generating company, announced plans to build two nuclear reactors in Haldimand County, on an 800-hectare site almost next door to the Nanticoke coal-fired plant, which will be shut down by 2014. (The province says it has no plans for a nuclear plant on the site.)

Bruce Power has filed for a site preparation licence with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. If that is granted, the company will begin a federal environmental assessment, which could take up to three years and cost the company $30 million.

In Haldimand, seven elected officials -- the mayor and six councillors -- wrote letters to Premier Dalton McGuinty supporting a nuclear plant in their area. But they failed to consult with the community. Meetings between the Haldimand and Norfolk councils and Bruce Power -- which would like to operate a nuclear plant in the Nanticoke area -- took place behind closed doors.

These small-town council members made an assumption that the community was in support, because they were understandably concerned about losing jobs at Nanticoke's present coal-fired generating plant.

The communities were never consulted, nor did the councils arrange public information meetings.

Over the last year and a half, concerned citizens have held a few information nights with speakers presenting various points of view on energy options. A group, Grand Erie Energy Quest, was formed in June 2007 so citizens of Haldimand and Norfolk would have an opportunity to educate themselves about energy options and communicate with one another. A website was created --

Two members of Canadian Federation of University Women-Norfolk made a presentation to Norfolk council to express their concerns about the project. I felt that the same should be done in Haldimand.

I submitted three formal requests last spring and summer to make a 10-minute presentation to Haldimand council, on behalf of Grand Erie Energy Quest. We wanted to voice our concerns about a nuclear facility at Nanticoke in a formal way.

Haldimand council refused to hear the delegation about the proposed facility. Their reason was that they felt it was "premature" and not needed at this time. Council held a formal vote on the matter on Aug. 5 and voted 5-2 to deny my request. (Mayor Marie Trainer and Councillor Lorne Boyko were the only two to vote in favour of allowing the delegation.)

Grand Erie Energy Quest met in the summer with MPP Toby Barrett to discuss the issues and plan another energy symposium so citizens could have more information about energy and the environment. Barrett is the only one of our elected officials from all levels who has shown any concern about what the citizens have to say about this issue.

I was encouraged to read in The Spectator that this $8-billion nuclear plan lacks the province's blessing, and that Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman clearly stated that this initiative does not bear the approval of the Government of Ontario.

I am puzzled that Bruce Power would spend $30 million on an environmental assessment for a nuclear power plant without the blessing of either the province or the local community.

The citizens of Haldimand and Norfolk, as well as our neighbours at Six Nations, must be able to make an informed decision as to whether we are a "willing host community" for a nuclear plant.

This decision cannot be made without much discussion and education about all aspects of the issue. This will take time. It is Bruce Nuclear's announcement that is premature. There needs to be public input first.

Janet Fraser lives in Cayuga and writes on behalf of Grand Erie Energy Quest.

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