Nuclear plant not done deal
Simcoe Reformer: Monte Sonnenberg - November 5, 2008http://www.simcoereformer.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1281618
Bruce Power denies it is on a collision course with the province over the question of nuclear reactors in the Nanticoke Industrial Park.
Last week, Bruce Power announced it would spend $30 million over the next three years exploring the suitability of Nanticoke for an installation. The environmental assessment could pave the way for the construction of two reactors by 2018.
The same day, Ontario Energy Minister George Smitherman said the Nanticoke location does not enjoy the support or encouragement of the McGuinty government.
Bruce Power spokesperson James Scongack says the decision to conduct an environmental assessment is part of deciding whether Bruce Power wants to pursue the project. Bruce Power won't know whether Nanticoke is a good fit until it consults local stakeholders and puts the proposed location west of U.S. Steel under the microscope.
"Until we have an indication on both these items, we're not really prepared to talk about the big picture," Scongack said.
Scongack added that Bruce Power, as a private company, does not require the province's approval to do market research.
Duncan Hawthorne, CEO and president of Bruce Power, expressed similar sentiments in a statement Friday when the utility announced its intentions. The environmental assessment, he said, "will give us -- and Ontario -- a number of options to consider going forward."
"Although this is a major step forward, we will not make a decision to proceed with a project until we have consulted thoroughly with the people of Haldimand (and) Norfolk and have significantly progressed the environmental assessment," Hawthorne said.
In his remarks, Smitherman said Bruce Power is operating on its own. However, the energy minister did not explicitly reject the possibility of situating nuclear reactors in Nanticoke. A statement from Smitherman's office said the ministry has "not encouraged or solicited a proposal to build a nuclear generating station in the Haldimand (and) Norfolk region."
Smitherman also said, "Adding more nuclear beyond the existing supply of 50 per cent (14,000 megawatts) is not in Ontario's plans or in Ontario's interests."
Queen's Park is not encouraging Bruce Power, but Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer believes it can be persuaded to have another look at Nanticoke.
Due to concerns over air quality, the McGuinty government plans to close the giant Nanticoke Generating Station by 2014. The plant is the largest coal-burning generating facility in North America.
Trainer says the province acknowledges that Nanticoke, by virtue of its location, plays a key role in balancing the load on the provincial grid. And the 500 kilovolt transmission corridor running north from the plant "is second to none," she added.
"If Bruce Power wants it and the people want it, it will be very hard to turn down," Trainer said.
Whether the people want it remains to be seen. Norfolk and Haldimand councils endorsed the concept of nuclear reactors in Nanticoke last year. However, in light of last week's announcement, opposition is beginning to gel at the grassroots level.
Donna Pitcher, of South Cayuga, led the charge in 2004 against Haldimand council's plan to sell Haldimand County Hydro. A candidate in Ward 2 in the 2003 and 2006 municipal elections, Pitcher collected a 3,500-signature petition against the utility sale. Council ultimately rejected the idea.
Pitcher is preparing a second petition demanding that the nuclear question appear as a ballot question in Hamilton and Haldimand, Norfolk and Brant counties in the 2010 municipal election.
"I have a problem with the democratic process," she said yesterday. "I have a problem with a council that wants to cram something down our throats without due respect for the democratic process."
As for the apparently contradictory signals coming from Bruce Power and the Ministry of Energy, Pitcher wonders if there is less here than meets the eye. She suspects the McGuinty government is preparing a pre-emptive defence against Bruce Power's plans in case there is a significant public backlash.
"Maybe this is a 'good cop-bad cop' situation," she said.
Article ID# 1281618