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Activists rap plans for 3rd Fermi reactor

The Windsor Star: Donald McArthur - February 14, 2009

Local environmentalists are marshalling against plans by Detroit Edison to build a third nuclear reactor at its Fermi site in Monroe, Mich., just 15 kilometres from Amherstburg and 40 kilometres from Windsor.

They claim the construction of another "dirty and dangerous" reactor in the Great Lakes basin would threaten Lake Erie's fragile ecosystem, harm its fisheries, generate deadly radioactive waste and carry risks of meltdowns and terrorist attacks.

"There's quite a few reactors already in the Great Lakes basin and we don't want to see any more," said Derek Coronado, with the Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario.

"Protecting that water is by far the most important environmental and economic issue. Without that clean water here, there would be no economy."

Coronado said reactors are known to routinely release cancer-causing agents into the air and that nuclear waste persists for millions of years.

Along with general concerns about the impact of nuclear reactors, Coronado cited specific concerns with the checkered history of the Fermi plants. Fermi I suffered a meltdown three years after it opened and a leak forced Fermi II offline in 2005.

Although it hasn't committed to building it, Detroit Edison has submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to add a 1,500-megawatt reactor to the Fermi site on the shores of Lake Erie.

The proposal calls for the use of "new untested technology," according to a city of Windsor report, that would draw cooling water from the lake and discharge thermal water back out.

Environmentalists are concerned such a system could harm the delicate ecosystem in a shallow lake susceptible to temperature changes, said Ward 3 Coun. Alan Halberstadt, who sits on the Windsor-Essex County Environment Committee, along with Coronado.

The committee endorsed a list of a "dirty dozen" reasons to oppose the construction that was prepared by the CEA and other local environmental groups.

The list was submitted to the NRC as part of a review process now in its early stages.

The City of Windsor is exploring whether or not it should pursue intervenor status in the process, which must be requested by March 9. The city has provided comments to help ensure any environmental impact statements "include a thorough review of all environmental and safety implications" to the city and Essex County.

"The environmental and safety implications of such a facility will directly impact the City of Windsor and the County of Essex," said a city report.

Amherstburg Mayor Wayne Hurst said town officials were carefully monitoring the process.

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