Dunnville Chronicle (ON)

Wed 04 Jul 2007 Byline: KAREN BEST

A smorgasbord of energy options and opinions were laid out for the audience at the recent Energy and the Environment Symposium.

The enigmatic Gord Miller started off the three-hour session with a colourful speech focused on the environment. The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario said, "The cheapest energy we can produce tomorrow is conserving energy. ..We have a huge potential for energy conservation."

To lighten the impact on the environment, he advocated diverse and natural energy sources including flowing water, wind, and sunshine, he said. Through diversity, more resilience is built into the power system, which was exposed as vulnerable in the Aug. 13, 2003 blackout, he noted.

"These are complex times," said Miller. "We are going o have to pay a whole lot of attention to energy...The ultimate test of a moral society is how you leave the world."

Geologist John Bowlby urged residents to ask about earthquake activity and demand answers about nuclear plant safety. It is essential to have complete and good information about faults running through Haldimand County and in a proximity that can impact a nuclear power plant in Nanticoke, he said.

Based on information gathered by the natural gas industry, geological fractures and faults criss cross the Lake Erie region, he said. The National Earthquake Database shows 275 quakes within 250 kilometres of Jarvis, said Bowlby.

Years ago natural gas came up through some Jarvis wells due to sound geological reasons, he added. The fault lies 2,000 feet below the Jarvis Lions hall.

Bowlby challenged Bruce Power president Duncan Hawthorne's statement dismissing seismic concerns on the Nanticoke site. The geologist said geological and seismological conditions within a 300 kilometre radius must be studied. Even small events are indications that rocks are moving below ground, he noted A 1999 earthquake of a 3.8 magnitude occurred 20 kilometres from the Pickering Plant, which was designed to handle a weaker event, said Bowlby. The public was assured by OPG authorities that it could handle a magnitude six event, said Bowlby.

Carol Chudy of the Clean Affordable Energy Alliance made a case for continued use of coal-fired generation plants with the latest pollution controls. Wind, solar and nuclear power cannot replace coal, which is available in North American supplies for the next 300 years, she noted.

Dave Shier attended to dispel misconceptions about the safety of nuclear power generation. He represented the Canadian Nuclear Worker Council and the Power Workers Union. Like Miller, he endorsed a balanced mix of power sources. He also described nuclear power as safe, efficient and highly regulated.

Nuclear power plant workers live with their families near these facilities, said Peter Falconer, vice- president of the Power Workers Union. As part of the energy mix for 40 years, nuclear power has been proven safe, he said adding that his home backs onto a plant's green belt.

Without reasonably priced power from nuclear plants, industries will leave Ontario, said Falconer.

Closing coal is a mistake, John Sprackett of the Power Workers Union said of the Ontario government's plan to close coal fired plants by 2014. If they are taken out of the mix, the government will have to rebuild or replace 80 per cent of existing energy capacity over the following 20 years, he noted.

Instead the Ontario government should invest in clean technology on existing plants, Sprackett said. Coal plants are essential during peak demand periods. Without them power will have to be imported from Manitoba where building transmission lines is a bit of a joke due to First Nations issues, he continued.

Shawn Patrick Stensil advised audience members to ask questions of Haldimand County council, including where radiated waste will be deposited. There is a possibility that nuclear waste will stay in the community forever, he cautioned.

Spent nuclear power rods will be stored in huge ponds of water which will be drained into Lake Erie. Stensil said Ontario's drinking water standard allows ten times the level of tritium in water than the United States. Tritium, which is a byproduct of producing nuclear power, emits weak radiation and cannot be filtered out of water.

If there is a nuclear accident at a Nanticoke plant, fall out will spread over a 30-kilometre radius and as far as Caledonia, Ohsweken, York, and South Cayuga, said Stensil.

Andrew Muller hoisted a fuel bundle as he spoke about how only 10 per cent of its fuel is used.

Five hundred bundles are used in a year. In 300 years, spent bundles revert to radiation levels equivalent to those prior to use in the reactor.

The representative of the Society of Energy Professionals said spent fuel bundles can be reused in another reactor.

Prior to use, fuel bundles are safe to carry, said Muller, who urged the Ontario government to spend the $1.6 billion to clean up all coal-fired plants.

Ziggy Kleinau of Citizens for Renewable Energy flashed a photograph of his grandchild on a screen. "If people have a conscience, please think of these little people," he pleaded. "These little people can't speak for themselves. We have to cut back (on energy use)."

He urged audience members to keep it true and honest as they keep the future in mind.

His own home is powered by solar panels and a wind turbine.

Kleinau disputed Muller's contention about the safety of nuclear power plants. Water drawn out of the lake is 12 degrees warmer when it is returned after cooling down spent rods. Anyone handling spent rods after they are removed from a reactor will die within minutes, Kleinau said.

Haldimand Norfolk Brant MPP Toby Barrett hosted the symposium after an informal group, called Grand Erie Energy Quest, requested it. Group spokesperson Janet Fraser said the intention is to explore the best power option for the area through open debate.

The group is networking so all communities have input, she said.