No Nukes in Nanticoke

Blinky125“No Nukes in Nanticoke” It’s not just  a slogan anymore. It’s a statement of fact. Bruce Power has abandoned its ill-advised and foolhardy attempt to foist a nuclear power plant on an unwilling host community.

Bruce’s official press release announcing it is withdrawing its application for a site preparation license and suspending the environmental assessment identifies “the current realities of the market” (i.e. a decline in demand for energy) as the reason they are walking away from Nanticoke. I suggest there is a bit more to it than that.

Did public opposition play a role? I’d like think that our challenges to the “willing host” label had a big impact on the decision. However, while growing opposition probably played into the decision, I think it had a lot more to do with an increasingly obvious market reality.

That reality, though, is not simply a sudden and short term decline in electricity demand due to the continuing recession that hit Canada last November. The reality is that the “nuclear renaissance” was built on a shaky foundation. The so-called renaissance was sold on the basis that new nuclear builds would be different than previous projects. Cost overruns and longer than estimated timelines were to be a thing of the past. On time and on budget, new nuclear plants would be good investments… or so we were told.

Here in Nanticoke, Bruce Power was baiting the hook for the big fish investors it needed to finance the proposed new plant. The bait was two-fold: secure the permission of a “willing host community” and secure an approved Environmental Assessment.

Each of these bits of bait cost millions of dollars.

Bruce was 9 months into what was estimated to be a 3 year environmental assessment. They had pegged the cost of the EA at $30 million. How many of those millions were already spent is something we will likely never know. Even though the EA would almost certainly have resulted in an approval — 97% of federal EA’s are approved  — they decided not to continue pumping millions into the process.

The question of obtaining the permission of a willing host community was also costing money: full page newspaper ads, a radio ad blitz, numerous slick brochures mailed out to every household in Haldimand and Norfolk and many in Brant, as well.  Despite their best efforts, the community was skeptical. The assurances of clean, safe, affordable and reliable energy were frequently challenged and doubts about the support of the host community were becoming more evident. Most recently, Grand Erie Energy Quest was teaming up with a new Port Dover citizens group to make an official request that Norfolk County Council repeal its resolution endorsing Bruce’s environmental assessment.

While Bruce was spending millions baiting the hook for future multi-billion dollar investors, the ugly truth about the real costs of new nuclear builds was emerging. Numerous proposed nuclear plants were being shelved all over North America. High costs were cited as the reason. The few worldwide projects underway involving “new generation” reactors were proving to be as off-schedule and over budget as the infamous old generation nuclear reactors were.

If the fish aren’t biting, there’s little point in spending millions on bait. Investors with billions to put into mega projects are smart people. They have been putting plenty of money into renewable energy projects. Nuclear? Not so much. The writing was on the wall… for many months. The only big question ow is: why did Bruce wait so long before deciding the billion dollar fish weren’t going to take the million dollar bait?

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Willing Host Community? Says Who?

The biggest hurdle facing Bruce Power’s bid to build a nuclear power plant in Nanticoke is to obtain the consent of the community. Yet, this is not what you’ll hear if you ask most of our local councillors. Back in 2007 when the idea of a nuclear plant seemed far-fetched to those few Haldimand and Norfolk residents who were aware of such rumblings, both Haldimand and Norfolk County councils passed unanimous resolutions endorsing an Enviroinmental Assessment (EA) for a nuclear plant in Nanticoke.

Despite the fact that 97% of EAs result in an approval, Norfolk’s mayor and some of Norfolk’s councillors feel they’ve absolved themselves of responsibility by endorsing the assessment. Most are adamant that their endorsement of an EA did not indicate that they were endorsing the construction of a plant or that they were indicating that Norfolk is a willing host. Yet, Bruce Power has been portraying the endorsements for an EA as indications that they’d jumped their biggest hurdle. Here’s how they categorize those resolutions:

Both Haldimand County and Norfolk County have indicated they were willing host communities through resolutions to the Minister of Energy favouring proceeding with an environmental assessment at this time.
(Pages 27 and 28, http://www.brucepower.com/uc/GetDocument.aspx?docid=2817 )

There’s nothing open to interpretation in that statement. Bruce is stating that the endorsements of the EA indicate willing host communities. It’s plain English.

Yet, when the issue of this blatant misrepresentation of Norfolk council’s resolution was brought up at a council meeting, Deputy Mayor Jim Oliver stated that he is “not offended by any information that’s been published.” Furthermore, he said “I don’t interpret the material as implying we are willing hosts.”

They’re not implying it. They’re stating it outright. How can the statement be open to interpretation? It’s very clear and nobody needs read anything into it that isn’t there in black and white.

Yet, when contacted by the Simcoe Reformer for a comment on the matter, Bruce Power spokesman Steve Cannon said, “I think they’re reading into it a bit too much.”

No. Anyone with a grasp of simple English can understand exactly what the statement says.

Why is the “willing host community” label so important? It’s simple. Nearly all EAs result in a recommendation for the projects to be approved. The EA process may cost $30 million but it will not stand in the way of getting the plant built. Indeed, spending $30 million ensures that all environmental obstacle addressed by the EA will be surmounted.

One thing that can stop the juggernaut is an unwilling host community. That is why it was so important for Bruce Power to declare victory before the battle had even begun.

In talking with local residents, gathering some of the 1400+ signatures on the “Not so fast” petition and making presentations to local groups, I’ve found myself in agreement with MPP Toby Barrett. Barrett has surveyed both Haldimand and Norfolk counties three times over the past three years and his surveys indicate that 76% of residents are opposed to a nuclear plant in Nanticoke. That sure doesn’t sound like a willing host community to me.

Threat of Nuclear Plant is Hurting Local Economy

On June 28, the Ontario government suspended plans to deploy two new nuclear reactors at Darlington. Even with a bottomless public purse, the costs were deemed too high.

On July 1, the largest energy company in the US, Exelon, dropped plans to build a two-reactor plant in Victoria, Texas. The costs were too high.

In April, another large American energy company, St. Louis-based AmerenUE suspended work on a reactor in Missouri. Costs were too high.

On July 2, New Brunswick revealed that the refurbishment project at the Point LePreau nuclear station was eight months behind schedule and more than $100 million over budget.

On June 8, secret papers left at a CTV studio revealed that the refurbishment of reactors at Bruce Power’s Kincardine plant is over a year behind schedule and between $300 and $600 million over budget.

On June 11, Prime Minister Harper’s chief spokesman, Kory Teneycke, said Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. is a “dysfunctional,” $30-billion “sinkhole” that will not get any more federal funding.

As of July 1, Areva’s Olkiluoto nuclear energy project in Finland was 42 months behind schedule and 60% over budget.

The new generation of nuclear development is proving to be a lot like the previous generation: too costly to deserve either private or public investment. The much-touted “nuclear renaissance” is proving to be just so much hype from a highly polished and well-heeled sales force intent on lobbying for a dubious, if not absurd, new round of fruitless investment.

Here in Haldimand-Norfolk, we are being lured with the same empty hook. Bruce Power’s bid to build a two-reactor plant with private capital is every bit as financially ill-advised as the aforementioned projects. The pie-in-the-sky promise of 1000 high paid jobs is as believable as the promises that the new generation of reactors would be built on time and on budget.

About three weeks ago, Ontario Energy Minister George Smitherman reiterated in no uncertain terms that Ontario is not supporting Bruce’s Nanticoke proposal and that the province has no intention of purchasing any electricity that might be created at a possible Nanticoke nuclear plant. We simply do not need it. Ontario already has a surplus of baseload nuclear energy and on over 200 occasions in 2009, we’ve actually paid industrial customers to use it… after we paid the nuclear plants to produce it.

Last week, a Bruce Power spokesperson told Saskatchewan residents that a nuclear plant could not be built in their province without the support and stability offered by a firm provincial government commitment. Indeed, no nuclear project has ever been built without massive taxpayer support.

Despite the lack of financial backing and the strong probability that no plant will ever be built at Nanticoke, Bruce Power continues to press on with the Environmental Assessment it began last November. The nuclear Sword of Damocles continues to damage our local economy by scaring away potential new residents and driving away long time citizens.

Surveys taken by MPP Toby Barrett over a three year period indicate that 76% of H-N residents are opposed to a new nuclear plant. New residents echo the same sentiment over and over; if they’d been aware that a nuclear plant was being proposed 6 km from downtown Port Dover, they would have bought their retirement homes elsewhere. Instead of helping our local economy with future jobs, jobs, jobs, the threat of a nuclear plant is stifling growth and curtailing employment for our existing local tradesmen and businesses.

Both Bruce Power and Premier McGuinty have assured us that they will not pursue nuclear development in anything but a “willing host community”. We can permanently remove the growth-inhibiting threat of a nuclear plant by urging our municipality, through resolutions by Norfolk and Haldimand County Councils declaring that we are not a willing host.

Haldimand and Norfolk residents can contact their democratic representatives on county councils and tell them to remove this threat that is already damaging our local economy. The hollow promise of future jobs relies on nuclear investors being hoodwinked into investing here when they are dropping the nuclear hot potato everywhere else. If it won’t happen, let’s make it clear to real investors that were driving unprecedented growth in Port Dover before the spectre of a nuclear plant loomed on the horizon.