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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