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.

Elizabeth May Asks Tough Questions on AECL, NRU, Maples, Chalk River

Green Party leader Elizabeth May posted a blog item yesterday dealing with the recent announcement that Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL) is scrapping the development of the Maple 1 and Maple 2 reactors. The reactors were intended to replace the 50 year old NRU at Chalk River. The NRU was at the centre of last December’s “Isotope Crisis” and reportedly supplies 40% of the world’s supply of medical isotopes used in cancer tests.

Ms. May is asking some tough questions.

For any enterprising journalists who want to build on this mess with some content-rich investigations, here are a few questions that beg for response:

  1. Why was CNSC President Linda Keen fired from her role and yet no one at AECL is apparently facing repercussions for this waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars?
  2. Urgent question to the Government of New Brunswick. Are you sure you want to buy a reactor from AECL that so far is only at the design stage? That’s what the MAPLE reactors were. Reactors on paper. Why would anyone have confidence in AECL? Why go with a nuclear reactor when New Brunswick has so many other options?
  3. What are the contingency plans for the next NRU malfunction/shut-down? A malfunction or shut down is not a hypothetical. It is a certainty. Where will the medical community get its diagnostic radio-nuclides? Chalk River’s NRU reactor makes about 40% of the world’s supply of Molybdenum 99. Isn’t it time to start alerting the producers of the other 60% that they would be well advised to boost production, just in case? Or is government more concerned with the commercial reputation of MDS Nordion and AECL than with the security of supply of Molybdenum 99?

The Chalk River nuclear situation has been mis-handled for decades, but to Gary Lunn and the Harper government go the unique distinction of shooting (and firing) the messenger while rewarding the agency which has so blithely failed to serve the public interest.

The rest of Elizabeth’s blog post is a good read, too. In 2006, the Government of Canada entered into a 40 year contract under which we are obligated to supply medical isotopes to MDS Nordion, a for-profit corporation that markets isotopes to healthcare providers. The NRU is limping along and is 10 years past its “best before” date. The Maples were to have replaced NRU in 2000.

How are we going to honour that 40 year contract with NRU?

Commenter Erich Jacoby-Hawkins adds two interesting points. He notes that it is not only New Brunswick that should be skeptical of AECL but also Ontario, which has earmarked $40 billion for nuclear development. Erich also points out that the NRU needs Highly Enriched Uranium to manufacture its isotopes. This is bomb-grade uranium which must currently be imported from the US under a special export permit.