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.

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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.

Nuclear Option for Nanticoke Moving Full Speed Ahead

Bruce Power is pushing forward with a request for a site preparation license to begin construction of a new nuclear plant with two reactors to be located next door to the existing Nanticoke coal-fired generating station. The application for a license will automatically trigger an Environmental Assessment (EA). Bruce Power is prepared to invest $30 million into the 3-year assessment process.

Haldimand blogger Donna Pitcher has been following the developments with interest and has a good blog post today.

Haldimand Council over the past two years has taken their time as our “elected representatives” to meet with MP Diane Finley and Bruce Power but has denied us the residents our right to have our say! We were told it was premature. Now if I am not mistaken when council is together as a “whole” this is “official” business?

When I was asked about what Haldimand County Council could have done differently, I didn’t have a problem with a list of things they could have done to inform us and then ultimately ask us if we would join them (Council) in announcing that “We are a Willing Host”. I am sure that some of you could come up with more suggestions for council.

Here are a few things that could have been done;

Public Announcements! Every week Haldimand County has an ad in “every” local paper that is paid by our tax dollars!

Public Meetings! Haldimand County has public meetings in chambers on a regular basis in regards to “Development”, it is part of the process, is this not a major development?

Town Hall Meetings; Each council member could have taken the time to have their own town hall meetings, after all some did promise that if they were elected they would do this anyway!

An Insert in Our Tax Bills! This is a very cost effective way to inform the residents. Our tax bills are already sent out on a regular basis. Some of us even get them more often then others! One of these inserts could have been a simple “Ballot type Question“.

Now as we all are aware none of the above has taken place. Why? Well up until this news article came out I would have said that council didn’t want to hear what we had to say, but it seems that it is much deeper than that!

It looks like we have been given a “one way ticket“. All thanks to our duly elected Municipal Council Members!

Haldimand Council has a reputation for not listening to the local residents it purports to represent. Recently, there was a controversy over the sale of Haldimand Hydro without adequate consultation with stakeholders. Indeed, Donna’s blog was created just to address the lack of consultation by her elected representatives.

Norfolk Council has a similar problem and is facing a backlash over a decision to sell a major municipal asset, the Port Dover marina.

Both municipal councils have been courted by Bruce Power and Bruce has lobbied and hosted tours of its Kincardine facility. Negotiations have been obviously proceeding apace behind closed doors while citizens have been silenced.Donna Pitcher points us to a very informative article in the Dunnville Chronicle.

“We’ve always been told by the province that there wouldn’t be a nuclear facility built if a community was not a willing host,” said (Haldimand Councillor Buck) Sloat.

“We feel we are a willing host and the environmental assessment process will prove it one way or another,” he The county will have an opportunity for giving input but will have no decision making role.”

Huh? He feels we are a willing host? As Donna pointed out above, there are many ways our municipal councils could have attempted to determine just how much support the nuclear option enjoys. After doing no consultation whatsoever, we have our elected representatives determining the future of our region based on how they feel about it.

It’s not like residents opposed to the nuclear plant have not attempted to make their concerns heard. Cayuga resident Janet Fraser made three formal applications to appear before Haldimand Council to talk about the drawbacks of nuclear development. at eachj juncture, Janet was denied her application to make a citizen’s delegation to council. Finally, she was informed that her request was “premature.”

The big fiction here is that we citizens will get our say during the EA. Too late. If Bruce has decided it’s worth spending $30 million and applying for a license, the snowball is already rolling downhill. Local residents were denied a voice in the decision, so far. Local councils have ridden roughshod over the democratic process and had no mandate to endorse nuclear investment in Nanticoke without first determining that there is a “willing host” community.

Along with Janet Fraser and a few other concerned Haldimand and Norfolk county residents, I have been involved with a grassroots group called Grand Erie Energy Quest. We have a website where we’ve posted literally hundreds of articles and links on matters concerning nuclear development. We have an email mailing list and we’ve been keeping ourselves up to date on a wide range of nuclear issues.

Anecdotally, I’ve had conversations with literally dozens of local residents about the possibility of a nuclear plant replacing the coal-fired Nanticoke station. I would peg the anti-nuke side at about 90% of the people I’ve spoken to directly. I’ve actually found it difficult to get anyone to say they are all in favour of the nuke plant. Scientific polling? Not by a long stretch but at least as accurate as Buck Sloat’s gut feeling.