Bruce Power looks to include MCR project in 10-year licence renewal

Public hearings for operating licence held in Kincardine
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News

 

By Barb McKay

 

Input from local Indigenous communities was central to Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings held in Kincardine last week to consider Bruce Power’s 10-year operating licence renewal application.

 

Hearings were originally supposed to be held Monday and Tuesday at the Marriott hotel, but were extended to four days because of the high number of interveners who wanted to participate. Over the four days, a tribunal led by CNSC president Dr. Michael Binder heard from 58 individuals, businesses, municipalities, organizations and Indigenous community representatives, the majority of whom expressed support for Bruce Power’s application. The CNSC also received 150 written submissions.

 

This was the second round of hearing for Bruce Power’s licence renewal. Hearings were previously held in Ottawa in March.

 

Bruce Power’s current licence is set to expire on May 31, 2020, but does not authorize Bruce Power to carry out life extension activities. Bruce Power has requested in its 10-year renewal application to authorization to include life extension projects and the Major Component Replacement (MCR) project.

 

Over the course of the hearing commentary from interveners and questions from the tribunal focused on Bruce Power’s safety record, community engagement, environmental protection practices and consultation with Indigenous groups. CNSC staff, which regularly monitors Bruce Power’s operations, submitted a report indicating that the company meets all regulatory requirements, radiation doses are well below regulatory limits and safety enhancements and improvements continue to be made.

 

In its report, CNSC staff recommended the 10-year licence be granted on the basis of Bruce Power’s safety performance, continuous monitoring and safety reviews, regular reporting the CNSC on the status of its nuclear reactors and international practice for nuclear power plant licence renewals.

 

Bruce Power had plenty of supporters of its application present at the hearings. Representatives from municipalities throughout Bruce, Grey and Huron counties reiterated their approval in both oral and written statements. Mayor Anne Eadie spoke on behalf of the Municipality of Kincardine and said the municipality and Bruce Power work closely together on emergency preparedness, economic development and community outreach.

 

“The municipality has a very open and regular communication link with Bruce Power on a range of issues and is well informed on a number of issues relevant to this licence application,” Eadie said in her submission. “Bruce Power provides effective, transparent communications not only with the municipality but residents throughout the region.”

 

Several not-for-profit organizations in Kincardine and surrounding communities commented on Bruce Power’s support for programs and services through corporate sponsorships and donations. Local environmental groups also expressed support.

 

“Our organization has been fortunate to have developed an excellent working relationship with Bruce Power,” the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation said in a written statement. “Bruce Power has shown great interest in the work of the LHCCC and has been a major supporter of several of our initiatives…We at the LHCCC are impressed with Bruce Power’s commitment to safety, community improvement, transparent communication, and the environment. We value the contributions Bruce Power makes to grassroots environmental initiatives that our organization, and many other organizations like ours are working on, to make long-lasting improvements to the coast of Lake Huron.”

 

“With climate change representing a major threat to the Great Lakes – warming waters drive changes to aquatic ecosystems such as proliferating algal blooms; changes to the food web that supports fish populations; economic hardship for citizens and important sectors of the economy due to low lake levels and evaporative losses – industries, such as Bruce Power, that help mitigate the effects of climate change are critical to our future,” Georgian Bay Forever said in a written submission.

 

Other groups, including Greenpeace, Nuclear Waste Watch and Canadian Environmental Law Association, were opposed to Bruce Power’s application. The CELA outlined a series of recommendations to the CNSC (39, in fact), including looking into whether Bruce Power’s emergency response plan is sufficient. The response from the tribunal was that the CELA had an opportunity to comment on the nuclear emergency response planning when the province undertook a process to update its nuclear emergency response plan last year.

 

The tribunal heard from representatives from Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), Historic Saugeen Metis (HSM) and Metis Nation of Ontario (MNO) over the course of the week, each of whom presented detailed submissions to the CNSC with issues that had been mitigated, concerns over outstanding issues and recommendations.

 

“SON has long-standing and serious concerns about how the Bruce facility interacts with and adversely impacts its environment,” SON said in its submission. “For decades, SON and its leadership have sought to understand these impacts and find ways of reducing the risks and harms caused to their rights and interests, including to their traditional waters, the source of their proven Aboriginal and treaty right to a commercial fishery.

 

“Bruce Power now seeks authorization to effectively double the lifespan of the facility through a major refurbishment. The Refurbishment Project will extend the duration of impacts for over 50 years, including continued impacts from entrainment and impingement, thermal discharge, ongoing generation of nuclear wastes, and the risk of releases, accidents and malfunctions. And this will occur in a changing environment and already fragile aquatic ecosystem. Yet Bruce Power maintains in its application that it will cause no significant environmental impacts.

 

“SON strongly disagrees. The current application is critically deficient and cannot support any credible conclusion about the current and future environmental impacts caused by the Bruce facility or its refurbishment. The application is based on incomplete and flawed data and analysis. It provides a wholly inadequate assessment of future impacts, failing to even consider the effects of climate change. In the face of this uncertainty, the application offers no analysis and proposal for viable mitigation measures.

 

SON says its long-standing concerns have not been adequately addressed and constitutional obligations owed to SON under the duty to consult have not been fulfilled. The group said Bruce Power’s request for authorization of its refurbishment project “should not be granted until necessary and appropriate accommodation measures to protect SON rights and interests are agreed to and implemented.”

 

Representatives from HSM addressed the tribunal on Thursday and spoke in support of Bruce Power’s application. HSM has been engaged with Bruce Power and CNSC staff on the licence renewal application since 2016, said Chris Hachey on behalf of the group.

 

“The discussions with Bruce Power have been positive to-date,” he said. “HSM looks forward to being consulted and engaged and continuing the good dialogue with Bruce Power.

 

Ross Lamont of HSM said Bruce Power recognizes that support is only good when it is informed support.

 

“We very much value HSM’s input in our continuous process for improvement,” Bruce Power President and CEO Mike Rencheck commented.

 

HSM said its concerns are for the safe operation of Bruce Power’s nuclear generating stations with minimal imprint on the community’s community Aboriginal rights – to harvest the land and in the waters around the Bruce Power site. The group said its goal is to continue with the effective process for communication, exchange of information, meaningful input and consultation through the licence period, as well as continued involvement in monitoring and reporting processes. HSM said it “believes that through these processes that HMS will maintain the necessary confidence to assure its members of the community’s ability to exercise their Metis traditional harvesting activities.”

 

CNSC staff has proposed several actions to collaborate with local Indigenous communities, including developing a study and analysis program to reduce uncertainty around potential environmental impacts, SON participation in environmental monitoring and additional outreach such as sharing CNSC inspection results.

 

Reports and written submissions, as well as archived webcasts of last week’s CNSC hearings, can be viewed at www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca.