Request to Intervene: Public Hearing on Environmental Assessment Screening Report – Refurbishment and Continued Operation of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station and other matters concerning the OPG’s Darlington nuclear site, CEAA Reference # 62516, Ref. 2012-H-09
Taking place on Nov 13 +14 2012
OPG seeks to reconstruct the four existing nuclear reactors at Darlington and seeks to operate those reactors and the associated electricity-generating turbines until 2055. Currently, the outdated cooling system for Darlington’s turbines kills millions of fish every year and degrades a large area of aquatic habitat. OPG and the Responsible Authorities have recognized these fish kills as one of the most important residual adverse environmental effect of continuing to operate the Darlington reactors. But while OPG will replace almost every important component of the reactors, at a cost of more than $10 billion, the company plans to use the antiquated condenser cooling system that it has in place for another 30 years.
There is no need for Darlington to kill fish; replacing the existing once-through cooling system with a closed-cycle cooling system that saves millions of fish, including endangered and vulnerable species, is affordable and entirely feasible. The Responsible Authorities should require OPG to install a closed-cycle cooling system and to stop killing millions of fish.
In Waterkeeper’s view, the environmental assessment process to date and the actions of the Responsible Authorities have revealed both an unwillingness and a failure to protect Lake Ontario:
- The Responsible Authorities did not conduct even the most perfunctory analysis of the possibility of using a closed-cycle cooling system at Darlington to reduce fish kills, biocide releases, and thermal discharges, even though closed-cycle cooling is widely acknowledged to be the best performing technology for cooling systems, and even though CNSC staff readily admit that closed-cycle cooling would significantly reduce fish mortality and other environmental harm caused by Darlington’s current cooling system.
- The Responsible Authorities wrongly dismissed the existing fish kills at Darlington as insignificant.
- The Responsible Authorities intend to rely on a vague and unrealistic Adaptive Management Plan that cannot provide adequate protection for the environment. Instead of installing cooling towers now, the Adaptive Management Plan will indefinitely defer efforts to reduce fish kills and other adverse environmental impacts until significant mitigation becomes impractical because the reactors will be fully refurbished and in near-constant operation.
- The Responsible Authorities have not adequately assessed how local fish populations and their habitat are affected by the cumulative impact of the existing cooling system, the once-through system proposed (and tentatively approved) for the new reactors at Darlington, and other significant environmental stressors in the region, including significant shoreline hardening, habitat loss, and climate change-induced rises in lake water temperatures.
- These failures of the draft screening report and the underlying materials prepared and submitted by OPG persist despite the efforts of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and other public commenters, including Environment Canada, to bring them to the attention of the Responsible Authorities. The data gaps, missing analyses, and other flaws of the draft screening report deprive the CNSC and DFO of the certainty required to conclude the environmental assessment process. Section 20(1)(c) of the CEAA requires that, where “it is uncertain whether the project, taking into account the implementation of any mitigation measures that the responsible authority considers appropriate, is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects,” the Responsible Authorities cannot approve a screening report and must seek further review of a project. Pursuant to Sections 20, 25, and 28 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), the Responsible Authorities should refer this project to the Minister for review by a panel or, at the very least, for preparation of a comprehensive environmental assessment report.
The CNSC hearing scheduled for November 13 will also address OPG’s request for a nuclear operating license to extend the life of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station from the 2020s until 2055. OPG cannot receive such a license because it has not met the requirements of subsection 24(2) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA) – OPG has not adequately protected the environment at Darlington in the past and has not made adequate provision for future protection of the environment.
For decades, OPG operated its nuclear facility contrary to Canada’s Fisheries Act. Having belatedly recognized the need to comply with the law, OPG now intends to seek a Fisheries Act Authorization for future fish kills. But OPG’s submission of a patently inadequate Environmental Impact Statement that fails to even consider using a closed-cycle cooling system － which is standard practice in the industry and 95% more environmentally protective than the existing once-through cooling water system － shows that OPG still is not prepared to adequately protect the environment. OPG’s request for a nuclear operating license should be denied.
Read our full submission here