Port Hope's chunk of Lake Ontario is an asset the municipality should both respect and protect, says Lake Ontario Waterkeeper president and environmental lawyer Mark Mattson.
Port Hope's committee members heard Mr. Mattson and his associate, Krystyn Tully, talk candidly Tuesday night about Cameco Corporation's slightly enriched uranium (SEU) project and how the community deserves to be much more involved than it currently is in the decision-making process.
The screening process that is now before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) allows the public to make comments on the project, but through that process, Cameco is not required to answer their questions or adopt their suggestions, Ms. Tully said. She along with Mr. Mattson and Port Hope's Nuclear Environmental Watchdogs, who were also in attendance Tuesday night, want to see the project undergo the careful scrutiny of a panel review process before it is either approved or rejected by the CNSC later this year.
"We believe that this process will unite the community, address concerns, and ensure that a project of this magnitude is undertaken with the utmost respect," Ms. Tully said.
Only the environment minister can order a panel review but the minister can do so at the public or project proponent's request. That has not happened.
The two criteria for a full panel review are environment effects and public concerns, and the SEU project meets both of them, Ms. Tully said.
"Port Hope is named after its waterfront, its heritage is its waterfront - the waterfront that was here long before industry made it one of the most contaminated sites on the Great Lakes," she said.
"Any project that prevents public access to its waterfront has a significant environmental effect. Any project that preserves the status quo in Port Hope has a significant environmental effect."
Public concerns voiced about the project are numerous, and there are also concerns from communities outside of Port Hope.
"Our American neighbours have expressed concerns about the cumulative effects of operating this facility on an international waterbody," Ms. Tully said.
Considering Cameco's proposal is simply a commercial venture that will only benefit the company, Ms. Tully said, "All Waterkeeper requests is that a private corporation with no public interest mandate be required to demonstrate that they are acting in the public interest."
The delegation was referred to Port Hope's peer review team for the Port Hope Area Initiative. This came after Coun. John Morand tried to ask Mr. Mattson a technical question about the process of blending slightly enriched uranium.
Not being a professional in the field, Mr. Mattson said he could not answer Coun. Morand's question.
However, Mr. Mattson said: "I'm not the expert on security. All I know is that you have an area in Port Hope that you don't have access to."