If you have something to share with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Committee (CNSC) about the relicensing of the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant, you have a few days left. Requests to participate and related comments are due Monday September 28th, 2015.
To recap, the CNSC is holding a ‘two-day’ hearing to determine whether to refurbish the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. Refurbishing Darlington would allow it to operate for another 40 years. The Day 1 hearing is already over - it was held in Ottawa on August 19th. It consisted of presentations by Ontario Power Generation (OPG owns Darlington) and the CNSC staff* to the commission, along with a question period for the commission.
The Day 2 hearing will take place over a four day period in November (from the 2nd-5th). During the Day 2 hearing the public has an opportunity to put your concerns before the CNSC. You can do this by making an oral presentation in front of the commission, or by providing only a written submission. Either way, you’ll need to submit a request to intervene by September 28th.
If you want to make a written submission, your “request to intervene” will be your written submission. If you want to make an oral presentation, then your request to intervene should include a written outline of the comments you intend to make. Oral presentations are usually limited to 10 minutes, so you may also include additional information in your written submission and save your 10 minutes for the key points.
The Day 2 hearing is your chance to be heard. It is a formal process, but that shouldn’t intimidate you. When you make a ‘request to intervene’, all you’ll be doing is telling the commission what you think about the project, its potential impact on you and your community (good or bad), and offering any advice you may have to help the commissioners make their decision. You don’t need to be an expert, and you don’t need to make complicated legal arguments. In fact, it’s critical that the commission hear from members of the public from a variety of professional or educational backgrounds.
OPG is asking the commission for a 13-year license. This is an unprecedented request. Normally a license would be for 5 years at the most. Relicensing nuclear plants on a regular basis is important, because it is only during relicensing that there is an opportunity for public participation. If OPG receives a 13 year license, the CNSC will not offer the public another consultation opportunity for over a decade. By contributing today, you help remind the commission of importance of public participation. The helps commission the commission see that the public cares and has something unique and relevant to contribute.
If you decide to participate in the process, don’t try and cover every issue. Take a little time to think about your specific interests. What issue can you place before the commission that best reflects your viewpoint? Maybe you have something to say about the length of the licence. Or you are interested in ensuring Lake Ontario is protected? Or you have an interest in how the project will fit into future development in the region?
What’s important is that you familiarize yourself with the facts and explain your views to the commission in your own words. After outlining your main points, be sure to make specific requests about how you’d like to see it addressed. If you make a great point about the project, you should also make it easy for the commission to incorporate your views into its decision.
In Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s submission, we will focus on the impact that Darlington is having on Lake Ontario. We are worried about the toll the Darlington plant takes on the ecosystem and waters that surround it. If you have similar concerns, you can find more information in the submissions we prepared during the Environmental Assessment process.
Regardless of your point of view, what matters is that your voice is heard. Your participation is what motivates the commission members to ask questions and think hard about the project. CNSC staff have already indicated that they support the project. Whether you want to endorse their position or oppose it, the commissioners should hear from you.
*The terminology surrounding this process can be a bit confusing. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Committee (the CNSC) is an administrative agency that is funded by the federal government to regulate the nuclear industry. The CNSC has two arms: ‘the commission’ and ‘the CNSC staff.’ The commission consists of: a president (Michael Binder), six permanent members, and three temporary members. It is the commission that decides whether to renew a license or allow the refurbishment of a nuclear facility. The CNSC staff consists of several hundred inspectors, analysts and bureaucrats who are responsible for ensuring that nuclear facilities like Darlington comply with safety regulations and the terms in the license they are issued by the commission.