"The argument about how Ontario should generate its electricity should be open, wide-ranging and bruising because the province's future hangs on it." -- Murray Campbell, Globe and Mail, September 17, 2005
The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) released its Supply Mix Advice Report on Friday, recommending that the Province of Ontario invest $70-billion in its energy system over the next twenty years (p.50). As predicted, the Report recommends the refurbishment, replacement, or construction of nuclear facilities in Ontario. The recommendation accounts for roughly half the total investment ($30-40 billion).
The Electricity Restructuring Act of 2004 created the OPA to plan and develop Ontario's power system. The Report lays the foundation for the province's new energy strategy, which will be submitted to the Ontario Energy Board in summer 2006.
For weeks, journalists, economists, politicians, and watchdogs have speculated about the Report's content and the implications for power generation in Ontario. Now that the Report is available, speculation can become analysis ? the first step in an informed debate.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper strongly believes that this debate is critical; bad decisions can jeopardize public health, national security, our economy, or our environment. Furthermore, the Report contains a number of eyebrow-raising assumptions that demand scrutiny. For example: Is the CNSC really an effective, open regulator that protects personnel, the public and the environment (p.112-113)? Does natural gas-fired generation really pollute more and cost more than nuclear power (p. 7)? Can the authors really justify the statement that one of the "benefits" of storing nuclear waste in urbanized areas is the ability to witness its impacts on human health (p. 121)?
When first elected, the Premier expressed his commitment to clean energy. Environment Ministers Leona Dombrowsky and Laurel Broton expressed their commitment to clean water. Lake Ontario's nuclear plants have a track record that suggests they will bring us neither.
Unfortunately, the Government of Ontario appears to be backtracking on a previous commitment to hold public hearings on new nuclear plants. OPA conducted stakeholder consultations in camera. Public feedback can be submitted only through the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry over the next two months, coinciding with the holiday season and a national election. The Minister of Energy will solicit no further public input, reported the Toronto Star on Saturday.
It is folly to limit input on a decision this major to public relations campaigns by industry groups, municipal and corporate lobbying efforts, private comments through the EBR Registry, and a handful of op-eds. When a decision is this big, the question should not be "Why hold a public hearing?" The question should be, "Why not?"