Lake Ontario Waterkeeper comments on Draft Scoping Document for Pickering B Refurbishment for Continued Operation Project
The entire submission is available for download here.
Background and Introduction
In June 2006 the Minister of Energy issued a directive to OPG regarding the feasibility of refurbishing reactor units at Pickering B. OPG has now communicated their intent to refurbish Pickering B Units 5, 6, 7, and 8 to extend the operating life of the units to 2060. Pickering nuclear facility is one of the largest nuclear facilities in the world. The Pickering B units were first in service beginning in 1983. Pickering nuclear facility provides 14% of Ontario's electricity supply and Pickering B alone serves about 1 million people. The Pickering B â€œrefurbishmentâ€? is therefore a highly significant project for the future of Ontario's electricity supply.
Without refurbishment, Pickering B would cease to operate in about a decade, signalling a major shift towards other forms of energy and towards the use of other facilities in Ontario. Refurbishment of Pickering B on the other hand, represents a major turning point for Ontario's energy policy. It represents a renewed commitment to nuclear power that will have effects for generations.
LOW recommends that the Draft Scope be amended in the following ways:
1. The EA should be referred to a Review Panel 2. Alternatives to the project and the need for the project should be included 3. Broader spatial and temporal boundaries should be included 4. Cumulative effects of all aspects of the project should be included
A. The project is too significant and too important to be assessed without the oversight of a review panel. B. The failure to include alternatives and need purely on the grounds of jurisdiction is an error of law C. A complete overview of cumulative effects and temporal and spatial effects is necessary to ensure that appropriate mitigation measures are taken.
A. The project is too significant and too important to be assessed without the oversight of a review panel
Pickering B rests on the shores of Lake Ontario. Six million people get their drinking water from Lake Ontario. The stakes involved in the continued operation of the Pickering B facility cannot be overstated.
Extensive operational, safety and technical deficiencies have been identified at the Pickering facility over the last decade. From 1983-1997 several serious accidents occurred at Pickering A culminating in a damning Integrated Independent Performance Assessment and shutdown in 1997. In 2001 a CNSC official told the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources that it was not satisfied with the operation of Ontario's nuclear power plants.
The Senate Committee recommended in 2001 that comprehensive studies be conducted for any future refurbishment and start-up operation at a nuclear power plant. Further, the Senate Committee criticized the CNSC and OPG for being unsupportive of referral to a panel review in the case of the Pickering A refurbishment. In its review of the Pickering A refurbishment and startup, the Senate committee noted several features of the process that were deficient. These deficiencies included narrow scoping, exclusion of nuclear accidents and comment periods of only 30 days.
LOW respectfully submits that the CNSC can do better. The proposed draft scope repeats many of the mistakes of the past and fails to address many of the recommendations of the Senate Committee in 2001.
Consideration by a review panel would go to great lengths to ensure that the scope, content, and completeness of the environmental assessment for the Pickering B project are properly conducted and comprised of the best available evidence. Conducting a panel review would allow interested interveners to conduct their own, fully independent, expert assessments of the serious issues raised by the continued operation of Pickering B.
Section 25 of CEAA permits the CNSC to refer the EA to the Minister for a panel review on the basis of public concern. Public concern is demonstrated by not only the number of people who raise their voices in the assessment process, but by the interests at stake. In making the determination about a review panel, the CNSC has an obligation to be open and transparent about the way in which it exercises its discretion. Merely claiming that the CNSC is not aware of any public concern at this time is an inadequate explanation for why Ontarians deserve less than the best process available under CEAA.
Accidents at Pickering B could affect millions of people. The risk of a serious core accident in a nuclear reactor in Ontario has never been adequately assessed in an environmental assessment. Risk assessments are about more than quantifying the risk of an accident. Such a determination warrants full disclosure to the public, and an opportunity for the public to test evidence to ensure that it is accurate and complete. More than this, an adequate risk assessment requires meaningful and transparent determination of what is acceptable, a task best suited to a level of public involvement that is not possible in a screening report alone.
Assessment of the impacts of nuclear undertakings through an independent panel will improve understanding of the project. Leaving the assessment to officials of CNSC, governments, and nuclear utility companies is wrong.
The most recent experience with an independent panel review of a nuclear undertaking - the so-called "Seaborn Panel" review showed that such panel reviews have the potential to make rather large steps away from nuclear establishment's approach and toward the kind of wisdom that we must develop to deal properly with nuclear materials. A federal review panel would bring the assessment of Pickering B up to the basic provincial standards of assessment for major public projects. Ontarians deserve no less than the best available process.
A review panel for the Pickering B refurbishment is necessary because the level of public concern about nuclear expansion in Ontario warrants one. A review panel for the Pickering B refurbishment is necessary because without it, this major step in creating a nuclear power system that Ontarians will rely on for decades will be pursued without meaningful public participation.
B. The failure to include alternatives and need purely on the grounds of jurisdiction is an error of law
The role that jurisdiction plays in the scoping of CEAA assessments is well settled by the courts. A responsible authority cannot decline to exercise its discretion regarding the scope of an assessment under s.16(1) by claiming that aspects of the assessment would be outside its jurisdiction. Accordingly the Draft Scope, which omits consideration of alternatives and need on this basis, commits a reversible error of law.
The costs of refurbishing Pickering B are too great to consider in isolation from the benefits and accordingly the need for the project must be considered in this assessment. OPG is conducting a feasibility study outside of the EA process. The feasibility study must be made public and integrated into the EA process. Consideration of the interm findings of the Ontario Integrated Power System Plan are fundamental to the cost/benefit analysis undertaken by the CNSC in the CEAA process. Without this information, how can the CNSC determine whether Pickering B refurbishment is â€œjustified in the circumstancesâ€??
The scope of the EA for Pickering B refurbishment must include a complete consideration of alternatives, including decommissioning Pickering B, and alternative short-term and long-term waste disposal options. Pickering B is over two decades old, and there have been numerous reported problems including but not limited to emergency shutdown problems (manual shutdown required) during the 2002 blackout, failed toxicity tests, as well as the managerial and technical problems identified in the 1997 Integrated Independent Performance Assessment.
C. A complete overview of cumulative effects and temporal and spatial effects is necessary to ensure that appropriate mitigation measures are taken
The operation of Pickering B after its refurbishment presents the potential for many complex environmental impacts. LOW is extremely concerned about the ongoing operation of the reactor and waste sites and the potential for continued pollution of Lake Ontario. LOW respectfully submits that the contamination of Lake Ontario with radioactive substances contributes to the overall degradation of drinking water and fish habitat for millions of people. The Pickering facilities have a long history of discharging toxic substances into Lake Ontario and local groundwater, particularly tritium, which as been found in the drinking water of Burlington and Belleville. Measurements of Tritium along the Lakeshore in front of Pickering have been as much as 40% higher than in the Lake as a whole. The Draft Scope indicates that â€œspecific projects and activitiesâ€? will be identified at some later stage for consideration of cumulative effects. LOW notes that all aspects of the project, including post-refurbishment operation of Pickering B and the risk of serious accidents must be included in the cumulative effects analysis.
Spatial and Temporal Scope
The regional study area proposed in the Draft Scope fails to reflect the actual impact area of the Pickering B refurbishment project. First, although the scope of the assessment claims to include the transportation of waste to the Western Waste Management Facility (â€œWWMFâ€?), transportation corridors to and from WWMF are not included in the study area. Second, the regional study area fails to include areas impacted by drinking water contamination west of the facility. Third, the regional study area clearly fails to reflect the area that would be impacted by a serious accident. The spatial scope of the assessment is far too limited to provide a reasonable assessment of the environmental impacts of the refurbishment of Pickering B.
The temporal scope is limited to the expected operation of the facility and fails to reflect the length of time that the spent fuel rods and low-level refurbishment waste will have to be stored. LOW notes that the Bruce Deep geologic repository environmental assessment is not yet complete and has not been licensed and therefore cannot be taken for granted as being â€œtaken care ofâ€? in the scope of this assessment.
LOW would like to thank the CNSC for the opportunity to comment on the Draft Scope. Without a screening report reflecting the true scope of the project and its cumulative effects, important mitigation measures may fall through the cracks, and important adverse effects on the environment of millions of people may be overlooked. A panel review will ensure that the scope of the review is appropriate and complete and is the best available way to ensure that the shift in Ontario's energy policy implemented by the Pickering B refurbishment is given the thorough and independent analysis that Ontarians deserve.
Accordingly LOW respectfully submits that the Draft Scope be amended in the following ways:
1. The EA should be referred to a review panel 2. Alternatives to the project and the need for the project should be included 3. Broader spatial and temporal boundaries should be included 4. Cumulative effects of all aspects of the project should be included
The entire submission is available for download here.