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Krystyn Tully


How Nuclear Plants Really Affect You

Posted: 12/03/2012 12:37 pm

Two hundred people gather at Hope Fellowship Church in Southern Ontario Monday to discuss how to rebuild Lake Ontario's largest nuclear power plant. The team at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper have compiled this list of all the things you need to know about the Darlington nuclear refurbishment:

1. Federal regulators are reviewing how the nuclear plant will be rebuilt, but no regulator has ever reviewed if Darlington should be rebuilt.
The licencing hearing puts the proverbial cart before the horse. It's not clear that Ontario should include nuclear power in its future energy strategy. Energy demand is plummeting in Ontario, reports the National Post. There are more affordable, flexible alternatives to nuclear power, energy experts tell the Toronto Star. Energy imports could eliminate Ontario's reliance on nuclear energy, Conservative Opposition Leader Tim Hudak told Windsor-area residents just last week.

"There is no evidence that refurbishing Darlington nuclear is the right choice for Ontario," says Waterkeeper Mark Mattson. "Unfortunately, no one is willing to talk about whether Ontarians really need this project. So on Monday, it is Waterkeeper's job to show up and remind people that the Darlington nuclear plant kills fish. It wastes water. And it doesn't have to be this way."

2. Rebuilding Darlington costs money. Between $6- and $10-billion.
The Ontario Minister of Energy estimates the cost to refurbish the Darlington nuclear plant will cost between $6-10 billion. There is no plan to deal with cost overruns, because OPG is "confident" they will not occur. Financial services company Standard and Poor disagrees. S&P revised its outlook on OPG to "negative" this week, citing amongst other factors the risk of cost overruns at Darlington.

3. Darlington nuclear power plant kills fish. Lots of them.
Internationally-recognized authorities on nuclear power plants agree that the out-dated technology included in the rebuild design is the most environmentally destructive technology on the market. Its impacts include:

  • killing endangered fish
  • threatening the reproductive efforts of other vulnerable species
  • killing increasingly large numbers of the forage fish that sustain Lake Ontario's complex food web
  • futher destroying nearshore habitat in an area that's already severely stressed and polluted

4. Darlington nuclear wastes water. Lots of it.
The Darlington nuclear power plant sucks in enormous amounts of water, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. In fact, the plant sucks up enough water to drain an Olympic-sized swimming pool in 15 seconds. The water flows through the plant once and is then dumped, at a higher temperature, back out into Lake Ontario.

5. The federal government agrees that it is possible to save fish and water. They just don't believe it is important enough.
CNSC and Department of Fisheries and Oceans say they agree that using newer, readily-available cooling water technology to "close the loop" of water flowing in and out of the plant would save fish and save water. They just don't think it is important now and, if it ever becomes important in the future, they will "adapt" then.

6. The "hearing" isn't as formal as it sounds.
If you haven't been to a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearing, it sounds like a really big deal. We put on our suits. We sit quietly in our seats. We learn to address the chair and spell our names "for the record." Translators repeat our every word in both official languages, broadcast through wireless ear-pieces. Strip away the physical appearance of the hearing, though, and it's a pretty informal affair. Each presenter only gets to speak for 10 minutes. When you consider that just one organization like Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has 11 months worth of research to cover, prepared by four government-funded independent consultants, it is literally impossible to present even a summary of our most important findings to the Commission. Nothing we say is under oath, and no one who speaks needs to have any training or experience on the topic they cover, so the information the Commission does hear is often littered with spin, platitudes, and political talking points.

7. We can do better!
Decision-making isn't rocket science. The standards for when and how to make decisions are fairly well established. (Hint: Actually making a decision is usually an important first step.) If we take our time, do our research, listen to the public, listen to independent experts, and commit to doing a good job, we can save money, save water, save fish, and save time.

Join the hearing:

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is for a lake that you can swim, drink, and fish. For more than a decade, Waterkeeper has connected and empowered people in order to stop pollution, protect human health, and restore habitat. Learn more at www.waterkeeper.ca.

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  • Con: Its Safety In Question

    With <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/08/entergy-shuts-down-two-nu_n_780290.html" target="_hplink">two reactors shut down</a> in the same day this month, it makes us wonder, will they ever really be safe? Besides just the frightening idea of <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/461738.stm" target="_hplink">human error</a> and the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/business/global/20renuke.html" target="_hplink">failure of aging plants</a>, there’s the prospect of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/opinion/l13nuclear.html" target="_hplink">terrorists exploiting</a> safety loopholes. Pictured are officials inspecting damage from a fire in a Japanese nuclear facility that broke out in 2007.

  • Pro: Its A Carbon Free Energy Source

    <a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1712863_1712864_1712893-2,00.html " target="_hplink">Enough said. </a>

  • Con: Where To Put The Waste?

    According to the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A5408-2005Mar27_2.html" target="_hplink">Washington Post</a>, nobody has quite figured out a place to store nuclear waste yet. Right now it is in “temporary” storage pending a solution. But since the expensive and controversial Nevada storage site Yucca Mountain has been effectively <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/07/AR2009030701666.html" target="_hplink">taken off the table</a>, it looks like that “temporary” storage might be permanent for now. Pictured is waste that was transported across Germany early this month, despite widespread protests, to a new home in Gorleben.

  • Pro: Economically Sound(ish)

    A<a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1712863_1712864_1712893-2,00.html" target="_hplink"> study</a> done in 2008 said that in order for nuclear to be economically viable, the price of oil would have to top $45 a barrel. Right now oil is at twice that price. But is this accurate? Some <a href="http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/22/why-nukes-why-energy-independence/" target="_hplink">point out</a> that nuclear is only viable because it gets a hefty government subsidy, more than fossil fuels. Pictured is the Tennessee Valley Authority plant, which <a href="http://findarticles.com/p/news-articles/chattanooga-times-free-press/mi_8094/is_20101105/tva-plans-spend-160-million/ai_n56215329/" target="_hplink">is spending</a> $160 million on cooling towers to avoid overheating the Tennessee River.

  • Con: An Excuse For A Weapon?

    There’s a reason why the U.S. and other countries <a href="http://public.dawn.com/2010/11/09/iran-nuclear-cooperation-insufficient-iaea-chief.html" target="_hplink">aren’t so hot</a> on Iran or North Korea developing nuclear as an energy source: the process for generating electricity and generating dangerous weapons <a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1712863_1712864_1712893-2,00.html" target="_hplink">starts the same place</a>, with the enrichment of uranium and refinement of plutonium. Is it hypocritical to exploit nuclear but deny other countries the opportunity? Pictured is the controversial Iranian nuclear facility.

  • Pro: It Could Mean Energy Independence

    To the French, nuclear energy has been a <a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/readings/french.html" target="_hplink">no-brainer</a>. That’s because the country doesn’t have adequate coal, oil, or gas reserves for its power needs. So nuclear stepped in to fill the gap. American could use nuclear power similarly, building plants to help wean ourselves <a href="http://reason.com/archives/2008/10/22/nuclear-power-and-energy-indep" target="_hplink">off of foreign oil</a>.

  • Con: Struggling To Recruit An Adequate Workforce

    Nearly a third of the nuclear work force will be eligible for retirement in a year. With the growth of nuclear reactors all but halted in the 90’s, it left a gap in the age of the workforce that, according to <a href="http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1712863_1712864_1712893-2,00.html" target="_hplink">Time</a>, is creating a problem for the industry.