Over the course of a few days, city residents in Toronto and Peterborough went in front of BWXT Canada Ltd. representatives and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) staff and Commissioners to present concerns, support and opposition of the 10-year license renewal application for potential uranium pelleting in Peterborough and existing nuclear operations at two sites. This article focuses on the Commission meetings and written submissions in the Holiday Inn in Peterborough on March 5 and 6.
I can understand the intimidation that some people might feel as there was security present at the meetings. However, they were friendly and the lines were short if any. There was a requirement to register in advance to speak for 10 minutes with questions. Most of the time, questions were asked by the Commission members. It appeared, however, there was no requirement for Commissioners to ask questions.
One of the main concerns was that pelleting and nuclear activity, not just uranium, is too close to the Prince of Wales School, liability insurance, and that the health effects on kids were not tested. Jennifer Logan had a presentation called “36 Steps” which showcased how close the BWXT site was to the Prince of Wales school. Logan also asked who is liable if something were to go wrong and was affecting the area off-site. Logan recommended that the source of beryllium be found and independently monitored. Kathryn Campbell shared that there were 1187 properties including seven elementary schools, two high schools, and seven retirement homes within two kilometres of the BWXT site. In addition to this, there was concern over BWXT having an information BBQ on contaminated land.
Natalie Cutler, BWXT Director of Communications & Government Relations, talked about the BWXT consultation process in response to a Commissioner’s question. She said that there would be an external chair in Peterborough, which was not the case in Toronto, and there was a priority for meeting with people closer to the site for consultation. BWXT Canada President John Macquarrie said that it is important to have opposition on a community liaison committee, and that it is not helpful to have people who are all positive on the committee. Doug Chambers, a BWXT employee, said that the numbers used to measure safety came from industrial experience using statistics. Haidy Tadros, CNSC staff, said that there would be no added safety by splitting the licenses for the facilities in Peterborough and Toronto, and that efficiency was gained.
I heard discussion of Indigenous groups not being consulted. In a written submission, Curve Lake First Nation wanted to talk about the consultation process and the constitutional rights of the Michi Saagiig. I was unable to hear this presentation, but I did hear from CNSC staff that it was up to interested parties to share their concerns and that the duty to consult under section 35 of the Canadian Constitution was fulfilled. The argument that the CNSC made was that rights were not impacted.
There is mistrust of industry and anger from historical pollution on the site on Monaghan Road and mistreatment of workers, I heard from a widow of a General Electric employee. There was a fear that the CNSC would approve the license without taking safety into account.
Corinne Mintz said that “[The Commissioners] keep thinking we don’t understand science. We understand science.”
I talked with members of Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbours (CARN) Peterborough and Dan Rudka, who was exposed to uranium and suffered negative health impacts.
Rudka shared a letter submitted to CNSC. Rudka was concerned about worker safety and that older equipment would be used. He had a bad experience with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) in 2007 despite proving he had been exposed to uranium. Rudka required a double lung transplant due to exposure, and disputed claims of zero deaths from nuclear exposure. He expressed that there is a double standard as there would never be consideration to place a plant in Port Hope. In addition, Rudka was worried about political and industry pressure. Rudka was impressed by the education of the presenters, and is hopeful but not positive of the outcome.
The Commission’s decision is not expected to be known in the immediate future, and there are other issues that were not covered in this article. For more information, the archive of the hearings is posted on the CNSC website. Written submissions are posted as well.