On April 6, 2011 I gave a presentation to the Panel at the Darlington hearings in Courtice Ontario. I had been contacted in February by a group of concerned citizens that had heard about CARGOS. They wanted me to speak about our experience in Owen Sound and so I agreed to prepare a statement.
When I sent in the first copy of my oral presentation the Standing Committee had not met in Ottawa. The Canadian Environmental Law Association and the Sierra Club had not filed a law suit against Bruce Power. Duncan Hawthorne had not announced that the shipment of the steam generators would be put on hold until further discussions were held with First Nations and other groups.
I decided to revise my submission a week before I went to Courtice, so the documents that are online are not the same as what I have written here and what I ultimately said at Darlington.
“Ladies and Gentlemen
Members of the Panel
My name is Sharen Skelly. I am a resident of Owen Sound and Spokesperson for CARGOS (Citizens Against Radioactive Generators in Owen Sound) Today I am not here representing CARGOS. I’m speaking on my own behalf.
I am here to say that I am not in favour of the expansion of this generating station.
Since I sent in my initial submission things have changed in Owen Sound and at Bruce Power. There have been Standing Hearings at the House of Commons and a law suit has been announced.
I am not a nuclear scientist. I am a retired registered nurse. But foremost I am a concerned citizen who became an environmental activist out of necessity.
I have learned that when citizens ask well informed questions they are considered a threat. We’ve been called fearmongerers and quacks. Those are direct quotes from the Bruce Power media machine.
In 2009 I sold my home in Sauble Beach and moved to Owen Sound. I’d had enough with wells and septic systems. I wanted to turn on the tap and expect clean water. Then one day I heard through the media that Bruce Power was planning to ship 16 decommissioned nuclear steam generators to Owen Sound harbour, through the Great Lakes and then on to Sweden for recycling then shipping more nuclear garbage back to Bruce Power to be stored.
I thought, that doesn’t sound good. The city won’t be onside with this. But I was wrong.
I started asking questions as did a few others in the community. Had there been community consultation about this plan? What was City Council’s stand on the issue? What had City Council done to stop it?
Here are the answers to the questions. There had been NO community consultation at all. We simply heard about it in the media and in the City Council minutes online. It was by chance.
City Council’s stand on the issue was complacency. They stood by the information that Bruce Power, Dr. Hazel Lynn the Medical Office of Health and the CNSC had given them. According to Council, this precedent setting project is perfectly safe.
I started the citizen’s group called CARGOS. We met, started petitions, asked questions, liaised with other environmental groups, challenged Bruce Power and pressed for public hearings. As a result of that I was deserving of a visit by the OPP provincial liaison team. They thought I should know all about peaceful protest. Funny….I hadn’t even considered a protest until their visit! But I was reassured that I am not on a “no fly list”.
We decided we would try to get the shipment stalled by getting City Council to refuse Bruce Power a heavy load permit. We asked Council to deny this permit. Ultimately Bruce Power’s lawyer informed City Council that they never needed that permit. Council was also informed that any city challenges would be appealed and that the City did not have enough money for an expensive legal battle.
Public hearings were held in Ottawa at the CNSC. I heard a lot of “misinformation” as Bruce Power calls it. The OPP officers from the provincial liaison team were there.
Then the Federal Government called for Standing House Committee on Natural Resources hearings. These looked at the issue of transportation of nuclear garbage. I asked for a place on the agenda but was refused. The only local Grey/Bruce voices they heard were in favour of Bruce Power’s project. Democracy in action!
The Sierra Club and the Canadian Environmental Law Association have launched a lawsuit against Bruce Power claiming that Bruce Power should have done an Environmental Assessment as they are obligated to do.
Bruce Power now says they want to do more consultation with the public…especially First Nations groups before going ahead.
I believe that the expansion at Darlington should not take place for these reasons. Nuclear power creates nuclear garbage and this garbage is dangerous. It has to be disposed of but no one wants it. The facilities that generate the garbage don’t even want it. They say it’s too expensive to store yet they either 1) bully communities where they want this waste stored and shipped to, or 2) entice communities in financial crises with incentives to take the garbage. This is very appealing for their survival.
Communities where these generating stations are located are generally in favour of nuclear power. The jobs at these plants are well-paying and the generating stations are generous corporate citizens for a good reason. When you want to get rid of this garbage or when your workers are at risk due to a “leak” or an “accident” you want to be in good standing. It just makes good business sense. They cannot be trusted to make good decisions on the residents’ behalf. Case in point Bruce Power and the steam generator fiasco.
Nuclear energy facilities and their waste management and expansion and reporting of accidents are far too complicated issues for municipal governments to handle. Owen Sound City Council is in favour of Bruce Power’s project. The Mayor sees no problem with the proposal. The Council is going to tour the generating station at Bruce Power’s invitation. Meanwhile Mayors of other Great Lake cities, the Province of Quebec, cities in the US, the First Nations communities, environmental groups…and the list goes on, are not in favour of the project. There was no consultation with the residents of Owen Sound. And if there had been the results could be that they are in favour of the project, but look at the demographics. Bruce Power is a major employer and stimulates the economy of the area. That and the charitable donations alone that Bruce Power makes on a regular basis would influence opinions.
The Medical Office of Health may make recommendations but is not an expert on all things nuclear and in some cases does not cooperate with the public. For example, Andrea Horwath NDP requested copies of the Risk Assessments that Dr. Hazel Lynn had done. This request was done through the Privacy Commissioner. To date I believe that they have not been received. This is not acceptable. I’ve seen what Dr. Lynn sent and they are not risk assessments that she has done or had commissioned to be done.
I recommend that governments both at provincial and federal levels create a citizens panel to make recommendations about the disposal of nuclear garbage. This panel can also be included in discussions about expansion and building any new plants and handling of incidents at these plants. They should not be CEO’s, union members, or employees of the generating stations and not act in simply an advisory capacity.
Enough of the bullying and influence of these giants making important decisions for the public. This is tearing apart communities and causing great harm with no consideration for the health of residents and the environment. The only consideration is the bottom dollar.
There are alternative sources of energy. We don’t need any more nuclear and we certainly don’t need to expand the existing nuclear generating stations.
I also believe that concerned citizens should not be viewed as suspects under the law and as such their privacy should not be violated. Visits by police for being concerned and challenging corporations and government is archaic, undemocratic and a violation of human rights at best.
Thank you for your time.”
Ironically, when I arrived at Courtice 5 police officers greeted me at the venue. 3 were in uniform and 2 were plain clothed. I asked one plain clothed officer if he was from the liaison unit in London (these are the police that handled the G20, events in Caledonia and visited me) and he said he wasn’t but if he was he didn’t have to tell me. He was not pleased with me and I could tell that by the tone in his voice. I told him that he did have to tell me and he responded with “yes I guess I do. You’re right.” and he walked away. Democracy…isn’t it great?