Excerpt from a letter sent to Energy Minister John Baird by the Sierra Club of Canada, criticizing as a "whitewash" a much-delayed review of the Pickering A nuclear station.
Dear Minister Baird,
I am writing in response to your announcement on May 30 of a review into the delays and cost overruns in the refurbishment of the aging Pickering A nuclear generating station.
Restart of the problem-plagued nuclear station is now over three years behind schedule, and the forecast cost has escalated to almost $2.5 billion - three times the original estimate.
Pickering has already been rebuilt once at a cost of $1 billion after a disastrous accident in 1983. Now you seem set on forcing Ontario ratepayers to pay a third time for this aged lemon nuclear plant.
It is important to note that the Pickering A nuclear station is the only commercial nuclear plant in Canada without two emergency shutdown systems. No other nuclear plant in the world is surrounded by as large a population - about 2 million people within a 30-kilometre radius. In the event of a catastrophic accident, it would be impossible to implement an effective emergency evacuation and health response.
A meaningful review would consider whether there are more cost-effective alternatives, the risks of restarting the old reactors and the likely performance and remaining life of the reactors after refurbishment. We also believe that your choice of members for the review is unacceptable.
Jake Epp is particularly inappropriate, given his unambiguous support for nuclear power while federal energy minister under Brian Mulroney. (He was also) responsible for a significant increase in federal government subsidies for nuclear energy.
Robin Jeffrey also seems a very poor choice, given the fact that as executive chair of British Energy he was in charge while it experienced its dramatic financial collapse last year. It was under his leadership that Bruce Power decided to refurbish and restart reactors 3 and 4 of the Bruce A nuclear station, shut down in 1998.
It is reprehensible that you have sheltered the Pickering A refurbishment from political accountability, with an interim report in the fall and the final report scheduled for December 2003. This was undoubtedly designed to allow your government to avoid taking a position prior to an expected fall election.
In the meantime, you will allow Ontario Power Generation to continue to spend millions of ratepayer dollars and commit taxpayer obligations on Pickering A. Ontario electricity policy needs less unreliable nuclear power and more efficiency and renewables.
David H. Martin
Policy Adviser, Sierra Club of Canada