Nuclear relicensing requires more than quick OK from Pickering

Safety at Ontario Power Generation's Pickering nuclear facility is priority one. And even though it's not their facility, keeping the public in the loop in a timely fashion and giving residents ample opportunity to provide input should be near the top of council's list. And while that may not have occurred recently, it would be jumping the gun to assign dark motives.

Still, Pickering council's swift signing off of OPG Pickering's relicensing application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) was not handled correctly.

And the mayor and councillors were rightly called on this at a recent council meeting. Barbara Pulst criticized the "process" by which council made its decision to support the relicensing agreement with OPG in a letter to the CNSC.

"Such an important decision should have been put on the agenda and should have been discussed with prior notice to the councillors and the public," she wrote in a letter to the CNSC. "This was not the case as it was slipped in by Mayor (David) Ryan on Monday, April 22 at the eleventh hour under Other Business."

Factually, this is correct and it's unacceptable. Now Mayor Ryan did note that council was "up against a deadline" to take and submit a position before the April 29 deadline. And, as he said at council, it is perfectly acceptable to bring up a non-agenda item in Other Business, also noting other councillors had the opportunity to red flag this. Finally, council wasn't required to send in its position.

But it did and the mayor and council's show of hands at the last minute did not give the matter the care and attention it warranted.

At the very least, as Ms. Pulst argues, this should have been on the agenda with lots of notice given to the public. After all, we're talking about six aging nuclear reactors in Pickering's backyard.

Durham Nuclear Awareness commissioned a report on the Pickering relicensing and in it, Fairewinds Associates' chief engineer, Arnold Gundersen, asks the CNSC to grant "only a temporary licence while OPG completes the rest of its safety studies for the statutorily required public review by the Commission."

Mr. Gundersen's credentials are impressive and his report cannot be summarily dismissed.

We're not saying OPG Pickering is unsafe and should be closed. Or that the nuclear industry isn't good for Durham Region. It is, and it's important to remember that OPG is one of the biggest employers in Durham and is and has been an excellent community partner in the city and beyond.

But the minute or two Pickering council spent on such a hugely important matter did not give it the time or attention it deserves.

Source: Durham Region