Sierra Club Ontario and New York Say No to Darlington Refurbishment and New Build

Proposal may violate Canada–U.S. Air Quality Agreement

December 3, 2012
For Immediate Release

(Courtice, Ontario and Cheektowaga, New York) - A proposal to refurbish Ontario’s Darlington Nuclear Generating Station (DNGS) may be in violation of Canada’s transboundary treaty obligations. The Sierra Club has told the Environmental Assessment Panel considering Ontario Power Generation’s proposed New Build and Refurbishment and Continued Operation of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station (DNGS) that the proposals may violate the 1991 Canada–U.S. Air Quality Agreement.  

“Consequently, we petition the Canadian government to conduct an independent assessment of the proposed projects that would consider the likely adverse transboundary impacts within 100 km of the site before the CNSC takes any decision,” wrote Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Energy Committee Chair Robert Ciesielski in a letter from the Sierra Club Atlantic (New York) Chapter filed with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

“Not only did OPG fail to consider these likely impacts but the CNSC failed to direct an assessment of them, contrary to international obligations,” stated Mr. Ciesielski.

Under Article V of the 1991 Canada–U.S. Air Quality Agreement, the parties agree to undertake environmental impact assessment concerning proposals that could cause significant transboundary air pollution. Since 1994, the parties have been notifying each other of pollution sources within 100 kilometers (km) or 62 miles of the border. New York State is within 60 km of the site. The current scope of OPG’s regional study areas only extends 1 km into Lake Ontario, which is unacceptable.
Sierra Club Canada, Ontario Chapter volunteer Benny Cheng ‘s testimony to CNSC noted Darlington’s CANDU reactors continually emit cancer causing radioactive tritium at levels that significantly exceed standards accepted in other jurisdictions. The concern for leaks is made worse since the assessment also failed to consider the issue of compromised concrete as a result of alkali-silica reactions in aging nuclear containment structures. U.S. regulators demand refurbishment projects address the rate of concrete degradation, causing stress, cracking and larger fissures.  

Mr. Cheng said, “The cracking of aging concrete containing the old reactors is evidently not a cause for concern for OPG or CNSC since it was never mentioned, let alone assessed, in the extensive thousand page report.”

Sierra Club is calling for a full and independent environmental assessment of these issues and that the International Joint Commission (IJC) for the Great Lakes compile a public inventory of proposed licensing applications for new and extended nuclear facilities. This list of licensing applications should be maintained and updated on a public registry, to enable meaningful cumulative impact and risk assessment. Sierra Club advocates for a renewable and sustainable energy future for both Canada and the United States.

“Nuclear power plants such as Darlington are expensive and dangerous mistakes of our past that we should prevent from being part of our future”, says Dan McDermott, Director, Sierra Club Ontario.

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