Update on the Ontario select committee on Ontario Hydro nuclear affairs

October 21, 1997

Energy Probe, a national environmental and consumer advocacy organization, presented its five recommendations to the Ontario Select Committee on Ontario Hydro Nuclear Affairs yesterday evening. The recommendations are:

1. The eight reactors at Pickering A and Bruce A should be written off and the units permanently closed.

2. The Committee should urge the government to investigate all opportunities for financing future nuclear investments (beginning with Ontario Hydro’s planned ~$1.6 billion for “nuclear recovery”) outside the public purse — e.g. out of the ~$9 billion Ontario Hydro pension fund, or by outside-financed equity transfer to Ontario Hydro’s unions.

3. Ontario Hydro’s financial reporting should be thoroughly revised to accurately report all expenditures and liabilities. In particular:

3a. Ontario Hydro should not be allowed to capitalize any costs related to operating or maintaining its reactors.

3b. Depreciation of nuclear assets and all financial implications related to depreciation period should be based not on 40 years of reactor service life as is currently the case but on 25 years.

3c. Nuclear waste disposal and decommissioning liabilities should be funded in an external account. If Ontario Hydro is unable to produce the money (roughly $2.8 billion) it has collected from customers for the purpose of nuclear waste disposal and decommissioning, the government must produce the money, to avoid burdening future Ontarians with the costs of cleaning up after us.

4. The government of Ontario should break up Ontario Hydro with a view to permitting customers to buy power from producers of their choice and making power producers accountable to customers and investors.

5. The Committee should recommend that the Ontario Government begin a transition to a world of full nuclear accident liability. The Ontario Government should legislate that as of a date certain in the near future (perhaps 2005) no nuclear reactor will be permitted to operate in Ontario unless its owners and operators are liable without limit for the off-site consequences of a reactor accident, and have demonstrated the capability of discharging that liability.

In addition to Energy Probe’s presentation, the Committee heard from former Ontario Hydro Chairman Maurice Strong and Jack Gibbons representing the Clean Air Alliance, a coalition of environmental organizations. A main theme of Mr. Strong’s presentation was that if any safety problems indirectly resulted from any action he took as Chairman, particularly through the voluntary severance program, this would have been contrary to his instructions. On behalf of the Clean Air Alliance, Mr. Gibbons outlined the environmental and human health problems caused by ongoing operation of Ontario Hydro’s coal-fired generating stations and explained the need for tougher regulations of air emissions for Ontario Hydro and potential future electricity suppliers.

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