OPG explains its consultation program at DGR hearing
By Liz Dadson
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Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has explained its communication and consultation program which has been ongoing for more than 10 years for the proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for low- and intermediate- level nuclear waste at the Bruce Nuclear site in the Municipality of Kincardine.
Saturday afternoon, before the Joint Review Panel hearing at the Kincardine Legion, Kevin Powers, director of corporate relations and communications at OPG, said the company has undertaken an extensive communications and consultation program over the past decade.
Calling it a unique program, Powers said the goal was to seek and receive input for the project; provide up-to-date information to the affected communities and interested parties; provide a broad range of engagement and consultation; and respond to, and address, concerns.
"We have responded to concerns about the project in a timely manner, particularly in the host community," he said. "And we will continue to do that through the life of the project."
He said the public engagement consisted of open houses, speaking engagements, site tours, a storefront office in Kincardine, newspaper advertising, council briefings, stakeholder letters, community associations, project newsletters, government briefings, and mobile exhibit visits.OPG also conducted regular media briefings, said Powers.
A poll was done in 2005 to gauge the support in Kincardine for the project. Powers said 71 per cent of the households responded, and of those, 60 per cent said yes, while 22 per cent said no, giving OPG and the Municipality of Kincardine the mandate to proceed with the DGR project.
"Since 2002, we have been a fixture in and around Kincardine," said Powers. "We have conducted 800 outreach activities and held 23,000 face-to-face interviews with members of the community."
A total of 44 open houses was held, as well as 120 municipal briefings, 25 MP and MPP briefings, 37 provincial and federal government briefings, 30 beach association briefings, 120 speaking engagements, 204 mobile exhibit events, 16 NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) briefings, 25 medical officer of health briefings, 76 nuclear industry briefings, 19 youth activities, 42 media briefings, and 23 briefings to Michigan groups.
Powers said OPG realized that seasonal residents could be "unplugged" from outside distractions, such as television, radio and newspapers, so it reached out to the beach associations and has been in contact with many of them through the summer months since 2004.
OPG has sent out 37 issues of the DGR newsletter, since 2002, and it is currently distributed to 35,000 mailboxes. Keeping You Informed booklets have bee mailed to the local study area since 2004; in addition, to the residents in four neighbouring communities since 2005; and at community outreach events from 2006-11.
"We have met with special interest groups, the chambers of commerce in Kincardine, Mildmay, Walkerton, Saugeen Shores, Wiarton and Sauble Beach which represent hundreds of businesses," said Powers. "We have also visited public schools and high schools."
He said other written publications, including annual reports, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), a document on "Protecting Lake Huron", plus videos and a DGR website have all been available to the public.
A 2009 community leadership survey showed high visibility of the DGR in Kincardine and Saugeen Shores, said Powers. With less visibility in the regional study area, OPG increased its outreach to that area from 2010 and onwards. He said there is a broad awareness of the project across Bruce County.
Powers said the concerns heard by OPG were the proximity of the DGR to Lake Huron, protection of groundwater, and the plan to bury used nuclear fuel in this DGR.
He said the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO)'s Adaptive Phased Management process for used nuclear fuel in Bruce County has elevated community discussion and concerns about OPG's proposed DGR.
In response, OPG distributed a brochure and put the information on its website, explaining the difference between the two proposed DGR projects.
"We are confident that OPG's DGR project remains supportive in this community," said Powers. "The Bruce site is a suitable and secure location; it is responsible action for a long-term path forward; and there is confidence in OPG as a nuclear operator."
He said OPG is committed to continued ongoing, meaningful engagement and dialogue with the public during the site preparation and construction, and operation phases of the DGR for low- and intermediate nuclear waste.
Dr. Patsy Thompson of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) added that the communications and consultation program, undertaken by OPG, meets the requirements of the EIS.
"CNSC staff agreed that OPG's approach was sufficiently broad to reach the target audience," she said.
Panel member Dr. Gunter Muecke asked how OPG would include a broader representation of stakeholders in future community engagement.
Powers said OPG has community advisory councils at its Darlington and Pickering generation stations which could be a model used at the Bruce station as well.
Jill Taylor, president of Save our Saugeen Shores (SOS), asked if OPG would repeat the public attitude survey after the EIS results have been made public.
Powers said there will be ongoing public attitude research after the licensing phase.
"It should be before licensing, after you find out the real issues," argued Taylor.
"You have received your answer," said Dr. Stella Swanson, panel chairperson. "OPG will not be doing a new survey until after the licensing phase."
Taylor questioned Powers' assertion that there were 23,000 face-to-face interviews, and asked when OPG first addressed the SOS group which was just formed last year.
Powers said OPG's initial contact with SOS was Jan. 13, 2013.
When asked again about the community advisory councils at Darlington and Pickering, Powers said they are very effective and have a wide range of participation from the community.
Cheryl Grace of SOS began to question whether the information provided by OPG in its communications program included the possibility of highly-radioactive refurbishment waste being stored in this DGR.
"That's a two-way street," interrupted Swanson, "how statements are framed. We have had enough evidence on that."
To read Powers' presentation, click here.
Also speaking Saturday were Ken Robertson on behalf of the Southampton Residents' Association which will be featured in a separate article.
The DGR hearing continues Monday (Oct. 7) at The Plex in Port Elgin, with a focus on Aboriginal issues and human health.
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Sunday, October 06, 2013