Last week I attended the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) public hearings into Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposal to refurbish the Darlington nuclear power plant. I was there to tell the CNSC why I am opposed to this plan.

True sustainable energy comes from alternatives other than nuclear. Ultimately, I believe we should halt OPG’s proposed reconstruction plan. In reviewing the environmental assessment, I am both disappointed and concerned about the lack of transparency on some very important points mentioned (including some not mentioned at all), such as the design flaws with the Darlington reactors, lack of emergency procedures in the event of a large scale accident and most importantly, I found it quite concerning that the impacts to our lake is not taken more seriously.

It was my first time attending a public hearing so the whole experience was an eye-opener for me. The setting and tone were quite reminiscent of a court room. The hearings were heavily guarded by police and body guards, mandated to search all bags and scan each individual with a metal detector.

I attended the first three days of the hearings, and presented on the third. I was both pumped and nervous. I went over my presentation silently in my head as I sat there waiting for my turn. After the first three or four presentations, I was called to present. I approached the intervenor’s table, doing my best not to get too distracted by the glaring spotlight in my face, the videographer to my left and what felt like a thousand eyes staring back at me. I was pleasantly surprised by how calmly I spoke (in light of the fact that my heart was beating out of my chest) and then before I knew it, I completed my presentation. Done - just like that.

It was all somewhat anti-climatic that after all my time and effort invested in preparing my presentation, it all amounted to this “10-min window”. It makes me wonder just how seriously the public’s concerns are taken into consideration during these hearings, or whether the objective of the hearings is to ultimately protect the nuclear industry. There were canned responses to the concerns brought to light about tritium in our water and environment, radioactive waste management, pollution in our lakes, health risks, financial and safety concerns, flaws in the design of the power plant, lack of transparency, etc. But clearly, in looking at the list of presenters, one thing cannot be more obvious: an outstanding three-quarters of the intervenors were opposed to the Darlington reconstruction plan.

Now that the hearings are over it does not mean that our work as concerned citizens is complete. I will continue to spread the word and assist in bringing awareness to this important cause by keeping in the loop with news on the Stop Darlington Facebook Page and continue to write to my MP. I have since sent my request to steer away from the Darlington refurbishment to our Minister of Energy Chris Bently. 

One evident take-away for me from this experience is that regardless of how intimidating and iron-clad any authoritative group presents themselves to be, we can take comfort in knowing that that the power of many voices can make a ripple effect that even Government cannot silence.

Rhea Baluyut is a volunteer with Greenpeace Canada