Elected officials share insight on hosting nuclear industry in their communities

The mayors of Clarington and Pickering spoke candidly about their experiences working and living with major nuclear facilities in their communities, at a panel discussion at the Community Liaison Committee (CLC) meeting Thursday evening (Nov. 4).

Mayor Adrian Foster (Clarington) and Mayor Dave Ryan (Pickering) answered questions from the CLC and the public, including what they felt were positive, and negative impacts of being nuclear host communities.

Clarington is home to Darlington Nuclear Generation Station, which came into service more than 30 years ago. The Pickering Nuclear Generation Station has been in operation for 50 years and is to be gradually decommissioned.

Ryan noted employment opportunities, revenue generation, and partnerships with the nuclear proponents as some of the key benefits resulting from hosting a nuclear facility. Foster agreed, adding that the growth and economic development impacts have been positive, even extending beyond the nuclear industry.

“There is a great deal of pride (in the community) …that we are part of the solution in fighting climate change,” he explained. As for negative impacts, Ryan remarked that when nuclear incidents occur, such as the Fukushima disaster, his community becomes a “lightening rod” externally, no matter how different the situation.

Similarly, Foster stated that there is a stigma about the industry among a portion of the community, but that this stigma is best met with facts, education, and asking questions. Over time, Foster has felt that ongoing education and giving people a voice to raise their concerns has led to a shift in his community, resulting in broad community support for the industry.

The two mayors also highlighted their experiences working with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). “Exceptionally accommodating, and truly interested in what is going on in the community,” said Foster, commenting that the CNSC staff are attentive, supportive, and have prioritized community engagement.

Ryan agreed, noting that the CNSC has an approach that is serious and professional in the context of tribunals and hearings, while on the other hand being very accessible with CNSC staff quick to respond when he picks up the phone.

Speaking to lessons learned, Ryan – who has been Mayor of Pickering since 2003 – emphasized that clear communication from the municipal government to the public is critical. “Be frank and honest and speak in the language that people can understand and relate to,” he said. South Bruce Mayor Robert Buckle thanked both mayors for sharing their insights.

“We are a proud host community,” concluded Ryan, reiterating his belief that nuclear energy is a key part of the solution to the climate crisis. “We are proud nuclear homes,” Foster said of the two communities which he described as being very similar.

The final CLC meeting of 2021 will be held on December 2, 2021 at 7pm. All are welcome to attend, and those who would like to receive notice of the monthly meetings can do so by joining the mailing list at https://forms.southbruce.ca/Stay-Connected.

South Bruce is one of two remaining communities that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is considering for the site of a deep geological repository for Canada’s used nuclear fuel, a Centre of Expertise and many supporting facilities. The Municipality of South Bruce is working towards an informed decision for the community through the South Bruce Nuclear Exploration Project team, the Community Liaison Committee, and independent reviews to determine if the site is safe for people and the environment, offers positive benefits and if the community is willing to host the site.