Police have removed four Greenpeace activists who were delaying public hearings into four proposed nuclear reactors in Ontario.
The demonstrators had chained themselves to a table on the stage where the panel was to convene Tuesday morning for a second day of hearings.
On Monday, environmental groups had asked for the hearings in Courtice, Ont., to be suspended as the nuclear crisis in Japan is still ongoing, but that request was denied.
Police removed the legs of the table to free the chains and arrested the four activists for trespassing. Five other protesters left voluntarily earlier in the day.
The panel is expected to reconvene at 2 p.m. ET, five hours later than scheduled.
Ontario Power Generation, the government-owned utility that supplies about 70 per cent of Ontario's electricity, is looking to build up to four new reactors to produce about 4,800 megawatts of power at the Darlington plant on the shores of Lake Ontario.
As the hearings were to get under way Tuesday morning, nine members of Greenpeace stood in front of the joint review panel on stage holding banners reading "No nukes are safe. Stop Darlington." Some had tape over their mouths, others chained themselves to the table.
After about a minute, Mr. Graham said that was enough time for photo-ops. When the protesters did not leave, the panel got up and walked off the stage.
"If you're not prepared to move, we'll adjourn the hearings until such time as we can proceed in an orderly manner and a fair manner," Mr. Graham said.
After about 20 more minutes, several people left the meeting room while the Greenpeace members remained.
Greenpeace spokesman Shawn Patrick Stensil said there was nothing stopping the panel from proceeding with the activists silently standing in front of them.
"They're just bearing witness to the fact that these hearings are moving forward while ignoring one of the greatest threats to future generations of Ontarians - that is, a Fukushima-scale accident," he said.
Despite the denial of the request to suspend hearings Monday, the ongoing nuclear crisis in tsunami-ravaged Japan nevertheless weighed heavily at the opening session of the hearings, which kicked off with remarks from OPG on their environmental assessment.
"OPG, like everyone in the global nuclear industry, will incorporate lessons learned from the Japanese experience and make nuclear energy even safer," OPG executive Albert Sweetnam said before speaking about the environmental assessment.
The proposed project would be located near OPG's existing Darlington site, about 70 kilometres east of Toronto.
Ontario depends on nuclear power for half of its electricity. The rest is generated through hydroelectric facilities, coal- and natural-gas-fired plants, as well as renewable power projects such as wind turbines and solar panels.
The government's long-term energy plan calls for $33-billion in investments by the government and the private sector to build the two new reactors and refurbish 10 older units.