Nuclear watchdog needs to step up

Norman Rubin
Toronto Star
October 12, 2001

Re Ontario criticized over nuclear disaster plan, Oct. 4.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commissioner Chris Barnes is right to be “incredulous” and “amazed” that Ontario still has no nuclear emergency plan.

But Barnes’ own commission has contributed to this hazardous situation by refusing to insist that Canada’s reactors have emergency plans before the commission grants them a licence to operate.

Obviously, reactors without an adequate emergency plan cannot be considered to be safe to operate — yet the Nuclear Safety Commission continues to certify them as safe, by blithely licensing them to operate.

Moreover, in 1987, an Ontario government working group recommended that Ontario’s Nuclear Emergency Plan should be redesigned to respond to the enormous radiation leak that would result from a sophisticated terrorist “hijacking” of a CANDU nuclear generating station like the one in Pickering, just outside Toronto.

In response, Ontario Hydro aggressively lobbied the Ontario government with all its resources, from the chairman down to junior staff, to defeat that sensible and prudent proposal.

As a result, the emergency plan that Barnes impatiently awaits is grossly inadequate to respond to the threat we now face.

I sincerely hope Barnes can convince his colleagues on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to do something about this deplorable situation, and not just to express amazement at it.

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