Romanian reactor loans protested

IPPSO FACTO/February 2002 issue
February 1, 2002

Toronto: Leading energy critic Energy Probe has submitted a formal complaint to the federal government over a $390 million loan by Ottawa’s Export Development Corporation (EDC) to the Cernavoda-2 nuclear reactor project by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited in Romania. The project was begun as far back as 1980 under the dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, and bears earlier criticisms of forced labour, defective materials and give-away financial arrangements. The site was abandoned in 1989 after a national revolt ousted President Ceausescu. AECL is now interested in reviving the project.

Justification for the subsidy comes from an environmental assessment conducted by AECL, which a number of environmental groups condemn in particularly forceful language. Energy Probe calls it full of outrageous shortcomings, including incomplete disclosure, rushed time lines, and a total lack of accountability. Furthermore, “deeply flawed” as Energy Probe calls the EA regarding narrow environmental considerations, regarding economic and broader societal risks the organization calls it completely worthless and an absurdity. Ottawa’s unwillingness to publicly evaluate such non-environmental effects suggests that they are “likely strongly negative,” Energy Probe argues. The EA’s assurances regarding decommissioning are “especially false and misleading,” using a partial decomissioning of a reactor (Gentilly 1) that saw no more than a few hundred hours of full-power use as a reference. That the risks are taken on behalf of taxpayers who cannot pull out of the investment is unacceptable, the group goes on to say. Any review of Cernavoda-2 should be in the hands of an independent panel, it argues.

Sister organization Probe International, which has condemned such other federally-supported projects as the Three Gorges dam in China, concurs. Probe International notes that the EDC is exempted from any obligation to carry out EAs under amendments to the Export Development Act, which became law on December 18, 2001, and even suggests the amendments were made with Cernavoda-2 in mind. “The game is rigged and the public can’t challenge the rules or the results,” Executive Director Pat Adams says.

The Sierra Club of Canada has joined the protest, adding that over sixty NGOs from around the world have called for an open and independent EA.

Interestingly, at the same time in the United States a coalition of advocacy groups is calling on the Senate not to reauthorize the Price-Anderson Act, which limits the financial liability of nuclear plant operators to sums far below current estimates of potential damage from a nuclear accident. The Act, dating from 1957, expires in August of this year unless reauthorized. Its extension for another fifteen years has already been approved by the House of Representatives.


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