Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2016
By Kelly Lundeen
You have regulatory staff that are aware of increased risks, suppressing other risks, and failing to report them to the public, and failing to put conditions on reactor operators. All of these contributed to Fukushima and we’re seeing it at the CNSC [Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission]. — Shawn-Patrick Stensil
Senior Energy Strategist at Greenpeace Canada, Shawn-Patrick Stensil, was one of five to receive a missive from an anonymous group of whistleblowers people May. The authors of the letter that brought up hazardous procedural and technical matters appear to be insiders at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The letter was also sent to two CNSC commissioners and the president Michael Binder who have not only dismissed it, but publicly mocked its authors and muzzled Stensil.
The letters have been the subject of CNSC meetings. On August 17 the allegations in the letter were repudiated by a CNSC strategic advisor who instead upheld the regulatory enforcement and character of the Commission. Binder belittled the authors’ adeptness and when other staff made disparaging comments toward the authors, he responded, “So if you’re correct, we’re into a conspiracy theory.” At another hearing Binder turned off the microphone when Stensil attempted to address issues raised in the letter. Stensil had been invited to speak by the CNSC, as he has for the last 15 years. The National Observer asked the Commission why he was not allowed to speak; the response was that it didn’t want public input.
Given the gravity of the issues and the public mandate of the CNSC to govern nuclear utilities and preserve public safety, mocking and muzzling unfavorable news are inappropriate and exactly what the authors expected when they wrote, “we are not confident in whistleblower protection.” The letter alleges that a Fukushima-sized disaster could be prevented by following guidelines and completing adequate reviews of reactor licenses. Five case studies were given as evidence that decisions about nuclear plants’ operational fitness were made by the Commission without adequate information. In one case, environmental assessments completed for the Darlington, Ontario nuclear reactor were not released prior to a refurbishment review, because it wasn’t required. In another review of the same reactor, the seismic hazard was underestimated by a factor of two. Unfortunately under CNSC president Binder, appointed by Canada’s former Prime Minister Harper, the direction of the CNSC has been to cut costs and support the industry, leaving the public vulnerable and leaving safety to chance.
—National Observer, Aug. 18 & July 19; Ottawa Citizen, July 18, 2016