The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announced today it would delay hearings on the future of the Darlington nuclear station because of the “high number of interventions.”  There’s good reason for the public to be concerned by Darlington.  It’s a risky project that threatens the environment and electricity consumers.   The CNSC, however, doesn’t seem interested in considering Darlington’s risks.  This should concern all of us.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is seeking approval from the CNSC to spend $8 – 14 billion to rebuild and continue operating the four Darlington reactors until 2055.    The environmental hearings now scheduled for early December are to discuss the CNSC’s environmental assessment report.

Greenpeace has participated in this environmental review from the start and it’s become apparent that the CNSC is treating public consultation as a mere ‘check box’ on their to-do list.

Take the hearings next month.  While the CNSC will try to portray itself as responsive to public concern by delaying the hearings, it has in fact significantly limited the time the public has to present to the Commission.

In what I believe to be an unprecedented move, the CNSC has bundled three issues into one hearing: the relicensing of the Darlington station, the relicensing of its radioactive waste site and the environmental assessment report.

Traditionally there would be separate hearings held for each of these issues.  At each hearing a member of the public would have 10 minutes to present on that issue.   This time, however, an intervenor will only have 10 minutes to present on all three issues.

That’s ten minutes to voice your concerns regarding an $8 – 14 billion dollar project that comes with the risks of a Fukushima scale accident as well as many other environmental impacts.

But it’s not just the limited time given to public intervenors that is troubling, it’s the fact that CNSC has repeatedly limited the scope of the current review to avoid discussing issues of environmental and public concern.

The CNSC has repeatedly refused to consider the possibility of a large accidental release of radiation from Darlington despite the fact we’re seeing such events about once a decade somewhere in the world.  Empirical evidence doesn’t seem to matter to the CNSC.

Worse still, the CNSC has refused to assess whether current nuclear emergency plans can cope with large accidental radiation releases. 

This is a fair and reasonable request.  The Joint Review Panel that reviewed building new reactors at Darlington last year even recommended such a review take place.    

Darlington is located right next to Toronto.  If large reactor accidents are semi-regular events, government authorities have a responsibility to ensure nuclear emergency plans can adequately protect the citizens of the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

This doesn’t seem to matter to the CNSC, but it should matter to Canadians.  We have no assurance Canadians will be adequately protected or evacuated in the event of such an accident.   This is unacceptable.

It’s troubling the CNSC has so stubbornly limited the public’s ability to understand and comment on the plan to keep Darlington running until 2055.

It’s time we all start telling the federal and Ontario governments the CNSC isn’t doing its job to protect Canadians and the environment.

We don't need just a new hearing, we need a new environmental review.