Environmentalists go to court to halt new Ontario nuclear reactors:

Risks to Lake Ontario and surrounding communities unclear after flawed assessment

Feature story - September 29, 2011
Environmental groups have asked a federal court to stop government agencies from approving construction of new nuclear reactors at Darlington until an environmental assessment is fully completed and shows the project won’t negatively impact the environment or human health as required by law.

“The Fukushima nuclear disaster has been a global wake-up call on the risks posed by nuclear power, but here in Canada our authorities have pretended these risks don’t exist. In light of Fukushima, Canadian environmental protection laws must be respected before the next Ontario government can proceed with new reactors," said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace.

Lawyers with Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), on behalf of Greenpeace Canada, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, CELA, and Northwatch, filed an application for judicial review with the Federal Court of Canada. The application states that the federal environmental assessment (EA) of the new reactors is flawed for several reasons, including failure to:

  • examine a specific reactor or cooling water technology;
  • consider the long-term environmental effects of radioactive waste; and
  • look at alternatives to the project, such as green energy.

“The application alleges that the federal panel responsible for the assessment failed to gather the evidence required to evaluate the project’s need, alternatives, and likely environmental effects, contrary to the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act,” said CELA lawyer Richard Lindgren.

Following direction from the Ontario government in 2006, OPG submitted a proposal to build up to four new reactors at its Darlington site in Clarington, Ont. The Joint Review Panel issued its report on the proposal last month, saying no significant adverse environmental effects were likely. However, the panel did find numerous gaps in information and analysis that needed to be assessed before the project can advance.

“No shovel should enter the ground until every gap is filled and every step is taken to ensure the health and safety of Ontarians,” said John Swaigen, staff lawyer for Ecojustice. “This is the first time a new nuclear reactor in Canada has been subject to modern environmental assessment laws and we want to ensure they do it right."

“Lake Ontario is too precious to justify such an inadequate environmental review,” said Mark Mattson, President of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. “Nine million people rely on the lake for their drinking water. Billions of fish, eggs, and larvae call its waters home. We feel a sense duty to protect them and a judicial review is an essential part of that protection.”

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