Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Tories broke the first rule of nuclear safety, regardless of their reports

The nuclear industry, for all the nightmarish reasons you can imagine is the most highly regulated industry in Canada.

According to an acquaintance and 45 year veteran of the industry the first rule is “you listen to the regulator”.
"Everyone knows that you never question the regulations and you never question the regulator. If you are told to stop, you stop. The risks are just too high."
At least that was the case until the Tories decided to override the regulator’s decision last December.

The management of AECL tried an end around through Lunn and instead of backing the regulator, they fired her and restarted the reactor at Chalk River.
The Tories have now politicized the CNSC and undercut the governing authority.

The next revenue driven operator, be it federal, provincial or privately run, now realizes that they can question the regulations and the decisions of the regulator.
The industry, the employees and the reactors are no longer as safe.

Yesterday, the Tories released two reports to try and justify their interference.
Talisman International a seemingly well qualified, DC law firm that specializes in regulatory assistance to the nuclear industry released a report that focused solely on renewal of AECL's license to operate the Chalk River facility in 2005 and 2006 and the extended outage in late 2007.

The report outlines 15 specific recommendations on improved communications, which the the government run AECL and the newly appointed head of the CNSC have fully accepted and outlines the actions that will be taken to address each recommendation.

AECL claimed that the licenses were not clear and did not specify in any detail exactly which Chalk River safety upgrades were to be installed.
Despite the fact that their first assumption should of been all safety upgrades, the government run AECL has, in the end gotten away with ignoring the regulations.

Since the Talisman report only covered the actions of AECL, the Tories apparently decided that further justification of their own role was necessary and a second previously unannounced report, was released.
A group of medical professionals, stated that "the delay in restarting Chalk River crisis left Canada's nuclear medical capability teetering on the brink of disaster.”
Although contradictory to previous reports that there was no widespread panic about the declining number of isotopes, the unnamed (in the Globe article) professionals, who are hopefully not just distributors, have tried to justify the Tories actions.
In a telephone interview our Minister of Health, Tony Clement said of the second report, “All it does is reinforce my conviction that we did the right thing in putting this before Parliament to get the reactor restarted ASAP.
If we had left it in the halls of bureaucracy, we would still be waiting.”
We are talking about the regulation of nuclear energy here, Tony. 

One would think that, as our Minister of Health and someone that went through the SARS outbreak in Ontario, that you would surely understand the importance of safety regulations, protocol and the importance of preserving the sanctity of the position of regulator.

Our government has made the nuclear industry less safe and these reports do not change that fact.

As my acquaintance said the "cat is out of the barn".

References the Globe here and the CNW here.

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