Environmentalists want court to revoke licence for construction of new nuclear reactors in Ontario
Greenpeace Canada and the Canadian Environmental Law Association want to ensure that health and drinking water risks posed by new reactors on the shore of Lake Ontario are known and addressed before any construction or site preparation can begin.
By Kaitlyn Mitchell, Staff Lawyer
This week lawyers from Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), on behalf of Greenpeace Canada and CELA, asked the Federal Court to revoke the licence issued to Ontario Power Generation to begin work to prepare its Darlington site in Clarington, Ont., for the proposed construction of new nuclear reactors.
We want to ensure that Canadian environmental protection laws are upheld so that health and drinking water risks posed by new nuclear reactors on the shore of Lake Ontario are known and addressed.
On Aug. 17, 2012, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission issued Ontario Power Generation a 10-year licence to start preparing the site at Darlington for the construction and operation of two new nuclear reactors. Before issuing this licence, the Commission had a legal duty to ensure that an environmental assessment was conducted in compliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Our position is that the Commission failed to fulfill this duty.
In 2011, Ecojustice lawyers, along with lawyers from the Canadian Environmental Law Association, brought a legal challenge on behalf of Greenpeace Canada, Northwatch, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and the Canadian Environmental Law Association. In that case, which is still ongoing, we are arguing that the environmental assessment on the plan to build new reactors at Darlington suffered from serious flaws.
Even though the legality of the environmental assessment of the project is still an issue before the courts, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission licence allows Ontario Power Generation to prepare the Darlington site. We don’t think that any work should begin until there’s a decision on our first legal challenge. We also believe that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s licensing decision failed to ensure that the project will adequately protect the environment, human health and safety as required by the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and related regulations.
We have asked the Federal Court to declare that the licence is unlawful, and to prohibit Ontario Power Generation from preparing the Darlington site.
Earlier this year, the provincial government allowed Ontario Power Generation to pay SNC-Lavalin and Westinghouse $26 million to prepare cost estimates for building two nuclear reactors at Darlington. These cost estimates are expected in 2013. Ontario suspended its plan for new reactors in 2009 when costs reportedly topped $26 billion.
In light of the significant costs associated with building these reactors, as well as the serious environmental and health risks posed, we believe it’s irresponsible to continue moving forward with the project until its full environmental and economic costs are known.