Letter claims info on nuclear risks withheld from commission

Letter claims info on nuclear risks withheld from commission

Postby Oscar » Mon Jul 18, 2016 9:19 pm

Letter claims info on nuclear risks withheld from safety commissioners

[ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... e30964195/ ]

Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail, July 18, 2016

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is investigating allegations contained in an anonymous letter claiming to be written by specialists at the nuclear regulator that says information has been withheld from commissioners while making critical decisions about the licensing of this country’s nuclear plants.

The letter, which was sent several weeks ago to CNSC president Michael Binder, points to five separate cases in which the commission’s staff sat on relevant material about risk or non-compliance that might have called the safety of a plant into question.

The letter says hazards have been underestimated, plant operators have been permitted to skip requirements of the licensing regime and assessments outlining what could happen in the event of a major-scale nuclear disaster – such as the one that occurred in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 – have been withheld from the commissioners and the public.

Aurèle Gervais, a spokesman for the CNSC, said the commission is aware of the letter and is analyzing the concerns that have been raised. He also said the regulator has many mechanisms for allowing staff to raise issues, and “it is unfortunate” that the anonymous authors of the letter did not take advantage of them.

The letter was also sent to representatives of two environmental groups, as well as to a current and former CNSC commissioner.

Although it is impossible to verify that the letter was written by CNSC specialists, environmentalists who received copies of the document say the level of detail, the manner of speaking and the amount of complexity suggest it was written by someone with inside knowledge. And, they say, the problems are symptomatic of a culture at the commission in which employees are expected to act as boosters of the nuclear industry rather than watchdogs of nuclear safety.

The letter writers, who say they are remaining anonymous because they are not confident of whistle-blower protection, are asking Dr. Binder to assign an independent expert to review the accuracy of their claims. They make eight additional recommendations for improving the licensing regime, many of them relating to specific issues at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station on Lake Ontario, just east of Toronto, and at the Bruce plant on Lake Huron.

“Our primary concern is that CNSC commissioners do not receive sufficient information to make balanced judgments,” the letter says. And “because insufficient information is made available, other branches of government cannot make informed decisions. For example, the government of Ontario cannot make a good decision about financing the refurbishment of Darlington without knowing all the facts.”

Dr. Binder was appointed by the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper after it fired then-CNSC president Linda Keen when she balked at skirting safety rules. Ms. Keen now serves as a corporate director for various organizations and does consulting work.

“We’ve seen the CNSC become a cheerleader for the nuclear industry since the Harper government fired former CNSC president Linda Keen,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a senior energy analyst with Greenpeace Canada who was one of the two environmentalists to receive a copy of the letter. “The Trudeau government needs to restore the independence of Canada’s nuclear regulator,” he said.

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[ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... e30964195/ ]
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Re: Letter claims info on nuclear risks withheld from commis

Postby Oscar » Tue Jul 19, 2016 8:23 pm

CNSC head to meet with officials to tackle allegations in anonymous letter

[ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... e30998523/ ]

Gloria Galloway OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Jul. 19, 2016 7:45PM EDT Last updated Tuesday, Jul. 19, 2016 7:48PM EDT

Natural Resources officials will meet with the head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to discuss allegations that information was withheld from commissioners as they made critical decisions about the licensing of the country’s nuclear plants.

An anonymous letter, purportedly written by specialists at the nuclear regulator, was sent five weeks ago to CNSC president Michael Binder. It points to five separate cases in which the commission’s staff sat on relevant information about risk or non-compliance that might have called the safety of a nuclear plant into question.

“The minister expects the culture at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to be safety-focused and open to employees’ concerns and views on opportunities for improvement,” Laurel Monroe, a spokeswoman for Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The minister’s office will be meeting with Michael Binder in the near future and this will be part of the discussion,” she said.

The CNSC would say only that it is undertaking an analysis of the concerns raised in the letter, “and as such has nothing further to add at this time.”

Ms. Monroe said it is up to the CNSC, as an independent agency that maintains an “arm’s-length” relationship with the government, to conduct that analysis and form a response. But, she said, Mr. Carr expects the commission to keep him informed.

The anonymous letter writers say nuclear hazards have been underestimated, plant operators have been permitted to skip requirements of the licensing regime, and assessments outlining what could happen in the event of a major nuclear disaster – such as the one that occurred in Fukushima, Japan in 2011 – have been withheld from the commissioners and the public.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair wrote to Mr. Carr on Tuesday, after the contents of the letter were reported in The Globe and Mail, to say he considered the allegations alarming.

“Withholding important information about risks to nuclear plants could put the Canadian public and our environment at risk. These allegations must not be ignored,” he wrote.

“Ever since the previous government inappropriately fired Linda Keen, the former president of the CNSC, in an attempt to silence her, Canadians have been concerned that scientists and specialists are not free to give their expert analysis,” Mr. Mulcair wrote. “This whistle-blower letter suggests that these sentiments remain.”

The NDP Leader pointed to a letter written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in early March by representatives of 14 environmental groups that asked the Liberal government for a public review and modernization of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. That letter called the impartiality of the regulator into question, and raised concerns about transparency and reduced public participation in the CNSC’s decision-making.

Mr. Carr responded in June to the environmentalists’ letter by saying it is up to the commission to review its own regulatory framework.

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[ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... e30998523/ ]
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Re: Letter claims info on nuclear risks withheld from commis

Postby Oscar » Wed Aug 03, 2016 9:14 am

Nuclear scientists push for freedom to express views without fear of reprisals

[ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... e31219139/ ]

Gloria Galloway OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail Published Monday, Aug. 01, 2016 4:26PM EDT Last updated Monday, Aug. 01, 2016 11:08PM EDT

Scientists working for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have asked their union to negotiate a policy on scientific integrity that would allow them to express their views about nuclear-safety issues without fear of reprisals from management.

The unionized professional employees at the nuclear regulator and two nuclear research facilities – Chalk River in Ontario and Whiteshell in Manitoba – have been negotiating a new contract for the past three years, a process that was significantly delayed as a result of last year’s federal election.

The labour talks have continued as the two reactors are gradually being decommissioned.

Sources familiar with the bargaining say the CNSC workers decided that, with all of the changes that will be occurring at the two facilities, this is the time they should negotiate for the right to point out potential problems without fear of embarrassing their managers or being told to keep problems under wraps.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union that represents them, says the aim is to secure scientific integrity in the workplace. Allowing more freedom for government scientists to speak to the public and the media has been a central theme of the PIPSC’s negotiations with many government departments.

“When our members fight for scientific integrity to be in the collective agreement, they’re not just fighting for their own right as regulatory scientists, they’re also fighting for the rights of every Canadian to live in safety,” Debi Daviau, president of PIPSC.

“The situation with specialists at the nuclear regulator is a clear case of that,” she said. “After a decade of disregard for the advice of public service professionals, we want to see real change reflected in our collective agreements.”

The effort to free the CNSC’s scientific staff to voice concerns comes as the regulator investigates allegations contained in an anonymous letter, purportedly written by employees at the nuclear regulator, that says information was withheld from commissioners while they were making critical decisions about the licensing of this country’s nuclear plants.

The letter, which was sent several weeks ago to CNSC president Michael Binder, points to five separate cases in which the commission’s staff sat on relevant material about risk or non-compliance that might have called the safety of a plant into question.

Environmental groups have complained for many years that the CNSC acts more as a booster for nuclear energy than as a watchdog for public safety.

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[ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... e31219139/ ]


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Letter claims info on nuclear risks withheld from safety commissioners

[ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... e30964195/ ]

Gloria Galloway OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail Published Monday, Jul. 18, 2016 3:57PM EDT Last updated Monday, Jul. 18, 2016 9:09PM EDT

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is investigating allegations contained in an anonymous letter claiming to be written by specialists at the nuclear regulator that says information has been withheld from commissioners while making critical decisions about the licensing of this country’s nuclear plants.

The letter, which was sent several weeks ago to CNSC president Michael Binder, points to five separate cases in which the commission’s staff sat on relevant material about risk or non-compliance that might have called the safety of a plant into question.

The letter says hazards have been underestimated, plant operators have been permitted to skip requirements of the licensing regime and assessments outlining what could happen in the event of a major-scale nuclear disaster – such as the one that occurred in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 – have been withheld from the commissioners and the public.

MORE:

[ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... e30964195/ ]
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Re: Letter claims info on nuclear risks withheld from commis

Postby Oscar » Fri Aug 19, 2016 2:03 pm

Canadian nuclear boss jokes about whistleblowers and muzzles environmentalist

[ http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/08 ... nmentalist ]

By Mike De Souza in News, Energy | August 18th 2016

Shawn-Patrick Stensil shook his head in disbelief as he walked out of a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission public meeting on Thursday.

The commission invited Stensil to speak about nuclear safety issues, but wouldn't let him comment about a remarkable anonymous letter that raised serious engineering and procedural issues questioning whether the agency was doing a bad job overseeing reactors. The commission's president and chief executive, Michael Binder, led a series of jokes ridiculing the whistleblowers the night before, prompting a public rebuke by the union representing government scientists. Today, Binder cut off Stensil’s microphone.

The commission also declined to review Stensil's 26-page analysis of the safety issues raised in the anonymous letter.

"I've never been shut down before like that by the commission," said Stensil in an interview with National Observer after his brief appearance at the meeting.

Stensil is a senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada, who has researched nuclear safety policy issues for more than a decade and testifies frequently before federal panels about the issue.

The commission is an independent federal regulator that is responsible for overseeing the Canadian nuclear industry. In other words, it is there to ensure that Canada’s nuclear reactors don’t meltdown and cause a full-scale catastrophe.

"I've been intervening before the commission for 15 years," Stensil said. "They didn't want to see any outside opposing views. They didn't want to ask why it happened in the first place and it also shows that the Harper government is still alive and well at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Outside views aren't welcome. Dissenting views aren't welcome. And that's a legacy of Harper that the Trudeau government needs to clean up."

The letter, released by Stensil [ http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/07 ... -fukushima ], a nuclear campaigner from Greenpeace Canada, to media outlets in July, was addressed to Binder, who was appointed by the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper. Stensil had received a copy of the letter, along with other senior officials at the commission in May. It suggested that commission employees were not doing their job properly, withholding critical information from commissioners, prior to decisions on nuclear safety.

The letter also alleged that some nuclear plants were violating safety rules and had licenses that were approved following inadequate reviews by staff, who then withheld information from commissioners prior to decisions. The author or authors said that the commission, as a result, failed to identify safety risks at nuclear plants and impose conditions to reduce the likelihood of serious accidents.

Stensil has compared these types of failings to the errors which led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan that was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, causing serious damage in its wake.

"It's very clear from this letter that people (the authors) have inside information about what's going on at the CNSC," Stensil said. "I've seen some of these issues raised in debates internally that I've gotten through access to information (requests). There's a credibility issue here. And when you start dismissing a dissenter as not having expertise, it really shows why they probably did this in an anonymous fashion."

But when Stensil began addressing the whistleblowers' concerns, Binder told him that the commission had discussed the anonymous letter the night before and proceeded to cut off the environmentalist’s microphone.

- - - SNIP - - -

Scientists' union rebukes nuclear boss, vows to defend public interest

Binder’s behaviour prompted a rebuke from the union that represents the commission's scientists and which has been trying to ensure that its collective agreements with government include protections for scientific integrity to prevent muzzling.

"Our members who are involved in protecting the safety of Canadians do not take their duties or concerns lightly,” said Steve Hindle, vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Binder has chosen to make light of such an important issue. But his reaction will not prevent our members from defending the public interest.”

Earlier this month, PIPSC president, Debi Daviau, issued a statement saying that a number of her members were concerned that the anonymous letter and the dismissal of its concerns were more evidence of muzzling. [ http://www.pipsc.ca/portal/page/portal/ ... s/08052016 ]

Stensil also noted that Jammal has previously had a history of reacting angrily to whistleblowers. Records from a meeting with the union officials in June 2014, show that Jammal asked to have concerns about muzzling added to the agenda in response to PIPSC’s “Big Chill” (October 21, 2013) report which accused the former Harper government of muzzling scientists and making decisions that were putting public health and safety at risk. [ http://www.pipsc.ca/portal/page/portal/ ... e/bigchill ]

The minutes of that meeting, provided to National Observer by Stensil, show that Jammal then asked union officials to publicly contradict the findings from that report which suggested nuclear scientists were being asked to manipulate data or hide safety issues. The union never followed up, Stensil noted.

When asked why Stensil was not allowed to comment, the commission sent National Observer a statement explaining that it didn't want public input.

"The Technical Review Report regarding the anonymous letter was added to the Commission’s meeting agenda on August 3, 2016 as an information item," the commission said in the statement. "This was added in order to allow Members of the Commission to consider the findings of the technical review in its public proceeding. The Commission did not invite or solicit interventions, or input from the public, for this item.

"While there were some unsolicited submissions sent to the Commission in relation to this item, the Commission determined that these submissions would not be admitted into the record for this Commission meeting. The meeting minutes, when available, will reflect any direction from the Commission in regard to this meeting item dealing with the anonymous letter, technical review report or associated documents."
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Re: Letter claims info on nuclear risks withheld from commis

Postby Oscar » Fri Aug 19, 2016 2:05 pm

THE BIG CHILL - Silencing Public Interest Science – A Survey – June 2013

[ http://www.pipsc.ca/portal/page/portal/ ... ief.en.pdf ]

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

Introduction

Between June 5 and 19, 2013, invitations to participate in an online survey on science and the federal public service (conducted by Environics) were sent to 15,398 federal scientists who are PIPSC members, of which 4,069 participated. The following results focus on the issues of muzzling and political interference. The results of the survey are considered accurate + or - 1.6%, 19 times out of 20.

Climate Chill

Nine out of 10 federal scientists (90%) do not feel that they can speak freely to the media about the work they do. While this statistic alone is worrisome, the survey reveals an even more troubling finding. Faced with a departmental decision or action that could harm public health, safety or the environment, nearly as many (86%) do not believe they could share their concerns with the public or media without censure or retaliation from their department.

Muzzling

Over one-third (37%) report they were prevented from responding to questions from the public and media by public relations staff or management over the past five years. Significantly, nearly one-quarter (24%) report being directly asked to exclude or alter information for non-scientific reasons. Seven out of 10 federal scientists (74%) believe the sharing of government science findings with the public has become too restricted over the past five years.

Political Interference

Half of federal scientists (50%) report being aware of actual cases in which the health and safety of Canadians or environmental sustainability has been compromised because of political interference with their scientific work. Nearly half (48%) are aware of actual cases in which their department or agency suppressed information, leading to incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading impressions by the public, regulated industry, the media and/or government officials.

The Impact on Policy

Moreover, seven out of 10 federal scientists (71%) believe Canada’s ability to develop policy, law and programs based on scientific evidence has been compromised by political interference. In particular, 62% of Environment Canada and DFO scientists do not feel their departments incorporate the best climate change science into their policies. Eight out of 10 scientists in these departments (86% and 85% respectively) believe the public would be better served if transparency and accountability were increased.

Conclusion

Federal scientists believe strongly in open government, but they are not unreasonable in their expectations. While most (98%) believe science findings should be shared with the public, 61% believe they should be shared with some restrictions in some cases, and only 37% believe they should be shared without restrictions. Just 2% said they should only be shared with the public in special cases. Most (88%) believe whistleblower protections should be strengthened.

Get the full report at: [ http://www.pipsc.ca/bigchill ]
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Re: Letter claims info on nuclear risks withheld from commis

Postby Oscar » Tue Oct 04, 2016 5:31 pm

Nuclear-safety agency not adequately inspecting power plants, watchdog says

[ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... e32229029/ ]

Gloria Galloway Ottawa — The Globe and Mail Published Tuesday, Oct. 04, 2016 10:13AM EDT Last updated Tuesday, Oct. 04, 2016 10:15AM EDT

The federal agency charged with ensuring the safety of Canada’s nuclear power plants is unable to prove that it is inspecting those facilities often or thoroughly enough or that it has the number of staff required to do the job, says a new report by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The audit released by the commissioner on Tuesday as part of her fall report calls into question whether the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), which is often accused by environmentalists of being too close to the industry it was established to monitor, is providing proper oversight of the country’s nuclear reactors.

The auditors could find no proof that the CNSC has determined how many inspections are needed to ensure that nuclear power plant operators are complying with their licensing and regulatory requirements. Nor, says the audit, could the regulator demonstrate that it takes risks into account when making decisions about which inspections it would and would not conduct.

“Site inspections are one of the key verification tools used by the CNSC to assure Canadians that nuclear power plants perform safely,” wrote Julie Gelfand, the environment commissioner, in presenting the audit to the House of Commons. “We found that the CNSC could not show that it had adequate, systematic, risk-informed processes for planning site inspections at nuclear power plants.”

The audit follows on the heels of an anonymous letter sent earlier this year to CNSC president Michael Binder, purportedly written by technologists inside the regulator, that pointed to five separate cases in which the commission’s staff sat on relevant material about risk or non-compliance that might have called the safety of a plant into question.

Dr. Binder, who was appointed by the previous Conservative government after it fired former president Linda Keen when she balked at skirting safety rules, subsequently questioned whether that letter was part of a “conspiracy theory” concocted by outsiders.

But the CNSC management agreed with all of the recommendations made by the environment commissioner to correct the deficiencies that her audit team uncovered in the regulator’s inspection regime.

Among other things, the audit says the CNSC conducted only about 48 per cent of the inspections of nuclear plants in 2013-14 and 2014-15 that should have been scheduled under the regulator’s five-year plan.

“The decisions about which inspections the CNSC would and would not carry out from the five-year plan were based on professional judgement and the rationales for those decisions – such as on how risks were taken into account – were not documented,” says the audit.

In some cases, the inspections were not done because inspectors and technical specialists were not available. The audit says the CNSC could not show that it had assigned an appropriate number of staff to deal with the risks.

In fact, the regulator’s senior managers told the auditors that they believed there were enough inspectors to do the work and that more were being assigned as issues arose. But, wrote the auditors, “we were told by site inspectors and site supervisors at every nuclear power plant that there were either not enough inspectors at their sites, or not enough at the levels needed.”

In response to the audit, the CNSC says it is updating its five-year plan and will review both its staffing allocation and the frequency and type of inspections that are needed to ensure compliance.

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[ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/pol ... e32229029/ ]
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Re: Letter claims info on nuclear risks withheld from commis

Postby Oscar » Wed Oct 05, 2016 5:49 pm

Liberals must act on sloppy record keeping, mismanaged tracking for nuclear safety inspections

[ https://www.greenparty.ca/en/media-rele ... ear-safety ]

October 05, 2016

(OTTAWA) – The Green Party of Canada released the following statement following an audit by the federal Environment Commissioner, Julie Gelfand, on nuclear safety inspections:

“This alarming report from Canada’s Environment Commissioner shows nuclear safety inspections are full of sloppy record keeping and mismanaged tracking methods. Unfortunately, Ms. Gelfand’s findings are a predictable result of years of government meddling in the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) under Stephen Harper,” said Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands).

The Commissioner could find no proof that the CNSC is conducting adequate inspections or risk analysis on when to conduct inspections on nuclear power plant operators.

“The predecessor in my riding, former Federal Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, attacked and fired CNSC president Linda Keen for her cautious shutdown of the Chalk River medical isotope-producing nuclear reactor in 2007. This signalled a culture shift from the government of the day – enforcing regulations could get you fired. The Trudeau administration has to send fundamental top-down new signals to regulators throughout the government of Canada that their job is public service, not to function as a corporate concierge service,” Ms. May said. -30-

For additional information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Dan PalmerPress Secretary | Attaché de presse
Green Party of Canada | Parti vert du Canada
dan.palmer@greenparty.cam: (613) 614-4916
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