CNSC - Lack of independence. . . . .

CNSC - Lack of independence. . . . .

Postby Oscar » Tue Apr 30, 2019 10:19 am

An interesting summary of evidence showing Canada's nuclear regulator's lack of independence

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

[ ... commission ]

What Happened - Globe & Mail January 29, 2019

Members of the public have long been concerned over the independence, transparency, and accountability of the CNSC. In 2008, the Commission’s President Linda Keen was fired for refusing to permit a licensed nuclear facility to operate, on the grounds that it could failed to comply with the safety conditions specified in its licence. Since then, the CNSC and its new president Michael Binder, have systematically discredited critics of the Commission and nuclear industry, silenced the Commission’s own scientific staff, and actively sought to stifle public debate concerning potential health and environmental hazards of nuclear facilities and radioactive substances.


The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) was established between 1997 and 2000. Its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), had been established in 1945, declaring nuclear energy to be essential to the Canadian national interest and falling under exclusive federal jurisdiction. The AECB it was given the exclusive authority to control and supervise the development, application, and use of atomic energy. The history and development of the AECB from 1945 through the 1960s and 1970s illustrates its unusual role as a proponent and supporter of nuclear energy and an expanded nuclear energy sector – rather than merely serving as an independent, arms-length regulatory body. Several critics during this early period had concerns over the limited mandate of the AECB, its close relationship with the federal government and nuclear industry, as well as its lack of public transparency and accountability.

The CNSC’s new enabling legislation (the Nuclear Safety Control Act (NSCA)) emphasized the Commission’s duty to protect the public and environment in exercising its regulatory authority – something that was not as explicit in the former Atomic Energy Control Act. The NSCA requires the Commission to regulate the nuclear industry via the provision of licences to operate nuclear facilities. These licences must include specific conditions to ensure the safe operation of these nuclear facilities. While the CNSC grew in size and responsibility (compared to the smaller AECB), it retained many of the same staff, and public concern over its lack of independence, transparency, and accountability have persisted.

Many of these concerns gained prominence in 2008 when the CNSC’s president Linda Keen was fired for exercising her statutory duty to protect the public safety and enforce CNSC licence requirements for a medical isotope producing facility. The Atomic Energy Canada Ltd (AECL) produced 30-40% of the world’s medical isotopes, however it was one of the oldest nuclear facilities in the world, and built on a fault line experiencing seismic activity. When the CNSC learned that the AECL facility was not complying with important safety conditions of its licence, it closed the facility until the non-compliance could be satisfactorily remedied. The closure of the facility sparked indignation from the federal government, which pressured Keen to reverse the Commission’s decision. When she refused (on the grounds that to do so would be inconsistent with her position and the NSCA), the government passed special legislation to permit the facility to operate without complying with its CNSC licence.

Ms. Keen was ultimately fired one day prior to when she was scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee investigating the incident – effectively preventing her from giving testimony in the investigation. Since then, strong evidence has come to light indicating that the incident was used as an excuse to fire Keen, who was intent on making CNSC regulations more stringent – against the interests, and lobbying of the nuclear industry. A legal report from the Nuclear Energy Agency has since highlighted conflicts within the CNSC presidents’ mandate and the position’s susceptibility to conflicting interests.

Since 2008 there have been repeated instances in which the Commission and its new president, Michael Binder, have shown considerable support for, and deference to, the nuclear industry. Significantly, in one of his first activities as CNSC president in 2009, Binder licensed a new AECL reactor, requiring approximately half a billion dollars in federal funds. Further, the CNSC and its president have attempted to systematically silence expressions of public concern over the unclear industry and nuclear regulation in Canada in several ways, discussed below.

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