Environmentalists ask federal court to stop new reactors at Darlington

Sep 20 2012

Toronto – Greenpeace Canada and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) have asked the Federal Court to overturn the licence recently issued to Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to begin preparing its Darlington site for the proposed construction of new nuclear reactors.

“We want to ensure Canadian environmental protection laws are respected before the Ontario government can proceed with new reactors. In our view, no shovel should go into the ground until the need for, alternatives to, and environmental effects of new reactors are fully considered with meaningful public participation,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of CELA.

On August 17, 2012, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) issued OPG a ten year licence to undertake various site activities to facilitate the construction and operation of new reactors. In response, Greenpeace Canada and CELA this week commenced a legal application, which requests the Federal Court to declare that the site preparation licence is unlawful, and to prohibit any site preparation activities for this project. Lawyers from Ecojustice and CELA are representing Greenpeace Canada and CELA in this matter.

Among other things, the groups argue that prior to issuing the licence, the CNSC failed to ensure that an environmental review was conducted in full compliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). The groups’ concerns about non-compliance with CEAA were previously raised in a legal application commenced in 2011 by Greenpeace Canada, CELA, Northwatch and Lake Ontario Waterkeeper in relation to the environmental assessment hearing conducted by the Joint Review Panel.

These four groups are still waiting for a court date for that application, but the CNSC has issued the site preparation licence in the meantime. “It’s ludicrous that Ontario is still pushing forward with new reactors when just last week Japan decided to phase out its nuclear reactors because of the Fukushima disaster. Canadian authorities should take nuclear risks just as seriously as the Japanese and respect Canadian environmental protection law,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada.

Last week the Japanese government committed to phasing out all of its nuclear stations by the 2030. Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland have also decided to abandon nuclear power since the Fukushima disaster.

In 2006, the Ontario government directed OPG to plan for the construction of new reactors at Darlington, which triggered a federal environmental review. Earlier this year, the Ontario government allowed OPG to pay SNC-Lavalin and Westinghouse $26 million just to prepare cost estimates for building two new reactors at Darlington. These cost estimates are expected in 2013. Ontario suspended the procurement of new reactors in 2009 when costs reportedly topped $26 billion.

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For more information:

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Nuclear Analyst, Greenpeace, 416-884-7053
Theresa McClenaghan, CELA Executive Director, 416-960-2284, ext.219

See also Q&A about the Judicial Review