Ecojustice Case – Healthy communities Case Status: Closed

Demanding strong nuclear safety assessments

Ecojustice lawyer Kaitlyn MitchellKaitlyn MitchellEcojustice Alumni
Ecojustice lawyer Laura BowmanLaura BowmanLawyer
Darlington Nuclear Generator
Photo Nuclear Regulatory Commission via Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans have approved a proposal by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to refurbish four nuclear reactors at the Darlington Nuclear site on the shore of Lake Ontario.  Current operations at the Darlington Nuclear site already have a negative impact on Lake Ontario. The reconstruction would extend the operating life of the reactors to the year 2055.

Ecojustice lawyers, with the help of lawyers at the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), launched a lawsuit on behalf of  Greenpeace Canada, CELA, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, and Northwatch asking the Federal Court to overturn the environmental assessment the government relied on to approve this project. Our clients don’t believe that the assessment met the legal standard set out in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) because it failed to consider the potential effects on Lake Ontario’s fisheries and water quality; unpredictable major accidents with serious offsite impacts; how nuclear waste will be stored and managed in the long-term; and the combined effects of this project and a proposal to build up to four new reactors at the same site.

We argued that a new assessment that considers these factors must be completed before the government can make a final decision about the project. In November 2014 the Federal Court decided against our clients.  We filed an appeal on behalf of our clients, but the court did not rule in our clients’ favour.

Why did Ecojustice get involved?
We are committed to ensuring that every environmental impact assessment in Canada is based on a thorough review of the best possible evidence. Regulatory bodies mandated to protect the public interest must do their due diligence when making decisions about projects that involve serious environmental risks.

What does this outcome mean?
Despite unanswered questions about the project’s environmental and human health risks, Ontario Power Generation can proceed with its plan to rebuild the Darlington reactors in 2016.

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