Lawyers for environmental groups will appear in Federal Court today, trying to hammer another nail in the coffin of a plan to build new nuclear reactors in Ontario.
Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) are representing Greenpeace, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, CELA and Northwatch. The groups allege that the project’s federal environmental review was flawed in its failure to consider and address a raft of risks to the environment and Ontarians.
On Oct. 10, the Ontario government publicly announced that it would abandon its billion-dollar plan to build new reactors at Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ont., due to prohibitive cost and falling electricity demand. However, outstanding approvals could allow the project to be resurrected at a later date.
“You can’t leave your foot in the door and call it closed,” said Justin Duncan, staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “Until the risks to Ontarians’ health and safety are known and addressed, we need to scuttle this current proposal.”
What most worries the groups is that the federal environmental assessment, published in August 2011, identified major gaps in information and analysis, but said no significant adverse environmental effects were likely.
“This review is full of holes,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada. “It didn’t take the time to learn lessons from the Fukushima disaster and that puts Ontarians at risk.”
In September 2011, the groups applied for judicial review of the federal environmental assessment on the grounds that it did not comply with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. A second judicial review application was brought on similar grounds in September 2012 to challenge the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s issuance of a Site Preparation Licence for the project. The Federal Court will hear both applications today and tomorrow.
“The project should never have been approved,” said Mark Mattson, President of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. “The most important issues — need, alternatives, and environmental protection — were insufficiently examined. The Government of Ontario clearly agrees. We are going to court to ensure the approvals are quashed and such mistakes never happen again.”