Posted on May 6, 2014 (updated: June 20, 2019)

Environmentalists in court to demand proper review of nuclear risks

Lawyers for environmental groups are asking a Federal Court to order the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to redo its environmental review of Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) plan to rebuild and run the aging Darlington nuclear reactors for three more decades.

“We want to ensure that Canadian environmental protection laws are fully respected. Our position is that the CNSC failed to assess the significant environmental effects at the Darlington nuclear station,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

Greenpeace, CELA, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Northwatch participated in CNSC’s environmental review of OPG’s plan spend $8 to $14 billion to rebuild the four Darlington reactors. The CNSC (and Department of Fisheries and Oceans) finished the review in 2013 and decided to allow the project to proceed.

The groups, however, allege that the review failed to comply with the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. On the groups’ behalf, lawyers from Ecojustice and CELA will argue the environmental review was unlawful because it failed to correctly consider:

  • the potential effects on Lake Ontario’s fisheries and water quality;
  • the environmental and human health effects of large accidental radiation releases like Fukushima; and,
  • how radioactive waste will be stored and managed in the long-term.

“We’re asking the court to order the CNSC to fill the gaps in its environmental review,” said Justin Duncan, staff lawyer at Ecojustice. “Ontarians must have a full understanding of the risk Darlington poses to the environment and human health before OPG can proceed.”

The CNSC received comments from approximately 600 concerned groups and individuals during the review, with many commenters asking for the CNSC to examine whether off-site evacuation plans could cope with a major radiation release from the Darlington station.

“Despite concerns from the public and the clear need to consider such scenarios, the CNSC decided not to evaluate the impacts of a major accident at Darlington. In our view, that’s a major hole in this review that potentially puts Ontarians at risk,” said Greenpeace’s Shawn-Patrick Stensil.

Located on the shore of Lake Ontario, 70 kilometers east of downtown Toronto, the Darlington reactors use massive amounts of lake water to prevent the reactor core from overheating.

“Another hole in this review is Darlington’s impact on fish and aquatic ecosystems. We know Darlington kills millions of fish annually, but this fact wasn’t properly addressed by the CNSC,” said Mark Mattson, President of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.


Join our newsletter

Get updates on the most pressing environmental issues delivered straight to your inbox.

Join our online community

Follow us on social media