Posted on September 4, 2014 (updated: June 20, 2019)

Federal Court nixes approval of new reactors

Toronto May 15, 2014

Environmentalists are applauding a landmark Federal Court ruling that puts the brakes on building expensive and risky new nuclear reactors in Ontario.

“The Federal Court has thrown out the approvals for building new reactors at Darlington. This is a win for Canadians’ right to meaningfully participate in environmental reviews and understand the risks of nuclear power,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

In his ruling, released on May 14, Justice Russell agreed with environmental groups that a federal environmental review panel wrongly recommended approval of Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposal to build up to four new reactors at Darlington without first examining the environmental effects of radioactive fuel waste, a Fukushima-type accident, and hazardous emissions.

Lawyers from Ecojustice and CELA represented Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Northwatch, CELA and Greenpeace, all of whom participated in the federal environmental review process since 2006.

“This is a common sense ruling. It boggles the mind that the federal authorities approved new reactors without first considering the environmental effects of radioactive waste and reactor accidents,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil with Greenpeace.

In October 2013, the Ontario government announced that it was suspending plans to build the new reactors. But without this ruling, the deficient assessment and licence issued to OPG could have been used to revive the project at any time over the next decade.

“The Federal Court has confirmed that federal authorities must do more than simply kick the tires before approving new nuclear reactors,” said Ecojustice staff lawyer Justin Duncan. “Fully assessing radioactive waste, major accidents, and hazardous emissions is essential to protecting the health of Ontarians.”

If OPG wishes to proceed with new reactors, Justice Russell’s ruling requires that the review panel reconvene or a new review panel will need to be formed and properly consider the environmental effects of radioactive waste, accidents and emissions.

“I think most Canadians would agree with Justice Russell that we have a responsibility to fully consider the risks of managing radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years before we produce more. This is a sensible and prudent judgment,” said Brennain Lloyd with Northwatch.

“The Court’s decision shows just how badly federal authorities failed the public. If our case motivates regulators to pay more attention to the impacts of big projects on our waterways, then we could not have asked for a better outcome,” says Mark Mattson, environmental lawyer and president of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.

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