Ecojustice Blog – Climate change, Healthy communities Posted on December 5, 2012 (updated: March 29, 2017)

When dealing with nuclear power, it’s time to put Ontarians’ health first

Ecojustice lawyer Kaitlyn MitchellKaitlyn MitchellEcojustice Alumni

We need to look before we leap, especially with nuclear power. The federal government has more looking to do in order to protect Ontarians’ health and drinking water from a plan by Ontario to build two new reactors at Darlington.

On March 9, we filed our evidence and arguments in our fight to ensure that before building new nuclear reactors, Ontarians know that their water and air is safe. Nine million people rely on Lake Ontario for their drinking water. The proposal to build new reactors at Darlington, on the shore of Lake Ontario, has implications for all those people. Our government has a duty to protect that water and our health. That’s what our clients want to be sure about.

Despite identifying numerous gaps in information and analysis, a panel reviewing the project concluded that no significant adverse environmental effects were likely. Under Canadian law, the panel had a duty to analyze and assess the project’s environmental effects, whether we even need the project and if there are alternatives. In September, Ecojustice asked the court to examine if that assessment followed the law. Ecojustice and lawyers for the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) did that on behalf of CELA, Greenpeace, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Northwatch.

What did Ontario Power Generation fail to tell the panel? For one, we don’t know what type of reactor they plan to build. Nor do we know how and where Ontario Power Generation will permanently store the nuclear waste for the thousands of years it will remain toxic. The future of Ontario’s children is too precious to jeopardize with a toxic burden that — thousands of years after our great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren have lived — will remain a risk to Ontarians. That’s a long ways off but the issue will affect this generation and the next once construction begins. We need to know now what will be done to protect the water, air and land Ontario families need to thrive.

A year ago, the world saw what happened when government regulation in Japan fell short and planning was done poorly. The meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant occurred in part due to a lack of oversight. Japan’s nuclear regulator failed to apply rigorous standards and, as a result, put the health of its citizens at risk. Our government cannot afford to make the same mistake.

Our legal action aims to hold the government accountable. On March 9, we said that until the panel conducts an environmental assessment that’s complete, one without gaps in information where Ontarians need real answers, the government must be prevented from approving the project.

We believe that when it comes to your health, and especially your drinking water, precaution is paramount. Leaping before we look is not an option with nuclear. Ontario families will be healthier if we reduce the risk of exposure to radioactive substances before approving construction of these new reactors.

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