If your drinking water comes from Lake Ontario, then you’re one of the millions of people who count on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Committee to do its job perfectly. The same is true for other Canadians who work in the nuclear industry or live near a facility.
In an interconnected, hi-tech world, we rely on regulatory agencies to keep us safe. We assume that buildings are well constructed, that toxic products will be banned, that the water coming out of our faucets will be safe to drink – and if any of these things doesn’t happen, we assume we will be warned.
When we are wrong, the consequences can be grave. Think of the Walkerton tragedy or the crisis in Flint.
Of course, the consequences of poor regulation aren’t always obvious. They may be difficult to detect or very distant from the root cause. Imagine low levels of a carcinogen (say PFOA) in a town’s drinking water, for example. If the regulator fails to prevent this, it is unlikely that the residents will detect its presence. Even if rare cancers begin to appear, making the connection can be difficult.
The CNSC is responsible for protecting Canadians from the risks associated with the nuclear industry. This means ensuring that Canada never has to deal with the pandora’s box of problems that would stem from a complete or partial meltdown, or major release of radioactive material into the environment. It means protecting Canadians from those insidious, day-to-day harms that are harder to detect, like low level radiation or the slow release of radionuclides into the watershed. It also means protecting Canadians from the impact of non-nuclear contaminants, habitat loss, and environmental destruction.
If you’ve followed some of our previous work, you’ll know that Waterkeeper questions whether the CNSC effectively serves the public as an impartial regulator. We believe the CNSC relies on an inadequate licensing process, demonstrates limited appreciation of environmental risks, and has a tendency to downplay or ignore concerns raised by the public.
When regulatory agencies show signs of failing to meet their public duties, it’s important to speak up. In fact, any individual or organization that has such concerns has an obligation to share them. After all, you rely on us to help keep you safe, too.
For this reason, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is joining Greenpeace Canada, Ecojustice, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and others in calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to initiate a twenty year review of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. This is the legislation that dictates how the CNSC operates.
Reviewing the Act would provide an opportunity to address deep-seated concerns about the CNSC and improve nuclear regulation in Canada. You can read the open letter that has been sent to Prime Minister Trudeau below.