If you were designing the largest low-level radioactive waste site ever constructed in North America, would you solicit advice from anyone and everyone who could help build the "gold standard" of waste management facilities? Would you seek second opinions and look for weaknesses in your designs?
Or, would you limit knowledgable regulators' opportunities to participate, ignore existing environmental protection standards, and refuse to meet with the public face-to-face to hear their concerns? If you are Canada's nuclear regulator, apparently you choose the latter.
It is no secret that there is low-level radioactive waste scattered around Port Hope, Ontario. About ten years ago, Canada decided it was time to clean up the town. The waste will be consolidated at the existing Welcome waste site beside the 401 Highway just outside of the town. In 2009, the CNSC approved a plan to build the site but cautioned that one more hearing would be required before any waste could actually be moved. When that "hearing" happens on October 24, 2012, members of the public will not be allowed to speak.
At first we were worried by the CNSC's approach. Instead of approaching the clean-up task in a science-based, collaborative, "all-hands-on-deck" manner, our nuclear regulator is moving forward with a "go it alone" mentality. Then were were frustrated by their decision to exclude the public from the October 24 hearing. After discovering a CNSC slideshow presentation depicting the CNSC's view of public consultation (hint: we're monkeys), we're feeling sick. Seriously? Monkeys? In a government regulator's official presentation?
The CNSC's disinterest in meaningful dialogue demonstrates a profound lack of respect for the many, many people who care deeply about Port Hope's future. The people who live in Port Hope deserve the best conceivable protection. Lake Ontario, one of the most precious waterbodies on earth, deserves protection. Given that this is the largest project of its kind in Canadian history, you'd think the Commission could spare a few hours to hear from the people who most affected by their decisions.
Waterkeeper's written submission. We have asked the CNSC to defer the 10-year licence decision pending coordination with the provincial government and stricter controls on water emissions.
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