The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is in Toronto for an unprecedented public meeting. The focus: GE-Hitachi’s fuel processing site located at Lansdowne and Dupont. While it has been at the site since 1955, local residents have recently become increasingly concerned about the facility.
The GE-Hitachi plant converts raw uranium powder into fuel pellets. These fuel pellets are used in nuclear generating stations, including stations in Ontario.
The process of making these pellets involves pressing and grinding radioactive uranium with other toxic compounds in large furnaces. Raw uranium, the finished pellets, and various toxic and radioactive materials are regularly transported to and from the plant by truck. They also move in and out of the GTA via train.
Relations have been strained between the local community and GE-Hitachi. At a recent GE-Hitachi meeting in the Wallace-Emmerson neighbourhood, activists, residents, and GE staff butted heads over the lack of accountability and transparency at the plant. It took a concerted effort from local residents, MPs, MPPs, and the Toronto Medical Officer of Health to get Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and the CNSC to investigate environmental and health concerns.
This isn’t the first nuclear facility to be singled out by residents concerned about health and safety. Nor is it the first time that the CNSC’s oversight has failed to resolve conflicts between residents and industry. The tense atmosphere is similar to what Waterkeeper observed in Port Hope, in Bowmanville, in Pickering, at Tiverton, and everywhere that the public wants access to information about nuclear facilities in their backyards. The Commission routinely fails to make its processes accessible, informative, or responsive for the general public.
Based on our experience elsewhere, here’s what Waterkeeper sees unfolding at this week’s CNSC meeting:
The meeting will not be held near the GE-Hitachi facility. It will be 10-kilometres away, making it difficult for families in the area to attend.
The meeting will be presided over by members of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, giving it a feeling of formality, but without any of the true hallmarks of formality (testimony under oath, for example).
There will be confusion about the difference between a “hearing” and a “meeting”. The public wanted a hearing, where questions could be asked, witnesses could be called, evidence would be presented, and the project would generally be scrutinized. Instead, the CNCS called a “meeting”, where participants have few, if any, procedural rights and there is no mandatory decision or action required when it ends.
CNSC staff will make brief presentations about a number of lengthy technical documents that attendees are expected to have read in advance.
CNSC staff will not make any presentations summarizing, empathizing with, or otherwise advocating for members of the general public.
Close to 70 community members and organizations will make presentations to the Commission. Their presentations will have been vetted by the Commission in advance. They will have a time limit of 10 minutes each.
Community members will not be allowed to question CNSC staff or GE-Hitachi. They may be permitted to direct a rare question to the Commissioners.
When the meeting is over, the Commissioners will not consider closing, relocating, or otherwise substantially changing the way that GE-Hitachi operates (this would be outside of the scope of the meeting).
York Halls, Holiday Inn Toronto Yorkdale (3450 Dufferin Street).
Monday, December 9, 2013 @ 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 @ 8:30 a.m.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 @ 8:30 a.m.