Blog 7 - Safety

Blog 7 - Safety


The Minister was Entitled to Decisions on a very Long List of Safety Issues But Instead Got Major Gaps Created by Excessive Downloading of Responsibility and 100 Conditions of Approval.


August 10, 2017. This is the seventh in a series of Blogs by Rod McLeod, retired lawyer, former Ontario Deputy Minister Environment (with the Liberals) and, earlier, Deputy Minister Public Safety (with the Conservatives) after a time as Chief Crown Prosecutor and, latterly, 25 years of Environmental law practice, and currently a Board member of SOS GREAT LAKES.


Background:  Premier Wynne’s Government owns Ontario Power Generation Inc. (OPG). Kathleen Wynne, as head of the Government, has allowed OPG to continue to plan to build a nuclear waste dump on the shore of Lake Huron, the central of the five Great Lakes that provide drinking water to 40 million people in Canada and the U.S. This Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) would hold 400,000 cubic metres of Intermediate and Low Level Waste (I&LLW). ILW can include reactor parts and other decommissioning waste that will remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. When that material leaks, as every other Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) in the world has, the rogue emissions will enter the Great Lakes, potentially causing unimaginable damage to the largest supply of fresh water in the world.


McKenna’s Dilemma:  Allowing this dump on the shore of Lake Huron is a dangerous and unnecessary gamble with our drinking water and would be in stark contrast to many very important environmental protection principles and initiatives, on which the Trudeau Government was elected in 2015. At the same time she may be reluctant to be seen to be opposing the ever-popular vote-getting ‘’green” nuclear energy industry led by OPG.


Please click here for Blog 1 where I tell you a little about SOS GREAT LAKES and explain the significance of an April 2017 Report from her Expert Panel (EP). The EP proposes major changes in Canadian Environmental Assessment to restore faith in the EA with new fairer processes. It can and should help her with her upcoming decision to reject or accept the conditional first step approval for OPG’s plan granted by the Harper-appointed Joint Review Panel (JRP) at Kincardine. (Her decision is currently scheduled for fall 2017.)


In Blog 1, I stated my thesis: the Minister’s independent EP’s April 2017 Report provides her at least two ways out of this dilemma. Both require courage but with the help of her EP she may even be able to escape while continuing full support of nuclear energy, at least its green production cycle.


Her first way out is the totality of the major errors and legal breaches described in Blogs 2 to 7.


Today I deal with issues missed or improperly downloaded to others rather than decided by the JRP, especially in relation to safety.

Examples of issues missed or bungled include:

·      The proponent and the JPR failed to consider cumulative effects of multiple events occurring simultaneously in combination or, one after the other, including the possible cumulative effects of two DGRs ( the I&LLW one under review and a HLW DGR under consideration by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), potentially close by;

·      Inadequate allowance for the total damaging effects of the radionuclide content of waste; 

·      An apparent lack of understanding of the overall geomorphology;

·      Limiting the substance of mitigation and safeguards to existing and enhanced practices, without emergency planning being laid out in relation to a full range of initiating events of varying degrees of significance;

·      No evidence that the responsible authorities that were identified are able to or have agreed to respond to the range or severity of emergencies on the site; Environment Canada notes that no spill response plan was submitted, nor was downstream effect mitigation or accident probability discussed;

·      Evacuation through one or two shafts in case of emergency underground was not suitably explained for short or long term duration events, including all events radioactive and non-radioactive. This insufficiency is more acute when one considers that the plan for the second 200,000 cubic metres is the more toxic decommissioning waste.  The EIS and hearing evidence indicated that no further evacuation shafts are to be planned;

·      Population evacuations were not investigated for unplanned event scenarios for radioactive or nonradioactive release situations, or for other events involving fire, explosion, contamination of air, land and or water;

·      Administrative and organizational scenarios were not prepared for EMS over each identified scenario or other scenarios, including transfer of responsibility (change) over time from one party or jurisdiction to another, temporal response chain or other required action through OPG, private contractor, municipal, county, provincial, federal or other response mechanisms for events including fire, explosion, decontamination, or emergency medical procedures;

·      There was no evidence of consultation with the public by OPG, the Municipality, the Province, the Federal Government or the Regulators with respect to an emergency plan. The plan that does exist will not protect the health of the most vulnerable residents in Inverhuron;

·      OPG provided no description of the combined Emergency Management systems that would be required across the DGR, Western Waste Management Facility, Hydro Corridor and Bruce Nuclear Site, or how emergencies affecting water would be handled;

·      No emergency plans were included in the EIS. There was no demonstration that agreements have been reached, or processes defined or established for immediate or follow-on mitigation, repair, clean up or restoration due to potential malfunctions, accidents, malevolent acts, or unplanned events affecting one or multiple valued ecosystem components;

·      Contingency planning was wrongly limited to unplanned incidents, accidents and malevolent acts in the “pre-closure period”, and through recommendations to be addressed by OPG and/or the federal regulator in the future.


Summary of Blog 7

The JRP failed to require OPG to fulfil the requirements of the Governing Documents with respect to multiple safety issues as evidenced by the examples cited above. The Governing Documents required the JRP to make decisions on these issues.  Instead, the JRP downloaded many of these decisions on these safety issues, including “Go or No-go” decisions to either the CNSC or OPG itself leaving the Minister with a Report so incomplete as to be, virtually, no Report on these required issues.


The Totality of Errors and Legal Breaches in Blogs 2 to 7

The Minister’s first route to avoid turning this dilemma into a disaster is to look at the totality of the major errors and legal breaches in:

·      Blog 2: Lack of true, untainted community acceptance;

·      Blog 3: Failure to obey the law and custom re relations with the U.S. and border States;

·      Blog 4: Abandoning evidence-based science by skipping a vital, established international scientific protocol;

·      Blog 5: Multiple failures to follow human health statutory protections and the absence of the guardian of drinking water quality;

·      Blog 6: Refusal to follow the foundation principles ofenvironmental assessment, precaution and sustainability; and,

·      Blog 7: An incomplete, deficient report with 100 conditions that wrongly delegates multiple safety decisions, which were the responsibility of the JRP to make, even to the point of delegating them to the Proponent!


An environmental (or impact) assessment panel such as that envisaged by the Minister’s April 2017 EP,  populated as they recommend, with the appropriate skills they recommend and applying the impact considerations they recommend, in a quasi-judicial manner, could make a mistake, but would not, under any circumstances, come anywhere close to the totality of errors and legal breaches of the law disclosed here.


The Minister should not disavow her own EP and the 2015 environmental platform on which her Government was elected. The totality of errors and legal breaches by OPG and the Regulators compel her rejection of the JRP report. To do otherwise would amount to the Minister giving her blessing to these many grievous errors.


Rod McLeod, Director, SOS GREAT LAKES