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Nuclear Safety Commission Must be Free to Regulate

Media Release: Posted April 15th, 2009

OTTAWA-- The decision of the federal court in the case of the firing of Linda Keen as president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) calls into question the independence of nuclear safety in Canada and opens it up to political interference. The court ruled Ms. Keen held her position at the “pleasure of the cabinet” meaning she could be fired at anytime by the Minister of Natural Resources without cause.

“The law should be changed to ensure those charged with protecting food safety, health, environment and regulating dangerous industries must not be vulnerable to the whims of a government,” said Elizabeth May, Leader of the Greens.

The CNSC is responsible for licensing nuclear power plants, reactors and establishing the rules for the production, handling and distribution of radioactive materials. The CNSC decisions are supposed to be based on the best scientific and technical advice available.

Ms. Keen was fired by then Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn for enforcing a shutdown order after Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. had misled the CNSC about the installation of an additional pump on the NRU reactor at Chalk River. AECL had not installed the pump as ordered by the CNSC. The shutdown order halted production of medical isotopes used in diagnosing and treatment. The government passed legislation overriding the CNSC.

“Any regulator particularly a nuclear regulator must make decisions based on the safety of citizens and not the political preference of the government of the day,” said Green Environment Critic Lisa Fox.

The NRU reactor is over 50 years old and is the only reactor producing medical isotopes in North America. It has had numerous problems and leaks of radioactive waste in the Ottawa River. AECL spent several hundred million dollars developing the Maple reactor to replace the NRU but it proved unsafe and was recently abandoned.

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Contact:
Michael Bernard
Communications Officer
Green Party of Canada
613-562-4916 ext. 244
(c) 613-614-4916
michael.bernard@greenparty.ca

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