The public must be heard;

The Port Hope Evening Guide Letter to the Editor: Pat McNamara/ Grande Prairie AB - July 28, 2008

To the Editor:

Public interventions at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission mid-term license review hearing in 2005 and the re-licensing hearing in 2007 significantly raised the level of safety for Port Hope residents.

It was the public that brought the issues into the open and forced the CNSC and the two nuclear fuel cycle facilities to substantially upgrade emergency response capabilities.

It was members of the public who informed the CNSC Commissioners that the Port Hope Fire Department could not fight radiological fires. The CNSC had not even included this information in their report to the Commission despite knowing of this inadequacy for over 20 years.

Zircatec president Lloyd Jones testified at the 2005 hearing that he was unaware of this situation. His testimony was contradicted later in the day when a member of the public produced letters from the CNSC and the fire chief which had been sent to him advising him of this fact three months earlier.

It was the public who told the commission there was no warning system in place in the event of a fire or accident and that there was no evacuation plan or emergency accommodations set up.

It was public pressure that forced the CNSC to order both nuclear industries to perform the work needed to get closer to being in compliance with the national fire and building codes.

The CNSC knew about all these conditions but did nothing about them, for decades in most cases. It was research and presentations by members of the public that forced the municipality, Cameco and Zircatec to spend the human and financial resources required for the necessary upgrades.

None of this would have happened if people had been prevented from their 10 minutes in front of the commission, as the CNSC is trying to do.

It was the public who informed Port Hope building officials and the CNSC about the problems under the UF6 building a year before Cameco shut the building down for repairs.

The same officials were told that contamination from the facility was running into Lake Ontario. Cameco issued a press release this spring admitting that it was true; contaminated was entering the lake from their facility.

A newspaper story last fall stated Cameco employees had been raising alarm bells since 1993 that the pits in the UF6 building were being improperly used; hence the contamination under the building. If these employees had presented their concerns at a hearing when they first became aware of them, the situation could have been remedied much sooner. It would have been cheaper for Cameco and much healthier for Lake Ontario. In September

2004, consultants Jacques Whitford released their first report on Cameco's application to produce slightly enriched uranium (SEU) at a public meeting and said there was nothing to worry about. The

members of the audience were outraged because Jacques Whitford refused to answer the majority of their questions. Public pressure and 623 questions forced Jacques Whitford to completely rewrite their report. Their new report was so damning that Cameco withdrew its SEU application the same day the report came out. The public did this.

The CNSC and some others want to see all public involvement in the process terminated. They now realize how well-informed and committed Port Hope residents are. They realize we will stand up to protect our families and friends. They realize they don't intimidate us any more.

This isn't about whether we are for or against nuclear power. This is about people on both sides of the issue being concerned about their health and their environment.

For example, it was a Cameco employee in 2006 who told me about the problems with the UF6 building and the toxins going into the lake. He had no other forum or individual to give the information to. It's a sad commentary on the regulatory process when a Cameco employee had to trust me to protect his identity in order to inform the public about a problem.

The public does far more to protect Port Hope than the CNSC and the federal ministries who are legally mandated to protect us. Any curtailment of our opportunities to speak out must be swiftly dismissed. It is immoral and unconstitutional to deny us that right.

Pat McNamara/ Grande Prairie AB

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