Media Release: Environmental groups launch Federal Court challenge to Darlington refurbishment

Media Release

Toronto – Environmental groups have launched a lawsuit to ensure the federal government complies with federal law that requires it to examine whether rebuilding and extending the operating life of the Darlington nuclear generating station by decades will harm Ontario’s air, water or land.

“Before the Ontario government reconstructs and continues operation to the year 2055 we want to ensure Canadian environmental protection laws are fully respected,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “In our view, this massive project should not commence until the public has full disclosure of the environment, health and cost risks associated with it.”

The lawsuit was filed in Federal Court by Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), who are representing Greenpeace Canada, CELA, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Northwatch. The suit asks the Court to overturn an environmental assessment because it did not meet the legal standard set out in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which is intended to ensure projects are considered carefully and with public input before they proceed.

Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposal to spend $8 – $14 billion to run the four Darlington reactors until 2055 must pass a federal environmental review before it can proceed. On March 13, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans approved their environmental review of the project after receiving comments from about 600 groups and individuals in 2012.

“The federal government owes Ontarians an environmental review that assesses and explains any possible harm that may result from this major industrial project,” said Justin Duncan, staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “But instead, what Ontarians have is a bunch of holes where there should be answers about the threats this project may pose to our health and environment.”

The groups argue the CNSC’s approval of the environmental assessment was illegal for failing to consider the following issues:

  • potential effects on Lake Ontario’s fisheries and water quality;
  • unpredictable major accidents similar to what were experienced at Fukushima, Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl;
  • how nuclear waste will be stored and managed in the long-term;
  • the combined effects of this project and a proposal to build up to four new reactors at the same site.

“CNSC staff admitted during the environmental review hearings they could have evaluated the impacts of a major accident at Darlington, but they just decided not to. With major reactor accidents happening about once a decade we need to examine the potential impacts of such an accident at Darlington,” said Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst with Greenpeace Canada.

The four Darlington reactors sit on the shore of Lake Ontario, approximately 70 kilometres east of downtown Toronto. Normal operations of the existing plant impact Lake Ontario as well as local air quality in the Municipality of Clarington.

“It’s our view that the regulator did not even consider commonly-used, affordable ways to avoid killing millions of fish. Considering that Lake Ontario is in decline and that fish populations are a fraction of what they should be, this is unacceptable. To make matters worse, failure to consider impacts on fish is just one of many ways that we believe this environmental assessment process failed to meet legal standards,” says Mark Mattson, President of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.

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For more information, please contact:

Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Nuclear Analyst, Greenpeace, 416-884-7053 [English/French]
Theresa McClenaghan, CELA Executive Director, 416-960-2284, ext.219
Justin Duncan, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice, 416-368-7533, ext.522
Mark Mattson, President of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, 416-861-1237