2007-12-12

Don’t Fuck Around With Nuclear Safety

Sometimes an “expletive” is required and this is one of those times.

A Three-Mile-Island-type of nuclear accident could occur at Canada's Chalk River reactor unless a backup power supply system, capable of withstanding natural disasters such as earthquakes, is installed, according to an assessment by the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

It is “essential” that the safety equipment be installed on two crucial pumps before the reactor, which makes more than half the world's nuclear medicines, is restarted, Linda Keen wrote in a blunt letter to two federal government ministers.
It is frightening that we were placed at risk because Atomic Energy of Canada Limited simply ignored safety directives from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission who discovered the fact in a routine inspection.
The situation is all the more worrisome because the country's nuclear regulator specifically ordered AECL more than a year ago to take extra safety precautions if it wanted to continue operating the aging NRU.

But there's more at stake than isotopes.

The technical competency of an industry trying hard to win back public confidence is being questioned, as is public safety, national security and the reputation of a company whose message to Canadians has consistently been: "Trust us."

Yet AECL not only failed to install a key piece of safety equipment on the National Research Universal (NRU), Canada's oldest nuclear reactor. When its mistake was discovered, it matter-of-factly camouflaged it in a Dec. 4 press release as little more than a routine maintenance issue.

In fact, an important safety repair had not been made.

On Nov. 19, a day after what was supposed to be a routine five-day shutdown, safety inspectors with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) discovered a significant and mandated safety upgrade -- connecting two heavy water pumps to an emergency power supply -- had not been done.
It is even more frightening that the government, with the support of all parties, is going to put Canadians back at risk.
The emergency legislation introduced by the Conservatives, which would allow AECL to start the reactor immediately and run it for 120 days, was passed unanimously by all parties after four hours of civilized debate.
As an NDP supporter it troubles me that the only party to oppose this was the Green Party. The NDP should be ashamed.

The Prime Minister has disgraced himself by accusing the agency charged with the responsibility of protecting Canadians safety with “obstruction” for doing it’s job.
"There will be no nuclear accident," Harper answered in the Commons. "What there will be … is a growing crisis in the medical system here in Canada and around the world if the Liberal party continues to support the regulator obstructing this reactor from coming back on line."

The operator of the Chalk River reactor, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., had said it expected the plant to be up and running by the middle of this month, but the safety commission was refusing to allow it to restart production until it resolved a host of safety issues.
So it appears that all we have to protect us from a nuclear melt down is the Prime Minister’s word that it can’t happen here.


References:

Globe and Mail: Ottawa thwarts nuclear watchdog

National Post; Emergency bill to resume isotope production off to Senate

Ottawa Citizen: The major safety snafu behind the isotope shortage

CBC: MPs pass bill to restart urgent isotope production

CBC: Green Leader May slams Tories' handling of isotope shortage

2 comments:

JimBobby said...

Whooee! We're supposed to trust Nuclear Physicist Steve Harper and the oh-so-forthcoming nuke industry?

There's stuff happening in the background. AECL is up for sale. CNSC is a pesky thorn in their side. Discredit CNSC. Give AECL carte blanche. Paint it as a partisan issue and blame partisan bureaucrats for administrative bungling. Downplay the safety angle. Say it was a problem with reporting and had nothing to do with safety.

All this helps keep the price up for AECL while at the same time, creating a "let's rid ourselves of this troublesome thing" mentality.

The crisis was manufactured to put blame on CNSC. Has Schreiber got any money invested in G.E.?

JB

Jasmine said...

that doesn't put me at ease, and I am sure a lot of people would agree. Also.. wow you used the f-word was not expecting that haha.