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Federal Court finds Darlington nuclear plant Environmental Assessment was inadequate

Environmental groups in Ontario are rejoicing that the Federal Court of Canada has ruled to halt a previous environmental approval for four new reactors at the Darlington nuclear power plant.


Environmental groups in Ontario are rejoicing that the Federal Court of Canada has ruled to halt a previous environmental approval for four new reactors at the Darlington nuclear power plant.

On May 14, Justice James Russell ruled that approvals given in 2012 by a joint environmental review panel had not given enough consideration to dealing with radioactive fuel waste and hazardous emissions, nor had they provided adequate precautions for the possible impacts of a Fukushima-type nuclear accident.

The government suspended plans to build the reactors last year, but if it chooses to revive the project, OPG has to revisit the report and deal with the court’s concerns.

Theresa McClenaghan, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), said they applauded the decision by Justice Russell of May 14: “The Federal Court has thrown out the approvals for building new reactors at Darlington. This is a win for Canadians’ right to meaningfully participate in environmental reviews and understand the risks of nuclear power.”

The CELA represented several groups, including Greenpeace, in calling for a judicial review of the environmental assessment.

In 2006, Ontario Power Generation had sought approval for a licence to prepare the site, which is in Bowmanville on the shores of Lake Ontario. A joint review panel was set up in 2009 by the federal Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

The judgement found that the joint environmental review panel had failed in three areas: “(a) Gaps in the bounding scenario regarding hazardous substance emissions and on-site chemical inventories; (b) Consideration of spent nuclear fuel; (c) Deferral of the analysis of a severe common cause accident.”

The court did not completely dismiss the report, but said: “The EA Report shall not be quashed and set aside in its entirety, but shall be returned to the [joint EA/CNSC] Panel (or a duly constituted panel) for further consideration and determination of the specific issues set out above

Lawyers from Ecojustice and CELA represented Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Northwatch, CELA and Greenpeace, which had all participated in the federal environmental review process since 2006, were jubilant.

Shawn-Patrick Stensil with Greenpeace, said of the decision: “This is a common sense ruling. It boggles the mind that the federal authorities approved new reactors without first considering the environmental effects of radioactive waste and reactor accidents,”

“I think most Canadians would agree with Justice Russell that we have a responsibility to fully consider the risks of managing radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years before we produce more. This is a sensible and prudent judgment,” said Brennain Lloyd with Northwatch.

To read the Federal Court Ruling of May 14, click here.