Unsurprisingly, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has approved a ten-year extension to the aging Pickering Nuclear Station’s operating licence, meaning the plant can now operate until 2028. 

It took the CNSC less than five weeks to review – and dismiss – dozens of submissions pointing out the Pickering Station’s terrible location surrounded by millions of people, the lack of thorough emergency planning despite 50 years of operations, and the absence of plans for better dealing with the tonnes of radioactive waste stockpiled at the plant with nowhere to go.

Instead, the CNSC came down in favour of submissions such as one made by Ontario Power Generation that claimed that no one had been harmed by the massive radiation releases from the Fukushima accident and that “some radiation” is actually good for you!

Meanwhile, the CNSC essentially ignored the findings of international radiation expert Dr. Ian Fairlie about the true potential consequences of a Fukushima-scale accident at Pickering, including more than 20,000 cancer deaths and hundreds of thousands of homes left evacuated for decades.

It also ignored the issues raised by nuclear risk expert Dr. Gordon Thompson about the ever-growing pile of highly radioactive waste on the Pickering waterfront – next to the source of drinking water for 40 million people – including enough plutonium to construct more than 11,000 nuclear warheads. Somehow it is ok with the CNSC that Pickering continues to produce close to 20,000 radioactive fuel bundles every year despite a lack of fully secure storage facilities onsite or any viable long-term plan for dealing with this deadly waste.

The CNSC’s lack of serious scrutiny of the issues involved in operating a 50-year-old nuclear station well past its intended lifespan were made clear by its decision to begin hearings on the licence renewal just as the licence was coming up for renewal. With only a few weeks between the end of public hearings and the licence expiry, it was obvious the CNSC never truly intended to do anything more than issue its usual rubber-stamp approval. Indeed, the CNSC has never refused a nuclear licence request – no matter how old or trouble-prone the facility.

But that certainly doesn’t mean that continuing to operate Pickering is a good, safe or economical idea. In fact, replacing Pickering with low-cost water power from Quebec would save us $billions. Meanwhile, decommissioning the fourth-oldest nuclear station in North America would create thousands of jobs and open up new economic opportunities on the Pickering waterfront.

The CNSC may be satisfied that millions of people living alongside eight aging reactors (six active) is a good idea, but we know the vast majority of residents of the GTA are not on board with this risky plan.

We need an unbiased review of the true costs and benefits of continuing to operate this high-cost, high-risk facility, which should have been closed years ago. Please email energy minister Greg Rickford <greg.rickford@pc.ola.org> and tell him that closing Pickering now is the best way to cut electricity costs while ensuring the safety of millions of Ontarians.

Thank you. Please pass this onto your friends.

Angela Bischoff, Director