Canada’s nuclear-poisoned chalice

I refer to the position of head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), which recently became vacant in circumstances which should cause acute embarrassment to the government and parliament of Canada.

Chalk River Laboratories

This is all about the saga of the Chalk River reactor, and the sacking of CNSC chief Linda Keen. From what I understand, a senior public servant did her job properly, in ordering that a reactor which maintenance checks revealed had been operating for 17 months without the required backup cooling pumps be shut down until the pumps were fitted.

Parliament and government didn’t approve of Keen’s decision, as Chalk River produces more than half the world’s supply of medical isotopes, and closing the reactor quickly led to a shortage of the materials. Parliament reacted by overruling Keen’s decision, and the government promptly sacked the CNSC head, saying she “was prepared to put people’s lives at risk”. Poor old Keen, caught between a rock and a hard place.

Not only that, but Tory natural resources minister Gary Lunn has rewritten the employment contract of Keen’s successor, and introduced into the text a blatant conflict of interest between nuclear safety and protecting the supply of medical isotopes.

It’s a complete mess, and the federal government says simply that it is protecting the interests of Canada, Inc. (whose nuclear customers include China, India and Pakistan). Even I – who as a Brit am thoroughly used to gross incompetence in domestic politicians – am shocked by this.

See here for more on the incompetence of Canada’s Tory government. The author is a retired auto worker from Windsor, Ontario.