Tuesday, January 29, 2008

That nuclear pile is getting a bit messy

JimBobby pegged it. Before that, the warning signs were there when Berlynn raised this flag. Now, finally, someone is waking up.
Opposition parties are accusing the Harper government of manufacturing last month's medical isotope crisis.

The parties levelled the accusation Monday based on a report that the government did not speak to alternative European suppliers of isotopes until Dec. 10 - 19 days after the research reactor at Chalk River, Ont., was shut down.

Even then, according to a Montreal newspaper, the government advised officials at three European reactors that they didn't need to increase their isotope production because the shutdown at Chalk River would be remedied shortly.

The following day, the government introduced emergency legislation to override the safety objections of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Health Minister Tony Clement insists the report is "completely untrue."

Yeah, right. Given the number of times we've been hearing the word "misspoke" from this lot, Clements is fairly easy to ignore.

Then today, Linda Keen had a chance to say her piece, and she wasn't flinching. We can be pretty sure that this isn't quite what Harper wanted to hear.

The woman who was fired by the federal Conservatives as president of Canada's nuclear safety watchdog said Tuesday the safety risk of resuming the Chalk River, Ont., reactor was 1,000 times higher than accepted international standards.

Linda Keen, former president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), said there was a one in 1,000 chance of an accident occurring and she did not believe the medical isotope-producing nuclear reactor in Chalk River should have resumed operation.

In the case of a nuclear fuel failure, the international standard for acceptable risk is one in a million, Keen said.

"Some have suggested that the chance of a nuclear accident was low and that the reactor was safe enough. Well, with respect, safe enough is simply not good enough," said Keen, who spoke before a House of Commons natural resources committee.

"When it comes to nuclear facilities, ignoring safety requirements is simply not an option, not now, not ever."

Hmmm... that would be the "World Stage" Steve thumbed his nose at when he told everyone that there was no chance of a nuclear accident at Chalk River.

And before Linda Keen testified today, Auditor General Sheila Fraser had something to say.

Before Keen's appearance, Auditor General Sheila Fraser testified that Keen's firing clearly raised questions about the independence of regulatory bodies and how they are dealt with.

She said that at a minimum, there appears to be "a lack of clarity" around the issue.

During testimony, Ontario Liberal MP Lloyd St. Amand accused Lunn of interfering in an independent commission, and asked Keen about a call she received from the minister in early December about the incident.

"You were being told by the minister of natural resources what to do and how to do it," Armand said.

"There's absolutely no doubt in our mind that we were being told when to do it and what to do on that date, and that was my impression," Keen said.

This has hardly even started from the look of it.

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