Nuclear watchdog too close with industry

Regulatory Independence: Law, Practice and Perception is an independent study of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission prepared by the Institute on Governance (IoG). The report suggests that Canada’s nuclear watchdog agency is sleeping with the industry players. The CNSC “has in the past put more focus on communicating with licensees than with non-government organizations and the broader public.”

And we’re supposed to trust the CNSC???

The report recommends that

…in order to function as an effective independent authority, there must be clear separation of the regulatory body from government and industry interests. [emphasis mine] Maintaining the integrity of the regulator through appropriate mechanisms and guidelines is essential to ensure the independent authority remains insusceptible to unwarranted external influences…

A Globe and Mail article suggests that what has been happening in the past isa host of private, informal meetings with industry personnel but never with NGO representatives:

Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch says there’s no need for Ms. Keen to risk even the perception of unfairness by seeing applicants who may later seek favourable rulings.

“Holding meetings outside of a formal commission hearing, that’s like a judge meeting with a plaintiff or the defence and saying: ‘Here’s how it’s likely to go, and what I need from you in order to give you the decision that you want.’ ” Potential applicants who need information can read statutes online or public records of past decisions, he added.

Doesn’t that just make you feel all snug as a bug in a rug? NOT!

David Martin, energy co-ordinator for Greenpeace, says his group has never had the benefit of a private audience with Ms. Keen.

“Oh, never. No. The only time we’ve had any direct contact with Linda Keen has been through the regulatory processes where she’s sat on the commission.”

The watchdog only recently started a consultation process with public interest groups in the face of growing pressure, Mr. Martin said.

That said, there’s legitimate concern over the extent to which Ms. Keen and senior staff are privately meeting with nuclear interests, he said.

This is all happening as the industry holds a “full-court press” to expand operations – while pushing for more lenient environmental assessments – in several provinces, Mr. Martin said.

“When you understand that they’re conducting these meetings effectively in secret, and you combine that with the increasing regulatory leniency that [the commission] is showing to the nuclear industry, I think two and two make four. This is an agency that has been seriously co-opted, and is in serious need of reform.”

So, my question is, just how safe are we, really?

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