The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) website and many of their presentations boldly assure Canadians that they will “Never Compromise Safety”. The results of a recently conducted survey done for the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), by the Environics Research Group, for their “Big Chill” survey on the muzzling of federal scientists suggests that these are false assurances.
The survey paints a very worrisome picture at the CNSC. The survey shows:
-57% of the CNSC employee’s surveyed said they were aware of cases where the health and safety of Canadians (or environmental sustainability) has been compromised due to political interference.
-50% of the CNSC employee’s surveyed didn’t feel they could publish their work in peer-reviewed journals.
-94% of the CNSC employee’s reported interference with manuscripts and or conference presentations.
-The CNSC was among the groups most likely to be asked to exclude/alter information in Federal government documents for non scientific reasons.
-93% of the CNSC employee’s surveyed agreed that the public would be better served if the federal government strengthened its “whistleblower” protection.
Click to see Survey.
Why is this so important? This is important because it means that the law may be being broken and needs to be investigated. One of the objectives of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act is to:
to disseminate objective scientific, technical and regulatory information to the public concerning the activities of the Commission and the effects, on the environment and on the health and safety of persons, of the development, production, possession and use referred to in paragraph
The Nuclear safety and Control Act also states that it is an offence for anyone who:
(a) alters, otherwise than pursuant to the regulations or a licence, or misuses any thing the purpose of which is to
(i) protect the environment or the health or safety of persons from any risk associated with the development, production or use of nuclear energy or the possession or use of a nuclear substance, prescribed equipment or prescribed information
(d) knowingly makes a false or misleading written or oral statement to the Commission, a designated officer or an inspector
(i) falsifies a record kept pursuant to this Act or the regulations or to a condition of a licence
In my opinion these results reveal an even more serious problem. Over 75% of all major industrial accidents are caused by what is known as “Institutional Failure”. It has several names sometimes referred to as “Safety Culture” or “Human and Organizational Performance”. These survey results all point to possible institutional failure within the CNSC.
Another possible indication of institutional failure is the CNSC had an independent external advisory committee from outside of the nuclear industry review the CNSC Fukushima Action plan, and this is what they had to say:
Finding 2-4 – It is not evident that the CNSC has considered the area of Human and Organizational Performance in its FTF recommendations.
It is not apparent that Human and Organizational Performance, which includes human performance and human factors, has been explicitly examined by the CNSC in its response to the Fukushima crisis.
The human element is an important component of NPP safety, both in terms of preventing accidents and in management of an emergency. Notably, on average 75% of industrial events have human and organizational causes versus technical ones, and as such should be considered as key elements when reviewing the recommendations in the FTF Report. The Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 is widely considered to have resulted from the lack of a “safety culture” – an important element of Human and Organizational Performance practice as it relates to the nuclear industry.
The CNSC missed the number one lesson learned from the Fukushima accident because several months later the Government of Japan released it’s independent investigation into the Fukushima Nuclear Accident. The report concluded that”
After a six-month investigation, the Commission has concluded the following:
In order to prevent future disasters, fundamental reforms must take place. These reforms must cover both the structure of the electric power industry and the structure of the related government and regulatory agencies as well as the operation processes. They must cover both normal and emergency situations.
A “manmade” disaster
The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly “manmade.” We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has very little oversight, and the results of this survey should worry our government. The CNSC does not even have to report to a Minister in the Federal government. It reports to ALL members of parliament. In my opinion, with most of the current MP’s time being spent on Stephen Harper’s other political appointees, they should really be asking some serious questions to one of his very first appointees, Dr. Michel Binder, who he appointed head of the CNSC when he fired Linda Keen for doing her job.
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