Refurbished Korean Candu Still Without Operating Licence

There has been a lot of talk about the Korean Candu reactor Wolsong 1 which started its refurbishment after Point Lepreau, and was completed before Lepreau. What a lot of people don’t know is that after 1 year and 4 months of operation after it’s refurbishment, Wolsong’s operating licence ran out because the reactor had passed its design life. The operator of the plant applied for the life extension in 2009, but it has still not got the green light for operation. It has been shut down ever since Nov 2012.

I am glad the Korean regulator is taking the life extension of Wolsong 1 very seriously-despite power shortages due to the shutdown of several reactors. Perhaps they are concerned because several safety documents had been found falsified at other reactors. Charges have now been laid to over 100 individuals including employees of the regulator. Korea is no longer rubber stamping the operations of this geriatric reactor.

This is in contrast to the recent Pickering licence renewal in which the CNSC staff approved the continued operation of the Pickering nuclear reactor beyond its design life. They approved this even without the costly refurbishment process of replacing the deteriorated pressure tubes, one of the main limiting factors for safe operation. Luckily, due to interventions from myself, Greenpeace, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and others, another public hearing is needed before Pickering can be operated beyond its design life.  As well, due in large part to our interventions, a page and a half of additional conditions were also put upon Pickering’s license.

It seems odd to me to be wishing that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission act more like the Korean regulator, especially even after the recent findings of corruption within its ranks. The Canadian government should really take a page from their book, and think very seriously about the safety of operating a nuclear reactor beyond it’s design life.

Regards

Chris Rouse

New Clear Free Solutions

Survey Suggests Nuclear Regulator Does Compromise Safety

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

 Or

(d) knowingly makes a false or misleading written or oral statement to the Commission, a designated officer or an inspector

 Or

(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”

Conclusions

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.  

Chris Rouse

New Clear Free Solutions

NUCLEAR FREE STANDARDS

The licenses for Canadian nuclear reactors reference Canadian Standards Association(CSA) standards. Up until recently you had to purchase these CSA standards if you were interested in the details of a license. They are quite expensive, costing around $200 to $300 per standard, and there are dozens of them. I personally spent close to $1000 of my own money on three of five seismic standards which I needed for the seismic research I have done in relation to Point Lepreau’s license. I lodged my concerns in this regard recently in a review of the Fukushima omnibus regulations where I explained that it is cost prohibitive for the general public to engage in a meaningful way if they cannot afford to obtain these requirements for licensed nuclear reactors.

Critic Slams CNSC Regulations for lack of guidance

Cost prohibitive licensing documents is a common complaint from other interveners as well. Today the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission announced that the CSA licensing documents would now be available to the public for FREE.: 

News Releases

CSA nuclear standards now available online

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 22, 2013

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is pleased to announce that the CSA Group is now offering complimentary access of their nuclear standards. This new access platform allows interested stakeholders to view these standards online through any device that can access the internet. Please note that the access platform is limited to read only.

Copy of full news release can be found here. http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/mediacentre/releases/news_release.cfm?news_release_id=477

Although I still have many very serious and unresolved issues with the CNSC, this shows that they do listen occasionally, and this is a good baby step at transparency.

Background on CSA standards:

CSA is NOT a governmental organization. This is from their website:

About CSA Group

CSA Group is an independent, not-for-profit member-based association dedicated to advancing safety, sustainability and social good. We are an internationally-accredited standards development and testing & certification organization. We also provide consumer product evaluation and education & training services. Our broad range of knowledge and expertise includes: industrial equipment, plumbing & construction, electro-medical & healthcare, appliances & gas, alternative energy, lighting and sustainability. The CSA mark appears on billions of products around the world.

CSA standards are developed and decided upon by a committee of stakeholders. Most of these stakeholders are from the industry being regulated. Decisions on these standards are made by CONSENSUS, meaning that EVERYONE has to agree. I am not sure if I am comfortable with regulations being made that the industry has to agree to 100%.

By

Chris Rouse