CNSC response to the CBC article “Nuclear watchdog unable to closely monitor Point Lepreau”
June 25, 2012
I was disappointed, yet not surprised, to read your recent story entitled “Nuclear watchdog unable to closely monitor Point Lepreau”. It appears that the sole purpose of your sparse reporting of the facts, taken out of context, was to sensationalize an event of very little impact and mislead the public on CNSC's capability of overseeing work being undertaken at Canadian nuclear power plants. Let me reassure your readers that the facility is safe and that the CNSC, regardless of what your reporter has written, has closely been monitoring all refurbishment activities at the Point Lepreau Generating Station.
The spill discussed during the Commission meeting earlier this week was contained and occurred during one of the many, many necessary safety tests conducted before restarting the reactor. The spill was cleaned promptly and according to procedures, and there were no consequences for both workers and the environment.
In general terms, once a refurbishment is completed, the nuclear power plant operator must comply with the CNSC's strict requirements and execute a long list of safety tests. As the plant has not been in operation for a number of years, and while the reactor is in safe shutdown mode, it is the ideal time to run those tests and to identify all areas that require improvement.
As for the training programs referenced in your story, the public can rest assured that such programs are reviewed and approved by our experts. The CNSC uses a graded approach to risk and our inspectors focus their efforts where oversight is required. It is important to remember that the CNSC is the regulator not the plant operator and is not involved in micro-management. The regulator's function is to ensure that the safety framework it established is complied with. The small gap identified in training during our assessment of the spill has been addressed to our satisfaction.
Both the CNSC and NB Power reported on the spill when it occurred, and the CNSC's public meeting last week was an opportunity for the public to observe its open and transparent process. Twisting the facts as you did only serves to undermine the CNSC's commitment to ensuring the safety of Canadians. When the Commission renewed Point Lepreau's operating licence, it did so based on our conclusion after extensive analysis that the facility can operate safely and securely.
Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Officer
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission