Running out of nuclear options via NOW

Ontario’s nuclear regulator is seeking an unprecedented 13-year licence to keep pumping out nuclear power, but what’s good for the nuke industry may not be good for residents living within the impact zone of a severe accident

A roomful of demanding taxpayers and interest groups can pose an awful inconvenience to a nuclear operator seeking to extend the life of its plant.

That’s exactly what Ontario Power Generation (OPG) faced this week at licensing renewal hearings for its Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington as about 80 oral presentations and just as many written submissions filled the agenda.

Ever since Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster, Canadian nuclear industry regulators have been getting an earful from the public and environmentalists. They want answers to unsettling questions about nuclear safety, especially since it’s human negligence that caused the Fukushima accident.

Now the nuclear regulator is seeking an unprecedented 13-year licence – two- to five-year terms are the norm – that critics say will have the effect of silencing their voices until the next Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) licensing hearings in 2028.

“A 13-year licence is a decision to end public comment on nuclear safety,” says Shawn-Patrick Stensil, a nuclear analyst at Greenpeace. “They’re just trying to shut the public up.”


For example, to assume no radiation release in the first 24 hours after an accident rules out the possibility of an explosion at the plant. And to assume releases will not extend beyond 72 hours is unrealistic, since people are still being exposed to radiation from Fukushima today, says Dr. Cathy Vakil, a family doctor and board member of the Canadian Association of Physicians For The Environment.

Nukes by numbers

200+ kms 

Distance high-level radiation travelled after Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear disasters

10 kms

Distance of communities from Pickering and Darlington nuclear reactors where OPG has distributed potassium iodide pills to residents

50 kms

Distance from Darlington to Toronto


Population living within 20 kilometres of Darlington


Population living within 20 kilometres of Fukushima

As well, Vakil says, disease effects predicted by the study are based largely on the food and water intake of a typical 30-year-old male, ignoring a large swath of the population, including women and children, who are more sensitive to radiation. “There are just a lot of things wrong with this study.”

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