“Unreasonable Risks to National Security” in Canada

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission states that the operators of an Ontario nuclear power plant failed to comply with certain licensing conditions, behaviour that could produce “unreasonable risks to national security.” Global News report by  Monique Muise and Jacques Bourbeau provides more insights.

Ontario Power Generation Inc. was slapped with a $31,690 fine in a notice of violation issued on Jan. 12. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission states that on two occasions, the company “made unilateral decisions to cease corrective actions necessary for compliance with conditions of their Power Reactor Operating Licence” at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.

Nuclear power plants have always represented a potential security risk given the materials they contain, but in recent years it’s the risk of cyber-attacks that has governments concerned. Nuclear facilities are increasingly reliant on digital systems, which could potentially be hacked and – in a worst-case scenario – trigger a disaster.

Ontario Power Generation has the right to request a review of the amount of the penalty, or contest the facts of the violation. Kelly said he would not comment on the next possible steps, saying only that the company would be speaking with the CNSC.

While the company had not had any violations in the previous five years, it “was initially unresponsive to CNSC staff’s direction to reinstate corrective actions” and “failed to report to the CNSC their decision to cease corrective actions despite the presence of CNSC staff on-site.”

The notice was issued just one day after Ontario’s Liberal government announced that it wants to squeeze four more years of life out of the Pickering nuclear station. It will also start a $12.8 billion refurbishment of the Darlington power station this fall to extend that plant’s life by about 30 years.

Nuclear reactors at the stations were originally scheduled to be decommissioned in 2020. Nuclear power provided 60 per cent of Ontario’s electricity in 2015, while renewables such as wind and solar power added only a tiny amount to the supply mix.