January 17, 2002
New legislation protects EDC from legal action
The environmental assessment for the controversial Cernavoda 2 CANDU nuclear reactor in Romania, completed to satisfy Export Development Canada’s new governing legislation, is a flawed and compromised document, according to Probe International, the country’s leading EDC critic.
“This is not a serious or scientifically thorough assessment of the environmental risks of the Cernavoda 2 nuclear plant,” says economist Patricia Adams, Probe International’s Executive Director.
The environmental assessment — completed for Canada’s state-owned reactor vendor, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, in order to secure a subsidized $390 million EDC loan — is so rife with omissions and deficiencies that the document has no credibility. For example, it fails:
• To assess the consequences of a catastrophic nuclear accident, involving widespread radioactive fallout;
• To conduct an adequate Probablistic Risk Assessment, including causes and consequences of large radiation releases;
• To address the threat of terrorism or other malicious actions against Cernavoda, and to discuss even minimal security enhancement such as those required in Canada after the events of September 11, 2001.
Most telling, says Probe International, is the failure of EDC and AECL to release the full environmental assessment, an emergency plan, a credible seismic analysis, pollution control methods, decommissioning proposals, and hazards associated with past construction problems. The Cernavoda 2 reactor project, started in 1980 under the dictatorial Ceausescu regime, used forced labour, and suffered from serious defects in construction and from Romanian-made components. The site was abandoned in 1989 after a national revolt ousted President Ceausescu. “Full analysis and disclosure of the environmental risks of this project would sink it,” predicts Ms. Adams.
That EDC and AECL have created such a deficient environmental assessment for Cernavoda 2 is unsurprising, says Ms. Adams, who warned Parliament during its recent review of EDC’s new enabling legislation that EDC was creating a paper exercise that was designed to snow the public, not protect the environment.
The amended Export Development Act, which became law on December 18, 2001, now exempts EDC from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), in an apparent attempt to ensure easy passage for the Cernavoda 2 loan by avoiding a legal challenge. Sierra Club’s challenge to EDC’s loan to China’s Qinshan nuclear reactor is still before the courts. Although the federal government is aggressively defending against that challenge, leaked cabinet documents concede that the government’s case is weak, and likely to fail in court.
“Under the new law, EDC can now write its own environmental rules, establish its own criteria, assess the risks of its projects, and support projects regardless of the dangers,” says Ms. Adams.
Parliament’s own legislative analysts* were also stunned by the independence the new law gives EDC’s Board of Directors with respect to the environment, describing it as “complete, unlimited freedom to make any decision” with virtual immunity from judicial review.
EDC’s environmental review and public consultation process is a sham, says Ms. Adams, creating a pretense of environmental scrutiny and accountability. The faulty review for Cernavoda 2 is a predictable result of this disingenuous process, she added.
“I believe that EDC has no intention of letting the environmental problems with the Cernavoda nuclear project interfere with its intention to finance it and to subsidize AECL,” says Ms. Adams. “EDC is in charge of the environmental goal posts. The game is rigged and the public can’t challenge the rules or the results.”
* Blayne Haggart, “Bill C-31: An Act to Amend the Export Development Act and to Make Consequential Amendments to Other Acts,” Legislative Summary [PDFver here] , Economics Division, Parliamentary Research Branch, Library of Parliament, LS-407E, 28 September, 2001.
For further details on the deficiencies in AECL’s Environmental Assessment see a critique signed by non-governmental organizations at www.sierraclub.ca.
For background information on the Parliamentary debate over EDC’s new enabling legislation, see Probe International’s section on Bill C-31 and “Romanian reactor’s faulty environmental assessment,” Energy Probe.
Debates of the Senate (Hansard) for Nov. 29, Dec. 4, 5, 2001, are available on the Parliamentary web site, http://www.parl.gc.ca/.