January 20, 2016 5:25 pm
Updated: January 20, 2016 5:30 pm

Decisions at nuclear plant could compromise national security: safety commission

The Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in Pickering, Ont. is pictured on March 16, 2011.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
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Canada’s nuclear regulator says the operators of an Ontario nuclear power plant failed to comply with certain licensing conditions, behaviour that could produce “unreasonable risks to national security.”

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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.

“If not corrected, this behavior could in the future result in unreasonable risks to national security, the health and safety of persons and the environment,” the notice says. “This (penalty) is issued to (Ontario Power Generation) to promote compliance with conditions of their licence and to deter reoccurrence.”

The “corrective actions” that the company stopped carrying out are not explained in the notice, but company spokesperson Neal Kelly said safety and security were never at risk.

“What I can tell you is that these are procedural matters, with no bearing on the safety of the plant,” Kelly said. “At no point was the safety of the plant ever compromised.”

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.

The CNSC did not immediately reply to a request for comment from Global News on Wednesday.

The notice states that several factors contributed to determining the severity of the fine. 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.

-With files from the Canadian Press.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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