Safety and security measures to be imposed on nuclear companies and operators in light of 2011 events at Fukushima Daiichi

Publication Date: 
July 23, 2012


Letter written by Sierra Club Atlantic Members, Larry Lack and Lee Ann Ward, to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in response to inadequate assessment of earthquake risk to Point Lepreau Nuclear Power Plant.




To the CNSC:

Re: Safety and security measures to be imposed on nuclear companies and operators in light of 2011 events at Fukushima Daiichi

Based on the geologic/historic record, and on what is known about faults in the area around Pt. Lepreau, earthquakes on the Richter scale of 7.0 or greater are certainly possible here (that is within 50-100 km.of Point Lepreau). Also, the fact that the 2011 Fukushima quake at 9.0 was unprecedented has made seismic experts understand that quakes much stronger than those anticipated in nuclear plant design standards can be expected to occur more frequently than was previously thought, and in areas where previous historically measured or described quakes were thought to have been rare and minimally destructive.

As we see it the design capacity for quake resistance at Lepreau is definitely inadequate. The statement from CNSC that "all Canadian NPP's are located far from tectonic plate boundaries and that the threat of a major earthquake at a Canadian NPP is negligible" is not just questionable--it's a scientific falsehood. Several fault lines on which plate movement has occurred are located quite near Pt. Lepreau, including a minor fault very near the plant site, and a much larger, and active fault that runs from eastern Maine into western New Brunswick near Perth-Andover and then trends southeasterly into the border region shared between York and Charlotte counties in New Brunswick. This fault, which runs within about 60 km. of Pt. Lepreau, has been active with surprising frequency in recent years, including two night time shocks (felt by many of those who were awake, including many of our neighbours here in St. Andrews) in the 2 to 4 point Richter range within the past ten years and a strong shock (in the mid-5's on Richter) in the mid 1970's. Another relevant fault parallels the Bay of Fundy along its middle axis, southwest to northeast. That fault's nearest point is approximately 20 km. from Pt. Lepreau. Although this fault has not been strongly active in recent geologic time, geologists and seismologists acknowledge that previously inactive or slightly active faults can become active, and that strong seismic activity can occur where there is little or no geologic history of previous seismic activity.

We hope that prior to the August 15 meeting in Vienna the CNSC will prominently and forthrightly acknowledge that its statement quoted above is an error, will publicly retract that erroneous statement, explain and apologize for its publication, and correct the record accordingly. If this is not done we will have to conclude that CNSC is deliberately misleading Canadians about the seismic situation at Lepreau (and also at Bécancour's Gentilly-2 reactor) and that it cannot be relied upon as a source of truthful information. The CNSC should be an agency that Canadians can rely on as a source of objective scientific information. It should not engage in what amounts to a political effort to "spin" geology and the geological record in ways that could not just misinform the public, but also gravely endanger people who live near or work at the Pt. Lepreau and Gentilly-2 CANDU reactors.

Since European countries that have previously relied substantially on nuclear energy have as a result of the Fukushima tragedy decided to phase out nuclear energy, and because the CNSC has not maintained or demonstrated sufficient independence from the nuclear industry which Canadians expect it to regulate safely, we request that an agency independent of the nuclear industry be designated to assess and make recommendations about the future of nuclear energy in Canada. A royal inquiry into this subject would provide an effective and transparent means for conducting this assessment and for making these recommendations.

Respectfully submitted,
Larry Lack and Lee Ann Ward
St. Andrews, NB
for the Sierra Club of Canada, Atlantic Canada Chapter

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