The Liberal government is standing behind the man whose job is “to protect the health and safety of Canadians and regulate all nuclear substances in Canada” against charges that Michael Binder, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, behaves as a nuclear industry booster, the Globe and Mail reports.
“Binder was appointed by the previous Conservative government in 2008,” the newspaper recalls, “when his predecessor, Linda Keen, refused to back down on safety standards. One of his first acts was to reinstate a fast-track process for approving reactors.”
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As CNSC president, Binder’s role requires not just impartiality with respect to the industry the commission oversees, but its appearance. But the Globe lists examples of Binder rising to the defence of the nuclear industry, including one in which he assigned an aide—rather than an independent agent—to look into allegations that his staff had “sat on” information “that might have called the safety of a plant into question.”
In July, an anonymous group of self-styled “technical experts” released a letter they had sent to Blinder, alleging the regulator had underestimated hazards, allowed plant operators to skip licencing requirements, and withheld critical safety and operating information from commission members and the public.
Earlier this month, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Julie Gelfand reported that the commission had sent inspectors to nuclear plants “without the guides that list what criteria must be met.”
“No part of [the CNSC’s] mission entails promotion of the country’s reactors,” the Globe reports. “But in the more than eight years that Michael Binder has served as president of the CNSC, he has repeatedly extolled the merits of the nuclear industry and chastised critics who voiced concerns about potential hazards.”
Nonetheless, Binder apparently retains the Liberal government’s full confidence. The Globe quotes Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr as saying: “We think the regulator has done and continues to do a good job.”