By the 1990’s, the Inverhuron and District Ratepayers’ Association (IDRA – a volunteer-run community group which has been looking after beaches and parks and social activities since 1946) began to study the nuclear facility. Members wanted to know if the facility was safe. They had doubts, which started with incidents, reports and public documents during the 1980’s.
Members examined documents and data and commissioned studies and expert analysis. They became disturbed by what they found – evidence of radioactive leaks from waste storage areas, toxic gas escapes from a heavy water plant, extremely high levels of dioxin emissions from the incinerator.
The IDRA took its findings and questions to the nuclear power company, Canadian nuclear regulators and ministers of government responsible for Canada’s nuclear energy program. Three years passed in meetings and memos, until IDRA members felt they were permanently mired in bureaucratic process.
So the IDRA turned to a legal action. It focused on a new, high-level nuclear waste storage facility (now under construction and near completion on the site). The IDRA took the operators, regulators and federal authorities to court over what it considered were serious discrepancies between the design of the waste facility (as presented to the public and approved by the government) and the design being built.
The IDRA called attention to the manner in which spent nuclear fuel bundles were to be transferred into the new storage facility. And it called attention to issues in the method of storage itself.
The volunteer group requested an independent environmental assessment of the design which had been adopted, pointing out that that this was not the design which the power company had submitted for public comment.
Nonetheless, the switched design received official approval, even though, in correspondence between Ontario Hydro (now OPG), the government regulator called the changes “major” and admitted that the new design had neither been properly described to the public nor studied in depth by the operators or regulators. (The IDRA also hoped to introduce evidence in court in the form of an affidavit (PDF) from radiation cancer specialist Dr. David Hoel that highlighted a possible link between the nuclear site and increased local childhood leukemia statistics and cancer rates – both well above provincial average.)