Firing of nuclear safety chief is inexcusable

As a Canadian citizen I'm outraged. The federal Conservative government has fired the head of the country's nuclear safety commission, using Linda Keen as a fall guy for the government's own screwups related to Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s NRU research reactor in Chalk River (it was shut down in late November because it didn't comply with safety standards, causing a global shortage of medical isotopes). The government, because it didn't have any of its own backup plans, blamed the ":independent" regulator instead of the crown corporation that was in violation of its license: AECL. It then overrode the authority of the regulator and ordered the reactor to be put back online. So much for independent oversight in the name of safety.

Now, Keen has been fired -- for doing her job. And the last I heard, her job has nothing to do with guaranteeing the supply of medical isotopes. But there's more to this. Keen, in the course of doing her job and keeping nuclear safety top-of-mind, has made life difficult for AECL and its ability to sell new reactors in Canada (specifically Ontario). Many observers of this battle between Keen and the federal government believe her dismissal is also part of a plan to make it easier for AECL to comply with safety rules and ultimately get licensed in Canada. Also, as the federal government looks to privatization AECL, it needs a reactor sale in Canada to get top dollar.

I should point out that Keen remains on the commission, but one wonders how long that will last.

Now, I don't know about you, but as a Canadian I'm not comfortable with the government cutting corners and firing people who do their jobs just so they can sell a reactor or two and continue to justify the existance of AECL, and the further use of taxpayers' dollars to support it.

End of rant.

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