Andrew Cash - Intervention re: GE-Hitachi 1025 Lansdowne





November 15, 2013

Submission from Andrew Cash, Member of Parliament for Davenport


Last October, I, like many Davenport residents, was shocked to learn that a nuclear fuel

processing facility was operating in our community and had been for the last 50 years.

And since the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada facility at 1025 Lansdowne Ave at

Dupont Ave. is regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, an arms-length

body of the federal government, many residents came to me to share their concerns.

The facility is in the heart of one of the fastest growing residential neighbourhoods in

Toronto with condo towers being built presently right across the road from the plant.

However it isn't just new comers that didn't know or still don't know about this plant. I

have spoken directly to residents who have lived in the immediate vicinity of the plant for

forty years who had never heard about the plant or recall receiving any information ---in

forty years! As recently as six days ago I spoke to several long time residents within a

block of the facility who did not know what it manufactured.


Since last October, my provincial colleague MPP Jonah Schein and I have worked hard

to get answers and to respond to the concerns of our constituents so that they have all the

information they need to feel safe in their own homes. Residents have continued to ask us

'how could this kind of facility operate in a residential area for fifty years and none of us

know?'


When we began enquiring last fall about the facility, GE-Hitachi informed my office that

signs outside its building reading only “GE-Hitachi” were not required to have

explanatory signage. The company also told me that before November 2012, it had not

sent out flyers since 2007. Prior to its licence renewal hearings in 2010, the only process

of public information that occurred was the placing of small notices in the Toronto Star,

L’Express de Toronto, and on the Windspeaker’s page of the Aboriginal Multi-Media

Society Web site. No effort was made to communicate with residents in the languages

that are most common in the neighbourhoods surrounding the plant, namely Portuguese,

Italian, or Spanish, or in the media outlets most read by the community. I was advised

that at one time the company did carry on a dialogue with its direct neighbours through a

community consultation group, but admitted that the group was disbanded a number of

years ago.


But wasn't it a condition of GE-Hitachi's licence that it was to engage in a fulsome public

information program? Community members began to wonder how the facility's licence

could be renewed if it had failed to fulfil the key function of its public information

program— informing the public. Indeed, during a public meeting hosted by myself and

MPP Jonah Schein last December about the facility, CNSC officials indicated that that

they had not been satisfied with the degree to which GE-Hitachi Canada had complied

with the licensing requirements pertaining to its Public Information Program. However,

this didn't stop the CNSC from rejecting our request that it reopen the licence on this

basis so that the public, and especially the residents living closest to the facility could

have an opportunity for meaningful input.


What the CNSC did do was issue new regulations around Public Information and

Disclosure. These state that:

The public information program and its disclosure protocol shall be commensurate with

the public’s perception of risk and the level of public interest in the licensed activities,

which may be influenced by the complexity of the nuclear facility’s life cycle and

activities, and the risks to public health and safety and the environment perceived to be

associated with the facility and activities… The public information program shall provide

open and transparent means and access for the public to obtain desired operational,

environmental and safety information about the licensed facility or activities.

Since the community made the initial discovery of the operations of this plant, there has

indeed been a high level of public interest in the GE-Hitachi facility at 1025 Lansdowne

Ave. As mentioned above, our community requested reopening the operating licence of

the facility, soil testing from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and further public

meetings and consultation.


However, we have seen very little improvement towards the goal of informing local

residents. GE-Hitachi’s own Public Information and Disclosure Program says that

content related to public information and disclosure must “provide an overview of the

plant including address, activities”; “provide a statement on environmental, health, and

safety programs”; “describe uranium and radiation”; and several other things. However

the company does provide a disclaimer that “all information products may not contain all

program content elements.” Examples from their own works show that they regularly

omit these important elements. On a feedback flyer (page 18 of the GE Hitachi Public

Information and Disclosure Program from May 16, 2013, see attached), there is no

description of the facilities operations other than people ‘work at the facility in high-tech

and administrative positions.’ There is no mention of uranium pellets and the company’s

name is shortened to ‘GE Hitachi Canada’ as opposed to ‘GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

Canada.’ How are people to provide feedback on the company and the facility if there is

no mention of what the company or facility does? Again, in its flyer for a November 19,

2013 open house (see attached), there is no indication of what the facility does or why

residents of the community should be interested in coming to the community open house.

Furthermore, their main sign at the corner of Lansdowne Ave and Brandon Ave continues

to only say ‘GE Hitachi’. No wonder for decades residents thought the company made air

conditioners or refrigerators.

Listed among the ‘primary target audiences’ in GE-Hitachi’s public information program

are local elected representatives. However, the information that has been shared with me

does not meet high standards of public information sharing, transparency and disclosure.

The first time my office had contact with the facility was in October 2012, over a year

after I was elected. Prior to that the facility had never contacted my office. We did have

several interactions with GE-Hitachi after news reports exposed the operations of the

facility in our community. However, since then, the majority of my office’s

correspondence with GE-Hitachi has been regarding initiatives that MPP Jonah Schein

and I have advocated for, including the Ontario Ministry of the Environment soil testing

and this CNSC meeting being held in Toronto. We did receive one two-page electronic

newsletter in April and notification of the November 19, 2013 open house, but overall,

the interaction has been disappointing and does not quell my concerns about the

effectiveness of the facility's public information program.


What is the purpose of a clause in GE Hitachi's licence to operate that requires it to

engage in a comprehensive public information program if it is not enforced? It is up to

the CNSC to ensure that the rules are followed and that residents are safe. However from

pipeline leaks in Kalamazoo to tainted meat to the Lac Megantic disaster people are no

longer willing to accept carte blanche that 'everything is safe'. Our community,

neighbours of the GE-Hitachi facility at 1025 Lansdowne Ave need to be aware of the

risks so they can decide whether or not they want to accept them. After 50 years of

silence our community deserves at least that.


Andrew Cash,


Member of Parliament for Davenport