Canada government set to fire nuclear watchdog

Tue Jan 8, 2008 1:27pm EST
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government is considering firing the country's top nuclear watchdog after she insisted on the closure of a crucial reactor that makes radioisotopes for cancer tests, officials said on Tuesday.

Last month, the ruling Conservatives forced legislation through Parliament to order that the Chalk River reactor be restarted for 120 days. The reactor makes more than two-thirds of the global supply of medical isotopes.

The law overruled the decision of Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission President Linda Keen, who said the move was too risky because some safety back-up systems were not working.

On Tuesday the commission released a letter that Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn -- in overall charge of nuclear matters -- wrote to Keen on December 27 to say he was considering a recommendation to fire her.

"These events cast doubt on whether you possess the fundamental good judgment required by the incumbent of the office of president," he wrote. "These doubts have led me to question whether you should continue to serve as president of the commission."

In her reply to Lunn, dated January 8, Keen said his allegations were both troubling and without merit. She said she had no intention of quitting.

"The nature of the allegations that have been made, coupled with your threat to have me removed as president, seriously undermine the independence of the CNSC," she wrote, adding that Lunn was improperly interfering with the commission.

One prominent green group said it was deeply concerned by the implications of Lunn's letter and said Parliament should give Keen protection from political interference.   Continued...

 
<p>A sign is seen outside the reactor at the Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL) Chalk River nuclear facility during a media tour in Chalk River, Ontario, December 19, 2007. The Canadian government is considering whether to fire the country's top nuclear watchdog after she insisted on the closure of the facility, a crucial reactor that makes radioisotopes for cancer tests, an official said on Tuesday. REUETRS/Chris Wattie</p>