NDP says resources minister misled public about water leak at reactor
The NDP wants the federal minister of natural resources to apologize for leading Canadians to believe that no radioactive water ended up in the Ottawa River after a recent leak at the nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ont.
Nathan Cullen, the NDP’s natural resources critic, said that on five different occasions Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt misled the House of Commons about the Dec. 5 leak.
"We've seen radioactive material go into the Ottawa River time and again," Cullen said during question period on Wednesday. "And time and again, she gets up in the House with very, very nuanced language leaving the impression that everything is fine when it's not. "
Raitt, however, said the facts are clear.
"At no time was the health and safety of the Canadian public, workers or the environment at any risk with respect to leaks at the Chalk River facility," she said. "Those are the facts. That is the truth."
The NDP’s allegation came a day after Hugh MacDiarmid, president of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, told the House of Commons Natural Resources committee that the radioactive water that spilled on Dec. 5 was sent to a waste treatment facility before being released into the Ottawa River.
However, the water that ended up in the river still contained the radioactive substance tritium.
MacDiarmid emphasized, however, that releases of tritium into the river are controlled, safe, and meet environmental regulatory limits.
Earlier suggested water not contaminated
"Tritium is clearly a substance that needs to be managed and contained and released in appropriate quantities in a controlled fashion," MacDiarmid said.
In a Jan. 27 interview with CBC News, MacDiarmid suggested radioactive water was not being released into the River.
"At this point in time, the only water going out is non-radioactive, normal water," he said at the time.
After his committee appearance Tuesday, McDiarmid said he was unable to comment on the Jan. 27 interview and the variance with his testimony.
However, on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the reactor offered clarification, saying that at the time of the Jan. 27 interview, water had not yet been released into the river.
"At the time of the interview, we were storing all of the [radioactive] water in our storage tanks at the waste water treatment centre. Mr. MacDiarmid’s statement is accurate," said Dale Coffin.
The NDP also took issue with the minister’s statements in the House during the week of Feb. 2. While the minister denied a leak of radioactive water into the Ottawa River, she did not deny a controlled release of radioactive water, although she didn't reveal it either.
The NDP says it will table a motion at the natural resources committee calling on Raitt to appear as a witness and clarify her statements in the House.
"I fail to understand how the minister believes that the Canadian public will fall for this," Cullen said Wednesday.
"They are losing consistently the trust of Canadians."