Canadian safety chief rebuts minister's claims

09 January 2008

Linda Keen, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) president, has published a letter strongly challenging written comments made by Gary Lunn, Canada's Natural Resources Minister, which questioned Keen's judgement.


Lunn wrote his letter in the wake of the prolonged shutdown of the National Research Universal reactor at Chalk River, which supplies radioisotopes to the global medical community. The letter was written on 27 December 2007 and was obtained and published by the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.


In his letter, Lunn expressed his 'deep concern' with respect to the actions of the CNSC and the 'failure' of the commission to facilitate the timely return to operation of the reactor. He went on to question whether Keen possessed 'the fundamental good judgement required' to carry out her job. Lunn said he was considering recommending the termination of Keen's appointment as president of the CNSC. He invited Keen to respond by 10 January.


Keen responded on 8 January with a strongly worded letter published, alongside Lunn's original letter, on the CNSC website. Keen claimed that any objective assessment of the facts would reveal that the 'serious allegations' made by Lunn were 'entirely without merit'.


Keen said that she was compelled to respond, as failure to do so would undermine the public's 'trust and confidence' in the CNSC. Keen also said that Lunn's allegations and threat to have her removed from the post of president 'seriously undermine the independence of the CNSC', a matter Keen said was deeply troubling.


Keen defended the actions of the CNSC with regards to the handling of the Chalk River reactor shutdown and also defended her own conduct, saying that Lunn's letter had not contained a 'single allegation of personal misconduct' on Keen's part.


Keen strongly recommended the issue of her performance as president of the CNSC be referred to a public inquiry, parliamentary committee or independant international review. Keen said she expected to serve as president until her term expired in 2010.