Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

Requesting an investigation into escalating costs for management of federal radioactive waste

Letter to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts

June 29, 2020

Dear Mr. Allison and Members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts,

In his Fall 2017 special examination report on Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Canada’s Auditor General made the following recommendation:

The Corporation [AECL] should develop a more detailed reporting framework so that it can better measure and demonstrate to Canadians that it is enhancing efficiency and effectiveness, and is containing and reducing costs and risks over time.

AECL has attempted to address this recommendation but in our view it has not succeeded. The attached discussion paper “The Government of Canada’s Radioactive Wastes:  Costs and Liabilities Growing under Public-Private Partnership” notes that since the start of a public private partnership in 2015, taxpayer funding to AECL roughly quadrupled to $1.3 billion in 2020/21. Between 2015 and December 2019 (most recently reported data), AECL’s reported liabilities increased by $332 million. 

The discussion paper’s conclusions are as follows:

1. The estimated $8 billion remediation cost for the federal government’s nuclear waste liabilities exceeds the total of more than 2,000 other federal environmental liabilities.  The un-discounted liability is much higher and was recently reported to be $16 billion.

2. The previous Conservative Government attempted to cut costs and accelerate reduction of federal nuclear waste liabilities by implementing a public-private partnership or GoCo contract between Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and a multinational consortium.

3. Taxpayer funding to AECL for reduction of federal nuclear waste liabilities has more than quadrupled since the start of the GoCo contract; nuclear liabilities are increasing rather than decreasing despite expenditure of billions of dollars of public funds.

4. In the process of implementing the GoCo contract, Government oversight was greatly reduced and control over Canada’s federally-owned nuclear facilities and radioactive wastes was largely transferred to American-owned interests.

5. The GoCo contractor is advancing substandard radioactive waste facilities that do not comply with international standards and obligations; environmental assessments are mired in controversy and several years behind schedule; 

6. Parliament should intervene to restore control of and oversight over federal nuclear facilities and radioactive wastes, and should ensure that public funds are spent wisely on the best available strategies to keep radioactive waste out of our air and drinking water in order to protect current and future generations of Canadians.

We submit that AECL has not demonstrated to Canadians that it is enhancing efficiency and effectiveness and containing costs.  In fact the opposite appears to be true. We urge you to investigate this matter and to read the full discussion paper. 

We look forward to hearing from you and would be pleased to provide additional information and/or answer any questions that committee members may have.

Yours truly,

Gordon Edwards, Ph.D,  Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility

Éric Notebaert, MD, M.Sc. Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

Ole Hendrickson, Ph.D, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area

Attachment: “The Government of Canada’s Radioactive Wastes:  Costs and Liabilities Growing under Public-Private Partnership”