Canada’s nuclear regulatory agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission says it’s the “World’s best nuclear regulator” on its website. That “self-image” of the CNSC’s is inconsistent with statements made in recent years by international peer reviewers, high-ranking Canadian officials, international nuclear proponents and others.
The International Atomic Energy Agency recently reviewed Canada’s nuclear safety framework. It identified numerous serious deficiencies including: not following IAEA guidance on nuclear reactor decommissioning, failure to justify practices involving radiation sources, inadequate management systems for transporting nuclear materials and allowing pregnant nuclear workers four times higher radiation exposures than IAEA would permit.
“the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission… was quite difficult to work with… I would say that the commission was aggressive with the auditors.”
In April 2017, the Expert Panel on reform of environmental assessment, in its final report noted that it had heard many concerns about lack of independence at the CNSC:
“There were concerns that these Responsible Authorities (CNSC and NEB) promote the projects they are tasked with regulating…The term “regulatory capture” was often used when participants described their perceptions of these two entities.”
Counter to Expert Panel recommendations, the CNSC is the agency responsible for making environmental assessment and licensing decisions for three controversial radioactive waste disposal projects on the Ottawa and Winnipeg rivers.
The nuclear industry publication, Nuclear Energy Insider, recently touted Canada’s “benign regulatory environment” as a reason for SMR developers to come to Canada to experiment with and promote “small”, “modular”, nuclear reactors.
A Globe and Mail article in November 2018, revealed that CNSC officials had engaged in backroom lobbying to exempt small modular nuclear reactors from environmental assessment.
A June 2020 briefing session for MPs and media,“Sham regulation of radioactive waste in Canada,” by the Canadian Environmental Law Association and other NGOs, outlined several ways in which the CNSC was creating “pseudo regulations” to benefit the nuclear industry and allow cheap and ineffective nuclear waste facilities to receive approval and licensing.
A recent petition to the Auditor General from our respective public interest citizens’ groups and Quebec colleagues, entitled “Nuclear governance problems in Canada,” noted that the CNSC has a mandate to protect health but lacks a health department. A review of CNSC’s organizational chart reveals that the word health does not appear on it.
We believe the CNSC is in need of serious reform if Canadians want it to become a world-class nuclear regulator that prioritizes the health of Canadians and the environment over the health of the nuclear industry. The Government of Canada should address regulatory capture and other serious problems at the CNSC as soon as possible.
Lynn Jones, MHSc, Ottawa, Ontario, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area
Anne Lindsey, OM, MA, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Concerned Citizens of Manitoba
The images below are screen shots from the CNSC website, on April 13, 2021, illustrating that the word “health” does not appear on the organizational chart, despite the fact that CNSC’s primary legal mandate is to protect the health of Canadians from the adverse effects of exposure to ionizing radiation.
Our respective public interest citizens’ groups from Manitoba and Ontario along with colleagues in Quebec submitted Petition 427 to the federal auditor general in June 2019 to flag serious problems in Canada’s nuclear governance regime and recommend solutions. The concerns raised in our petition are shared by many other groups from across Canada.
Our research into nuclear governance was sparked by a desire to understand why and how substandard radioactive waste projects have come to be planned for sites on the Winnipeg and Ottawa Rivers. OECD documents allowed for comparisons between Canada and other OECD countries on many aspects of nuclear governance.
Canada came up short on many metrics. For example, Canada has:
Weak and outdated primary legislation with purposes that do not explicitly aim to protect the public from the detrimental effects of ionizing radiation;
No legislation dealing with the vast majority (by volume) of nuclear reactor wastes in Canada;
Delegated almost all nuclear oversight to one agency, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, resulting in a lack of checks and balances found in other OECD countries;
A serious and ongoing perception of regulatory capture of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, reported by the Expert Panel on environmental assessment reform. The CNSC promotes the projects it is tasked with regulating;
A serious conflict of interest in the reporting relationship of CNSC to the minister of natural resources, who has a mandate to promote nuclear energy under the Nuclear Energy Act;
Delegated to a nuclear industry group, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), the job of developing strategies for radioactive waste, counter to guidance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
A serious policy vacuum on radioactive waste and nuclear reactor decommissioning, currently being addressed but with problems that include leadership by the minister of natural resources who has a conflict of interest as noted above, and delegation to the NWMO, counter to IAEA guidance.
Why does it matter that Canada has one of the least robust systems of nuclear governance in the world? The nuclear business comes with risks of catastrophic accidents and produces dangerous and potentially deadly wastes. There is no safe level of exposure to the radioactive substances produced in nuclear reactors. These materials remain hazardous for many millennia. Robust nuclear governance is needed to protect humans, other life forms, and the environment from these risks.
We believe that Canada’s weak nuclear governance regime is a root cause of the substandard proposals to build a giant radioactive waste mound upstream of Ottawa-Gatineau and to entomb highly radioactive nuclear reactors in concrete beside the Ottawa and Winnipeg Rivers.
In our view, Canada’s weak nuclear governance regime also makes federal funding for new nuclear reactors risky and liable to compound serious existing nuclear waste problems and liabilities in this country.
Remedies are offered for many of these problems in Petition 427, but to our knowledge, no one in government is considering them. A letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau 11 months ago, on April 3, 2020, requesting urgent attention to these matters and others raised by a recent IAEA peer review of Canada’s nuclear safety framework has gone unanswered. It appears that no one is minding the shop.
It’s a vexing conundrum: in a country with a weak nuclear governance regime consisting of a “one-stop shop,” “captured regulator” that reports to a minister responsible for promoting nuclear energy, who will take responsibility for fixing Canada’s nuclear governance gaps?
Anne Lindsey, OM, MA Winnipeg, Man., Concerned Citizens of Manitoba
Lynn Jones, MHSc Ottawa, Ont., Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area
Monsieur le Premier Ministre et mesdames et messieurs les Membres du Conseil des Ministres,
La rivière des Outaouais est une rivière du patrimoine canadien qui coule au pied de la Colline du Parlement. Sa valeur comme site naturel et comme trésor historique est inestimable. La rivière est sacrée pour le peuple algonquin, dont elle définit le territoire traditionnel.
La rivière des Outaouais est menacée par un dépotoir géant, d’une hauteur de sept étages, conçu pour abriter un million de tonnes de déchets radioactifs. Un consortium multinational (SNC-Lavalin, Fluor et Jacobs) prévoit construire ce monticule sur les terrains des Laboratoires nucléaires canadiens (LNC) près de Chalk River, en Ontario, à 150 km au nord-ouest d’Ottawa.
Les scientifiques indépendants et le public n’ont pas eu d’occasion de s’exprimer officiellement sur le projet depuis août 2017, alors que des centaines de commentaires critiques ont été soumis à la Commission canadienne de sûreté nucléaire (CCSN). La CCSN est l’« autorité responsable» en vertu de l’ancienne Loi canadienne sur l’évaluation environnementale et prévoit tenir une audience sur l’émission d’un permis cette année. Un Comité d’experts recommandait en 2017 que la CCSN ne soit pas chargée de l’évaluation environnementale des projets nucléaires. Le Comité avait aussi noté que la CCSN était largement perçue comme un « régulateur captif » des entreprises plutôt qu’un organisme indépendant.
1. Le site proposé est tout simplement inapte à recevoir un dépotoir, de quelque type qu’il soit. Le site est à moins d’un kilomètre de la rivière des Outaouais, qui forme la frontière entre l’Ontario et le Québec. La rivière fournit l’eau potable à des millions de Canadiens. Après avoir passé les LNC, elle coule entre Ottawa et Gatineau, au pied de la colline du Parlement, puis jusqu’à Montréal. Le site est exposé aux risques de tornades et de tremblements de terre; la rivière des Outaouais constitue d’ailleurs une ligne de faille géologique majeure. Le site est partiellement entouré de milieux humides et le substrat rocheux est poreux et fracturé.
2. Le monticule prévu contiendrait des centaines de matériaux radioactifs, des douzaines de produits chimiques dangereux et des tonnes de métaux lourds. Parmi les matériaux radioactifs destinés au monticule, on trouve du tritium, du carbone 14, du strontium 90, quatre types de plutonium (un des matériaux radioactifs les plus dangereux lorsqu’inhalé ou ingéré), et jusqu’à 80 tonnes d’uranium. Vingt-cinq des 30 radionucléides cités dans l’inventaire de radionucléides pour le monticule ont une longue durée de vie. Ces renseignements donnent à penser que le dépotoir demeurerait dangereusement radioactif pour quelque 100 000 ans.
La très grande quantité de cobalt 60 dans le dépotoir émettrait tellement de radiation gamma que les travailleurs devraient utiliser un blindage en plomb pour éviter une exposition dangereuse. L’Agence internationale de l’énergie atomique (AIEA) considère le cobalt 60 à haute activité comme un « déchet de moyenne activité », qui doit être stocké en profondeur.
Le dépotoir recevrait aussi des dioxines, des BPC, de l’amiante, du mercure, jusqu’à 13 tonnes d’arsenic et des centaines de tonnes de plomb. Il contiendrait aussi des milliers de tonnes de cuivre, de fer et 33 tonnes d’aluminium, des métaux qui pourront amener des voleurs à creuser dans le monticule après la fermeture du site.
4. Il n’existe pas de niveau sécuritaire d’exposition aux radiations qui s’écouleraient du monticule de Chalk River dans la rivière des Outaouais. Chacun des matériaux radioactifs qui s’échapperait du site augmenterait les risques de malformations congénitales, d’altérations génétiques, de cancer et d’autres maladies chroniques. L’AIEA considère que les déchets radioactifs doivent être soigneusement stockés à l’écart de la biosphère et non dans un monticule en surface.
5. Les normes internationales de sécurité n’autorisent pas l’utilisation de dépotoirs pour disposer des déchets radioactifs. L’AIEA considère que seuls des déchets de très faible activité peuvent être placés dans une installation en surface, comme un dépotoir. Le Canada se déroberait à ses obligations internationales comme État membre de l’AIEA et signataire d’un traité international sur les déchets nucléaires s’il autorisait ce dépotoir à obtenir sa licence.
6. Le monticule géant de Chalk River ne réduirait pas la responsabilité légale du Canada face aux déchets nucléaires, qui s’élève déjà à 8 milliards de dollars. Il pourrait au contraire l’alourdir. La remise en état de cette colline de déchets radioactifs serait très difficile. Les coûts d’assainissement pourraient dépasser ceux de la gestion des déchets s’ils n’avaient pas été mis dans le monticule.
Monsieur le Premier Ministre et mesdames et messieurs les Membres du Conseil des Ministres: Retirez à la CCSN le pouvoir de décision en cette matière et arrêtez le dépotoir nucléaire de Chalk River. Protégez la rivière des Outaouais pour les générations actuelles et futures de Canadiens.
Veuillez recevoir l’expression de nos sentiments les plus sincères,
Gordon Edwards, Regroupement pour la surveillance du nucléaire, Montréal, QC
Éric Notebaert, Association canadienne des médecins pour l’environnement, Montréal, QC
Dear Mr. Trudeau and members of the federal cabinet:
The Ottawa River is a Canadian Heritage River that flows past Parliament Hill. It has untold value as a beautiful natural and historical treasure. The river is sacred for the Algonquin People whose traditional territory it defines.
The Ottawa River is threatened by a giant landfill for one million tonnes of radioactive and other hazardous waste. A multinational consortium (SNC-Lavalin, Fluor and Jacobs) plans to build the seven-story mound on the grounds of the Chalk River Laboratories, northwest of Ottawa, directly across the Ottawa River from the province of Quebec.
Independent scientists and the public have not had a formal opportunity to comment on this project since August 2017 when hundreds of critical comments were submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. CNSC is the “responsible authority” under the old Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and plans to hold a licensing hearing this year. An Expert Panel recommended in 2017 that the CNSC not be in charge of environmental assessment for nuclear projects. The panel also noted that the CNSC is widely perceived to be a captured regulator.
1.The proposed site is unsuitable for a dump of any kind. The site is less than one kilometre from the Ottawa River which forms the border between Ontario and Quebec. The river is a drinking water source for millions of Canadians. After passing the Chalk River Laboratories, it flows downstream through Ottawa-Gatineau, past Parliament Hill, and on to Montreal. The site is tornado and earthquake prone; the Ottawa River itself is a major fault line. The site is partly surrounded by wetlands and the underlying bedrock is porous and fractured.
2.The mound would contain hundreds of radioactive materials, dozens of hazardous chemicals and tonnes of heavy metals. Radioactive materials destined for the dump include tritium, carbon-14, strontium-90, four types of plutonium (one of the most dangerous radioactive materials if inhaled or ingested), and up to 80 tonnes of uranium. Twenty-five out of the 30 radionuclides listed in the reference inventory for the mound are long-lived. This suggests the dump would remain dangerously radioactive for 100,000 years.
A very large quantity of cobalt-60 in the dump would give off so much intense gamma radiation that workers must use lead shielding to avoid dangerous radiation exposures. The International Atomic Energy Agency says high-activity cobalt-60 is “intermediate-level waste” and must be stored underground.
Dioxin, PCBs, asbestos, mercury, up to 13 tonnes of arsenic and hundreds of tonnes of lead would go into the dump. It would also contain thousands of tonnes of copper and iron and 33 tonnes of aluminum, tempting scavengers to dig into the mound after closure.
4. There is no safe level of exposure to the radiation that would leak into the Ottawa River from the Chalk River mound. All of the escaping radioactive materials would increase risks of birth defects, genetic damage, cancer and other chronic diseases. The International Atomic Energy Agency says radioactive wastes must be carefully stored out of the biosphere, not in an above-ground mound.
5.International safety standards do not allow landfills to be used for nuclear waste disposal. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that only Very Low Level Radioactive Waste (VLLW) can be put in an above-ground landfill-type facility. Canada would be shirking its international obligations as a member state of the IAEA and a signatory to an international nuclear waste treaty if it allowed this dump to be licensed.
6.The giant Chalk River mound would not reduce Canada’s $8 billion federal radioactive waste liabilities and could in fact increase them. The giant pile of leaking radioactive waste would be difficult to remediate. Remediation costs could exceed those of managing the wastes had they not been put in the mound.
Prime Minister Trudeau and Members of Cabinet, we urge you to take the decision-making authority out of the hands of CNSC for this project and stop the Chalk River nuclear waste dump. Protect the Ottawa River for current and future generations of Canadians.
Gordon Edwards, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Montreal, QC
Éric Notebaert, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Montreal, QC
This letter from Joe McBrearty, President and CEO of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) deepens my concern about the handling of Canada’s $8 billion nuclear waste liability.
Mr. McBrearty claims that the Chalk River Mound beside the Ottawa River, 150 km north of Ottawa-Gatineau, “will contain only low-level radioactive waste which contains radionuclides that require isolation and containment for only a few hundred years.”
Unfortunately this claim does not stand up to scrutiny.
Twenty-five out of the 30 radionuclides listed in the inventory are long-lived, with half-lives ranging from four centuries to more than four billion years. To take just one example, the man-made radionuclide, Neptunium-237, has a half-life of 2 million years such that, after 2 million years have elapsed, half of the material will still be radioactive.
It is incorrect to say that these materials “require isolation and containment for only a few hundred years.” Many of them will be dangerously radioactive for more than one hundred thousand years. The International Atomic Energy Agency states that materials like this must be stored tens of meters or more underground, not in an above-ground mound.
The CNL inventory also includes a very large quantity of cobalt-60, a material that gives off so much strong gamma radiation that lead shielding must be used by workers who handle it in order to avoid dangerous radiation exposures. The International Atomic Energy Agency considers high-activity cobalt-60 sources to be “intermediate-level waste” and specifies that they must be stored underground. Addition of high-activity cobalt-60 sources means that hundreds of tons of lead shielding would be disposed of in the mound along with other hazardous materials such as arsenic, asbestos, PCBs, dioxins and mercury.
CNL’s environmental impact statement describes several ways that radioactive materials would leak into surrounding wetlands that drain into the Ottawa River during filling of the mound and after completion. It also describes CNL’s intent to pipe water polluted with tritium and other radioactive and hazardous substances from the waste treatment facility directly into Perch Lake which drains into the Ottawa River.
I stand by my original conclusion: We need parliamentarians to step up now to stop this deeply flawed project and prevent the Ottawa River from being permanently contaminated by a gigantic, leaking radioactive landfill that would do little to reduce Canada’s $8 billion nuclear waste liability.
Re: “We cannot afford to be naive about climate change—renewables and nuclear must work together,” by John Gorman, The Hill Times, Dec. 14, 2020.
Mr. Gorman states “the nuclear industry is the only energy industry that can account for all its by-products. While fossil-fuel emissions go into the atmosphere and other industrial waste goes to landfill, all nuclear materials and by-products are safely stored, managed, and monitored in a highly regulated environment.”
There are numerous leaking radioactive waste areas on the Chalk River Laboratories site north-west of Ottawa-Gatineau on the Ottawa River. These leaking waste sites were described in detail in an Ottawa Citizen article in 2011 by Ian McLeod, entitled “Chalk River’s Toxic Legacy.”
The multinational consortium running Chalk River Laboratories is planning to build a gigantic above-ground landfill for one million tonnes of radioactive waste including plutonium and other materials that would remain radioactive for more than 100,000 years. This way of dealing with radioactive waste contravenes international safety standards and best practices.
The consortium’s own studies show that the mound would leak during operation and after closure. The mound is expected to eventually disintegrate in a process referred to as “normal evolution” described in a study called the “Performance Assessment,” produced by the proponent as part of a protracted and controversial environmental assessment that is ongoing.
So much for Mr. Gorman’s assertion that “all nuclear materials and by-products are safely stored, managed, and monitored in a highly regulated environment.”
Dear Mr. Duclos and Members of the Treasury Board:
On September 21, 2020 we wrote to you as women who are Indigenous and non-Indigenous community leaders in science, medicine, law and environmental protection to ask you to stop funding new nuclear reactors. Canada is a member of an international nuclear waste treaty and has a legal obligation to minimize generation of radioactive waste. Federal funding for new nuclear reactors would be an abnegation of this treaty obligation.
Today we are joined by women colleagues from all provinces and territories in Canada and several Indigenous communities. We strongly urge you to reject new nuclear reactors, called “SMRs.” They are being promoted to your government as a silver bullet to address the climate emergency. This is a false notion.
Solar and wind power are already the cheapest and fastest-growing electricity sources in the world. A 2018 Deloitte report, “Global Renewable Energy Trends: Solar and Wind Move from Mainstream to Preferred” concluded: “Solar and wind power recently crossed a new threshold, moving from mainstream to preferred energy sourcesacross much of the globe”. The report noted that solar and wind power enhance electrical grids. It also pointed out that intermittency is no longer a concern owing to rapid advances in storage technology. Canada should fund much wider deployment of solar and wind power.
More funding for energy efficiency and energy conservation would also be a much better use of tax dollars than handouts to the nuclear industry. The 2018 report presented by the Generation Energy Council to Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources found that: “Canada’s greatest opportunities to save money, cut greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs can be found in slashing energy waste. Fully one-third of our Paris emissions commitment could be achieved by improving energy efficiency.”
We urge you to say “no” to the nuclear industry that is asking for billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to subsidize a dangerous, highly-polluting and expensive technology that we don’t need. Instead, put more money into renewables, energy efficiency and energy conservation. This will create many thousands of jobs and quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We must never forget that the main product of nuclear reactors — in terms of planetary impact — is deadly radioactive poisons that remain hazardous to all life on earth for hundreds of thousands of years. The electricity they produce for a few short decades is but a minor by-product. There is no proven safe method for keeping radioactive waste out of the environment of living things for hundreds of thousands of years.
Please see Environmental Petition 419, submitted to the Auditor General of Canada in November 2018, for more detail on why Canada should refuse multibillion dollar handouts to subsidize the nuclear industry.
We urge you to bring this matter to the attention of your Cabinet colleagues, and stop all government support and taxpayer funding for so-called small modular nuclear reactors.
Alma H. Brooks, Wolastoqew and Eastern Wabanaki (New Brunswick)
Chief April Adams-Phillips, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (Quebec)
Candyce Paul, English River First Nation (Saskatchewan)
Ellen Gabriel, Mohawks of Kanehsatà:ke (Quebec)
Eriel Deranger, Member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Treaty 8 (Alberta)
Hilu Tagoona, BA, Qairnimiut Inuk, (Nunavut)
Dr. Imelda Perley Opolahsomuwehs, Neqotkuk First Nation (New Brunswick)
Joan Scottie, Inuk, Nunavut Makitagunarngningit, Baker Lake, Nunavut
Lorraine Rekmans, member of the Serpent River First Nation (Ontario)
Dr. Lynn Gehl, PhD, Algonquin – Pikwakanagan First Nation (Ontario)
Mary Alice Smith, BA, Metis Cree, Robinson-Superior Treaty area, Longbow Lake (Ontario)
Mary Lou Smoke, Anishinawbe Kwe, Bear Clan
Neecha Dupuis, Ojibway Nation of SAUGEEN Indian Tribe No. 258 Savant Lake (Ontario)
Renee Abram, Oneida First Nation of the Thames (Ontario)
Serena Kenny, Lac Seul First Nation (Ontario)
Stefanie Bryant, BA, Lac Seul First Nation (Ontario)
Alexandra Hayward, BSc, JD Candidate, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
Angela Bischoff, Toronto, Ontario
Anna Tilman, BA Physics, MA Medical Biophysics, Aurora, Ontario
Ann Coxworth, MSc, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Ann Pohl, MEd, Killaloe, Ontario
Anne Lindsey, Order of Manitoba, MA, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Dr. Auréa Cormier, PhD, Order of Canada, Moncton, New Brunswick
Dr. Barbara Birkett, MDCM, FRCPC, Oakville, Ontario
Beatrice Olivastri, Ottawa, Ontario
Betty L. E. Wilcox, BA, BEd, Stanhope, Prince Edward Island
Brenda Brochu, BA, BEd, Peace River, Alberta
Brennain Lloyd, North Bay, Ontario
Carole Dupuis, Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly, Québec
Carolyn Wagner, MEd, Fredericton, New Brunswick
Catherine Cameron, BSc., MBA, Perth Ontario
Dr. Cathy Vakil, MD, Kingston, Ontario
Dr. Cecily Mills, PhD Microbiology, Edmonton, Alberta
Chantal Levert, Montréal, Québec
Dr. Charlotte Rigby, PhD, Gatineau, Quebec
Chris Cavan, BEd, Almonte, Ontario
Dr. Dale Dewar, MD, Wynyard, Saskatchewan
Dr. Darlene Hammell, MD, Victoria, British Columbia
Deborah Powell, BA, BEd, Bristol, Quebec
Diane Beckett, BES, MA, Churchill, Manitoba
Diane Fortin, Gatineau, Québec
Dr. Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, PhD, Toronto, Ontario
Elizabeth Logue, Wakefield, Quebec
Elssa Martinez, MSW, Montreal, Quebec
Emma March, MA, JD candidate, Kingston, Ontario
Dr. Erica Frank, MD, MPH, FACPM; Nanoose Bay, British Columbia
Eva Schacherl, MA, Ottawa, Ontario
Evelyn Gigantes, BA, former MPP, Ottawa, Ontario
Gail Wylie, Fredericton, New Brunswick
Gini Dickie, BA, Toronto, Ontario
Ginette Charbonneau, Physicist, Oka, Quebec
Gracia Janes, Ontario Medal for Citizenship, Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario
Gretchen Fitzgerald, BSc, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Janet Graham, MA, Ottawa, Ontario
Dr. Janet Ray MD, Victoria, British Columbia
Dr. Janice Harvey, PhD, Fredericton, New Brunswick
Jean Brereton, Golden Lake, Ontario
Jean Swanson, Order of Canada, BA, City Councillor, Vancouver, British Columbia
Dr. Jeannie Rosenberg, MD, Huntingdon, Quebec
Jessica Spencer, Moncton, New Brunswick
Joann McCann-Magill, MA, Sheenboro, Quebec
Joanne Mantha, MA, Gatineau, Quebec
Jocelyne Lachapelle, Framton, Québec
Johanna Echlin, MEd, Westmount, Quebec
Julie Reimer, MMM, Kingston, Ontario
Dr. Judith Miller, PhD, Ottawa, Ontario
Kathrin Winkler, BA, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Dr. Kathryn Lindsay, PhD, Renfrew, Ontario
Kay Rogers, BA, MA, MSc, Perth Ontario
Kerrie Blaise, MSc, JD, North Bay, Ontario
Kim Reeder, MEM (Environmental Management), Saint Andrews, New Brunswick
Dr. Kringen Henein, PhD, Ottawa Ontario
Larissa Holman, BSc, MREM, Gatineau, Quebec
Dr. Laure Waridel, PhD, Order of Canada, Montréal, Québec
Lenore Morris, BA, MBA, JD, Whitehorse, Yukon
Liette Parent-Leduc, B.A.A., D. Fisc, Saint-Robert, Québec
Lisa Aitken, MEd, HRM, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Dr. Louise Comeau, PhD, Keswick Ridge, New Brunswick
September 15, 2020 The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, President
The Hon. Joyce Murray, Vice-Chair
The Hon. Bardish Chagger, Member
The Hon. Catherine McKenna, Member
The Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Member
The Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, Member
Treasury Board of Canada
Dear Mr. Duclos and Members of the Treasury Board:
We would like to bring to your attention problems with the handling of Canada’s $8 billion federal nuclear waste and decommissioning liability by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).
As detailed in the attached discussion paper, “The Government of Canada’s Radioactive Wastes: Costs and Liabilities Growing under Public-Private Partnership”, taxpayer funding to AECL roughly quadrupled to $1.3 billion between 2015/16 and 2020/21. During this period, AECL’s reported liabilities increased by $332 million.
The previous Conservative Government attempted to cut costs and accelerate reduction of federal nuclear waste liabilities by implementing a public-private partnership or GoCo (“Government owned, Contractor operated”) contract between AECL and a multinational consortium.
The GoCo contractor is advancing substandard radioactive waste projects that do not comply with international standards and obligations. Environmental assessments are mired in controversy and several years behind schedule.
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. It appears that AECL’s president Richard Sexton, is an American national and former senior executive in two of the original corporations awarded the GoCo contract in 2015 as members of the Canadian National Energy Alliance (CNEA) consortium. Mr. Sexton is also the Fee Distribution Officer who determines the “award fees” received by the consortium. AECL’s Lead Contracts Officer is an American national. The board of CNEA is comprised of a majority of American nationals. The GoCo contract was recently renewed unexpectedly, 18 months prior to its official expiry date, with no information provided as to the reason for the early renewal.
Issues of ethics and accountability have arisen in connection with the GoCo contract. The Caretaker Convention appears to have been disregarded in September 2015 when the multi-billion dollar GoCo contract was signed during a federal election campaign. The Integrity Regime appears to have been disregarded when the GoCo contract was quietly renewed by AECL in April 2020, during the early days of the pandemic lockdown, despite the conviction in Canada in late 2019 of the Canadian consortium partner SNC-Lavalin on a charge of fraud.
We believe that intervention is required by Cabinet and/or Parliament to restore control of and oversight over Canadian nuclear facilities and radioactive wastes, and to ensure that public funds are spent wisely.
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
CC: Karen Hogan, Auditor General of Canada
Greg Fergus, Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board
Nous désirons porter à votre attention des problèmes liés à la manière dont Énergie atomique du Canada Ltée (EACL) gère les $8 milliards de déchets nucléaires et de déclassements qui relèvent du gouvernement fédéral.
Comme on le constate dans le document ci-joint « Les déchets radioactifs du gouvernement du Canada : La croissance des coûts et obligations en partenariat public-privé », le financement public d’EACL a pratiquement quadruplé depuis 2015-16 pour atteindre $1,3 milliard en 2020-21. Pendant cette période, les obligations d’EACL se sont accrues de $332 millions.
Le précédent Gouvernement Conservateur avait tenté de réduire les coûts et d’accélérer la réduction des obligations nucléaires fédérales en créant un PPP, un partenariat public-privé (« propriété du Gouvernement, géré par un entrepreneur ») entre EACL et un consortium multinational.
Pour les déchets radioactifs, l’entrepreneur de ce PPP met de l’avant des projets inadéquats qui dérogent aux règles internationales et à nos obligations. Embourbées dans la controverse, les évaluations environnementales accumulent des années de retard.
Dans le cadre de ce PPP, le Gouvernement a considérablement réduit sa surveillance, tandis que la gestion des installations nucléaires et des déchets radioactifs de propriété fédérale se voyait en bonne partie transférée à des intérêts américains. Il semble que Richard Sexton, le président d’EACL, soit un citoyen américain et un ex-dirigeant senior de deux entreprises qui avaient originellement obtenu ce contrat de PPP en 2015, au sein de l’Alliance nationale de l’énergie canadienne (ANEC). M. Sexton est aussi responsable de la répartition des revenus au sein de ce consortium. Le principal responsable des contrats d’EACl est aussi un citoyen américain. Le contrat en PPP a récemment été renouvelé à l’improviste, 18 mois avant sa date d’expiration officielle, sans qu’on ne fournisse la moindre explication du renouvellement hâtif.
Plusieurs enjeux d’éthique et d’imputabilité ont surgi de ce contrat en PPP. On semble avoir ignoré la convention de transition quand on a conclu ce contrat en PPP de plusieurs milliards de dollars pendant la campagne électorale fédérale de 2015. On semble aussi avoir ignoré le régime d’intégrité quand EACL a discrètement renouvelé ce contrat en PPP en avril 2020, au début du confinement attribuable à la pandémie, même si le partenaire canadien du consortium, SNC-Lavalin, avait été condamné pour fraude à la fin de 2019.
Nous estimons que le Conseil des ministres et/ou le Parlement devraient rétablir leur contrôle et leur surveillance des installations nucléaires et des déchets radioactifs fédéraux, afin que les fonds publics soient dépensés avec prudence.
Sincèrement vôtres, Gordon Edwards, Ph.D,Regroupement pour la surveillance du nucléaire
Éric Notebaert, MD, M.Sc.Association canadienne des médecins pour l’environnement Ole Hendrickson, Ph.D, Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area
Cc. Karen Hogan, Vérificatrice générale du Canada
Greg Fergus, Secrétaire parlementaire du président du Conseil du Trésor
Radioactive waste is dangerous, poses risks to all living things and must be kept out of the biosphere for as long as it poses a radioactive hazard (many tens of thousands of years). Article 11 of the Joint Convention states that parties shall “ensure that the generation of radioactive waste is kept to the minimum practicable”.
Small modular nuclear reactors, currently under consideration for taxpayer-funded development in Canada, would produce long-lived hazardous nuclear waste as part of normal operations. These reactors are proposed for Northern, remote and First Nations communities in some of Canada’s most fragile and globally important ecosystems. UNDRIP principles of free prior, and informed consent with indigenous communities have not been respected.
Production of plutonium and other fuels for small modular nuclear reactors would create long-lived hazardous nuclear waste. Small modular nuclear reactors would themselves become hazardous, long-lived nuclear waste; too hot to handle after their short lifespan of a few decades, and too costly to transport, they would likely be abandoned in place leaving permanently contaminated, radioactive exclusion zones, a few hectares in size, everywhere they were deployed.
Low-carbon alternatives to nuclear technology for electricity generation are readily available, faster to deploy, much less expensive and do not generate radioactive waste. They also create more jobs. Small nuclear reactors are therefore not a useful or necessary climate change mitigation strategy.Canada can much more easily, cheaply and quickly get to net zero carbon with a combination of energy conservation and renewables. For details please see Environmental Petition 419 to the Auditor General of Canada.
Small nuclear reactor proponents tout the notion that small reactors will use existing nuclear waste for fuel. This is a dangerous fantasy. In reality, “recycling” radioactive waste creates more radioactive waste, passing the buck to future generations. Worse, reactor technologies that use recycled fuel require extraction of plutonium, creating serious national security risks associated with nuclear weapons proliferation.
We submit that federal support and funding for development of small modular nuclear reactors would constitute an abnegation of Canada’s international commitment to minimize generation of radioactive waste.
We urge you to bring this matter to the attention of your Cabinet colleagues, and cease all government support and taxpayer funding for small modular nuclear reactors.
Anne Lindsey, MA, O.M., Winnipeg, Manitoba
Brennain Lloyd, North Bay, Ontario
Candyce Paul, English River First Nation, Saskatchewan
Dr. Cathy Vakil, MD, Kingston, Ontario
Dr. Dale Dewar, MD, Wynyard, Saskatchewan
Dr. Dorothy Goldin-Rosenberg, PhD, Toronto, Ontario
Eva Schacherl, MA, Ottawa, Ontario
Ginette Charbonneau, Physicist, Oka, Quebec
Gretchen Fitzgerald, BSc, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Johanna Echlin, M.Ed., Montreal, Quebec
Dr. Judith Miller, PhD, Ottawa, Ontario
Dr. Kathryn Lindsay, PhD, Renfrew, Ontario
Kerrie Blaise, MSc, JD, North Bay, Ontario
Lynn Jones, MHSc, Ottawa, Ontario
Dr. Martha Ruben, MD, PhD., Ottawa, Ontario
Pippa Feinstein, JD, LLM, Toronto, Ontario
Dr. Susan O’Donnell, PhD, Fredericton, New Brunswick
We are writing to request your urgent attention to a number of serious concerns related to nuclear governance and nuclear safety in Canada.
We recognize that you are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and that many urgent matters demand your attention at this time. We appreciate your leadership and the actions of your government to date. However, inadequate nuclear safety and governance in the nuclear field entail very serious risks for the health of current and future generations of Canadians. We therefore earnestly urge that the issues raised herein be given their rightful place on the priority list of your government in the coming months.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently reviewed Canada’s nuclear safety framework and its final report , released in Canada on February 18, identified numerous deficiencies  requiring attention by the Government of Canada. Deficiencies include:
failure to establish a national policy and a strategy for radioactive waste management,
lack of alignment with IAEA guidance on nuclear reactor decommissioning,
failure to expressly assign the prime responsibility for safety to the person or organization responsible for a nuclear facility,
failure to explicitly address the principle of justification – a requirement to demonstrate an overall net benefit prior to approval of any new sources of radiation exposure, new nuclear facilities or activities,
inconsistent dose constraints for nuclear facilities,
unsatisfactory transportation management systems for nuclear materials, and
inadequate radiation protection for nuclear workers such as regulations allowing four times higher radiation doses for pregnant women than IAEA standards would countenance
We believe all these failings require urgent attention by the Government of Canada.
Environmental Petition 427 , “Nuclear Governance Problems in Canada, submitted to the Auditor General of Canada in June 2019, identified numerous serious problems in Canada’s nuclear governance regime, including outdated and inadequate legislation, lack of government oversight, no checks and balances, a federal policy vacuum on nuclear waste and nuclear reactor decommissioning, and regulatory capture of the
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The petition recommended creation of a high-level, interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder task force with representation from civil society groups, First Nations and industry to advise on nuclear governance reforms in Canada.
It is our strong conviction that Canada’s nuclear governance and nuclear safety framework are failing to adequately protect Canadians from hundreds of dangerous radioactive substances that are produced by nuclear reactors. Exposure to these radioactive substances can cause serious chronic diseases, birth defects and genetic damage that is passed on to future generations. According to the US National Research Council BEIR VII report , there is no safe level of exposure to ionizing radiation released from nuclear reactors and nuclear waste facilities. We urge you to make it a priority to correct the deficiencies noted by the IAEA peer review and in Environmental Petition 427 to the Auditor General.
We also have serious concerns about the recent appointment of CNSC President Rumina Velshi to chair the IAEA Commission on Nuclear Safety Standards. Our concerns are explained in a letter to IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi  which requests that the appointment be reconsidered. Briefly, we believe the CNSC is a captured regulator with a documented record of disregarding IAEA safety standards or watering down their domestic application; therefore its president – a previous senior officer within Ontario Power Generation – should not chair this IAEA commission.
In the absence of a strong nuclear governance regime and a comprehensive nuclear safety framework, the Government of Canada’s rush to promote and to invest in small modular nuclear reactors is, we believe, ill-advised. In particular, the absence of a requirement in Canada’s nuclear safety framework to justify the increased radiation exposures and increased legacy of radioactive waste of all kinds that would result from developing and deploying SMNRs, is enabling your government to proceed without due consideration of faster, cheaper and lower risk alternatives available for reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, as documented in Environmental Petition 419 to the Auditor General of Canada  “Concerns about investment in new nuclear technology”.
Finally, we note a fundamental conflict of interest in having the CNSC report to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources, who is responsible for promoting nuclear power under the Nuclear Energy Act. This reporting relationship could be changed through an Order-in-Council decision without any change to existing legislation.
We urge you to act swiftly to establish sound nuclear governance and a comprehensive nuclear safety framework in Canada. We respectfully point out that the needed reforms are not only an issue for your Minister of Natural Resources, but also require attention from departments including Justice, Health, Finance, Treasury Board, and Environment and Climate Change.
We look forward to hearing from you.
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
Ottawa River Institute
The Hon. François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Hon. Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources
The Hon. David Lametti, Minister of Justice
The Hon. Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance
The Hon. Patti Hajdu, Minister of Health
The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, President of the Treasury Board
The Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
The Hon. Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party of Canada
Yves-François Blanchet, Bloc Québécois
Jagmeet Singh, New Democratic Party
Elizabeth May, Green Party of Canada, Parliamentary Caucus Leader
Sylvain Ricard, Auditor General of Canada
Andrew Hayes, Interim Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development