Environmental Petition: Nuclear governance problems in Canada

June 13, 2019

Petition summary (Office of the Auditor General website)

PDF version of the full petition available here

Environmental Petition: Nuclear governance problems in Canada

This petition is being submitted to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada in accordance with section 22 of the Auditor General Act by Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area (Ontario), Pontiac Environmental Protection (Quebec), and Concerned Citizens of Manitoba. The concerns highlighted in this petition and the answers sought are also matters of importance to our colleagues in other organizations including the Alliance of the Anishinabek Nation and the Iroquois Caucus, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, Ralliement contre la pollution radioactive (Quebec), Sierra Club Canada Foundation, Friends of the Earth (Canada), the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Old Fort William (Quebec) Cottagers’ Association, Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan, the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Cooperative (Saskatchewan), the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Physicians for Global Survival, Mining Watch, Watershed Sentinel Educational Society (British Columbia), Green Coalition Verte (Montreal), and First United Church Water Care Allies (Ottawa).

We request that the Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, and Justice undertake to address serious governance problems in the management of Canada’s nuclear waste legacy. These problems, highlighted in this petition, must be corrected to support sustainable development, protect the biosphere and avoid undue financial, health and environmental burdens for current and future generations of Canadians. 


A consortium of SNC-Lavalin and other multinational corporations has assumed ownership of “Canadian Nuclear Laboratories” (CNL) and now controls all of Canada’s federally-owned nuclear facilities and radioactive wastes. A “Government-owned, Contractor-operated” (GoCo) arrangement was put in place by the former Conservative government in September 2015, just prior to the October 2015 federal election.  Environmental petition 405 and Environmental Petition 405b to the Auditor General raise questions about whether this GoCo arrangement is providing value for Canadian taxpayers (1, 2).  These questions remain relevant.

In May 2016 the consortium put forward three proposals for permanent radioactive waste disposal, the first such proposals ever in Canada. These proposals are currently undergoing environmental assessment (EA) under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012. They include construction of a giant, above-ground radioactive waste mound at Chalk River, Ontario and “entombment” in concrete of defunct, federal-government-owned nuclear reactors at Rolphton, Ontario and Pinawa, Manitoba (3, 4, 5). 

These project proposals disregard International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safety standards on entombment of reactors and above-ground disposal of waste (6, 7, 8). They would permanently contaminate the Ottawa and Winnipeg Rivers with radioactive materials such as plutonium, caesium, strontium and tritium, some of which will be remain hazardous for over 100,000 years (3, 4, 5). 

Over 140 downstream municipalities that use the Ottawa River for drinking water have passed resolutions against the consortium’s projects (9). First Nations, Ontario, Quebec, civil society groups, independent scientists, municipalities, federal government departments and concerned individuals have submitted hundreds of critical comments on the project descriptions and EAs that are posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry (10, 11, 12).

Seeking to understand how the consortium’s nuclear waste proposals came to be undergoing EAs despite their lack of alignment with IAEA safety guidelines, the petitioners have researched nuclear governance in Canada and have identified problems in the way nuclear waste is dealt with by the Government of Canada, and in Canada’s system of nuclear governance generally.


Canada’s system of nuclear governance is described in a report  to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) entitled “Nuclear Legislation in OECD Countries ~ Regulatory and Institutional Framework for Nuclear Activities: Canada” (13). This is part of a series consisting of similar reports from all OECD countries that carry out nuclear activities (14).

Canada’s radioactive waste management program is described in a profile (15) that is part of an OECD series entitled “Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in NEA (Nuclear Energy Agency) Member Countries” (16).

In addition to IAEA and OECD resources we have drawn on Access to Information requests and our own experience for this review.

Problems with Canada’s nuclear governance

1)  Legislation 

Two main acts govern nuclear activities in Canada.  These acts are very “hands off”, providing limited direction and delegating to non-governmental agencies responsibilities that in other countries are managed by government departments and elected representatives.

Weak purposes and value-laden judgments

The primary legislation governing nuclear activities in Canada is the Nuclear Safety and Control Act of 2000 (NSCA). It establishes a regulatory body, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), and provides the CNSC with a mandate to limit risks of nuclear energy to health and national security to a “reasonable level” and meet international non-proliferation obligations (17).

The Act’s weak and indirect purpose is “to provide for the limitation to a reasonable level…of the risks…”.  Use of the word “reasonable” implies that there are “reasonable” levels of exposure to man-made ionizing radiation and that it is acceptable for the Commission to make decisions to expose certain members of the public to ionizing radiation without their permission and without any benefit to them. Similarly, the NSCA allows the Commission to decide what constitutes a “reasonable” risk to national security.

Value laden judgments on what risks are “reasonable” or “acceptable” should be made by elected officials who can ultimately be held accountable by the electorate. These are not scientific decisions, but rather value judgments informed by science, economics and social values.  They should not be made by non-elected appointees, especially if they have past associations with the sector being regulated.

Acts in other countries are more direct with clear intentions to protect health and the environment. Two examples are instructive. The purpose of Finland’s Nuclear Energy Act is “To keep the use of nuclear energy in line with the overall good of society, and in particular to ensure that the use of nuclear energy is safe for man and the environment” (18).  The purpose of Germany’s Atomic Energy Act is “to protect life, health and property against the hazards of nuclear energy and the detrimental effects of ionizing radiation” (19).

Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste Act of 2002 (NFWA) sets up a private non-profit corporation owned by waste producers to manage nuclear fuel waste and recommend and implement strategies for dealing with it. Its purpose is

“to provide a framework to enable the Governor in Council to make, from the proposals of the waste management organization, a decision on the management of nuclear fuel waste that is based on a comprehensive, integrated and economically sound approach for Canada.” (20)

Nowhere in this Act is there any mention of protecting people or the environment.

“Delegation” (or abdication?) of responsibilities

The organizations created by the NSCA and NFWA are independent of the Canadian government. The NSCA delegates responsibilities for decision making to the CNSC.  The NFWA delegates the development of an approach to manage high level, irradiated nuclear fuel waste to the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), a corporation run by nuclear industry waste owners. 

This is in striking contrast to the way most other OECD countries manage their nuclear governance responsibilities. Requirement #1 of the IAEA’s Governmental, Legal and Regulatory Framework for Safety is that “The government shall establish a national policy and strategy for safety,” that “shall express a long term commitment to safety,” and that “shall be promulgated as a statement of the government’s intent.” (21). The Government of Canada has not expressed a long-term commitment to safety in its nuclear policy or legislation.  

No mention of the word “waste” in the NSCA

As the primary act governing nuclear activities and nuclear safety in Canada, it is surprising the word “waste” appears nowhere in the NSCA. This is in contrast to primary acts in other countries such as Finland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic which mention waste 197, 239 and 174 times respectively (14).

The NFWA does not address any type of radioactive waste other than irradiated nuclear fuel.  Thus neither Act addresses the vast majority (by volume) of nuclear reactor wastes, including the shut-down reactors themselves.

2) The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Sole agency responsible for almost all aspects of nuclear governance. 

In contrast to the situation in other OECD countries, the federal government has conferred most of its nuclear governance responsibilities on the CNSC. One ensuing problem is that CNSC has assumed the role of creating policy, even though an IAEA standard explicitly states that policy should be developed and approved by the federal government and not by a regulatory agency (21).

For example, in all OECD member countries other than Canada, decisions about licensing of radioactive waste disposal are made by government bodies – not by a national regulatory agency (22). Canada is unique in giving CNSC sole and final decision-making power in this domain.

Too much independence from Parliament

As noted on the CNSC website: 

“The CNSC … reports to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources on the Commission’s activities under the Act. While the Chair and Board of CNSC are appointed by Order in Council, neither the Minister nor the Governor in Council has a role in CNSC’s decision making or the power of appeal. Its decisions are reviewable only by the Federal Court of Canada.” (23) 

In other countries, recommendations made by the regulatory body are generally forwarded to a government minister for a final decision. The CNSC’s “independence” from the elected government of the day arguably limits its responsibility to the Canadian people who are affected by its decisions. 

No independence from industry

The CNSC is widely perceived to be a “captured regulator” that promotes projects it is tasked with regulating.  This was noted by the Expert Panel on Reform of Environmental Assessment in its April 2017 report “Building Common Ground” (24). (Footnote 1) According to Wikipedia, “Regulatory capture is a form of government failure which occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating… leading to a net loss for society”(25).

Examples of the CNSC’s tendency to promote the projects it is tasked with regulating are presented in Environmental Petition 413 to the Auditor General, which describes the CNSC’s handling of environmental assessments for the consortium’s nuclear waste projects (26).

The international nuclear industry also appears to perceive the CNSC as a captured agency. The CNSC was recently described in an international nuclear industry publication as presiding over a “benign regulatory environment” (27).

Mandate to protect health but no health department

Despite having a mandate to protect health, the CNSC lacks a health department.  A review of CNSC’s organizational chart reveals that the word health does not appear on it (28).

3) Radioactive waste policy vacuum

The IAEA provides detailed guidance on national policy requirements for nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management (6, 7, 8, 29). 

On waste management, the IAEA says: “To ensure the effective management and control of radioactive waste, the government shall ensure that a national policy and a strategy for radioactive waste management are established.”  The IAEA adds that “The national policy on radioactive waste management has to set out the preferred options for radioactive waste management.” (4)  

On decommissioning, the IAEA says “the government should establish the overall objectives of decommissioning as part of its obligation to establish and maintain a governmental, legal and regulatory framework for all aspects of decommissioning, including management of the resulting radioactive waste. The policy should be developed by the government in cooperation with relevant organizations, including the licensee, and in consultation with the public.” (29)

Canada has no policy that sets out its objectives and preferred options for decommissioning or radioactive waste management.  The Government of Canada itself has never undertaken public consultations on these matters, but instead delegates consultation to the NWMO and CNSC. 

Non-fuel waste

Environmental Petition 411 to the Auditor General describes in detail the lack of federal policies for management of non-fuel radioactive waste. The petition reviews documents provided by NRCan in response to an Access to Information request for Canada’s radioactive waste policies.  It states that these documents:

 “… do not contain information recommended by IAEA. These documents contain no strategies, and no timeframes. They contain no goals or requirements for safe handling of radioactive wastes. They do not define how and when the goals and requirements will be achieved. They do not set out preferred options for radioactive waste management. They include non-standard, inconsistent and incomplete waste classifications. The policy framework includes the phrase “in accordance with approved waste disposal plans”, implying that such plans exist, but we were unable to find any”. (30)

Canada’s sole radioactive waste policy document is a “Radioactive Waste Policy Framework” (emphasis added) consisting of 143 words in three bullet points (31).  Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr wrote in July 2018 that “Canada does not yet have a federal policy for the long-term management of non-fuel radioactive waste.” (32)


The absence of federal policies for nuclear reactor decommissioning is described in detail in Environmental Petition 418 to the Auditor General, “Need for a national policy on decommissioning of nuclear reactors”. The petitioners note that the lack of federal policy has enabled the consortium that controls federal nuclear sites to propose to entomb reactors in concrete, based solely on cost, with no consideration of international safety guidelines (33).  Government, not private industry, should develop policies and strategies for nuclear decommissioning.

Canada also lacks a policy on the management of irradiated nuclear reactor fuel waste. As noted earlier, the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act delegates the responsibility to develop an approach for high level irradiated nuclear fuel management to an industry-run corporation, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (20).

4) No checks and balances

A review of OECD documents reveals that Canada has one of the least robust systems of nuclear governance in the world, relying as it does on one agency for nearly all aspects of nuclear governance in the country.  By comparison, most other OECD countries involve high ranking public officials and have multiple government departments involved in nuclear governance. They also have high-level, multi-stakeholder, and interdisciplinary advisory committees and commissions set up to govern nuclear activities. Appendix A provides more details on this. 

As noted earlier, the side-by-side comparison of OECD countries on various aspects of nuclear governance indicates that Canada is the only OECD country that leaves decisions on nuclear waste disposal projects solely in the hands of its nuclear regulatory agency. Canada is also the only OECD country where industry has exclusive responsibility for “cost estimation” (22). Questions have arisen about cost estimates for the project proposals of the multinational consortium that manages federal nuclear sites and wastes under the current GoCo arrangement. Having only a single industry cost estimate creates risks that Canadian taxpayers are not receiving “value for money” from these project proposals. Parliamentary appropriations for nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management amounted to $737 million in the 2019-2020 federal budget alone.

The lack of checks and balances in Canada’s nuclear governance system and the absence of a clearly defined purpose to protect health in the environment in the NSCA create an over-riding emphasis on promotion of nuclear energy.  The Minister of Natural Resources, who is responsible for the NSCA, also has powers under the Nuclear Energy Act to “cause… the utilization of nuclear energy” (34), thus creating a conflict of interest in which promotion of nuclear energy tends to be given priority over efforts to limit risks. Recently, Natural Resources Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada have been promoting nuclear energy as “clean” and “sustainable”, despite the fact that all nuclear reactors produce hazardous radioactive waste that Canada is ill-equipped to deal with as outlined above. Environmental Petition 419 (35)  and Environmental Petition 421 (36) to the Auditor General present the cases against referring to nuclear energy as “clean” and against federal spending on new nuclear technologies. 


Canada’s policies and legislation governing radioactive waste management, and decommissioning of nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities, have serious deficiencies. This puts Canada in contravention of international safety standards that clearly express a requirement for government leadership in these areas.

Elected representatives, in consultation with Indigenous Peoples and ordinary Canadians, should be directly involved in making decisions about nuclear wastes. These wastes will be hazardous and radioactive for millennia, long after the nuclear industry has ceased to exist.  Decisions should be made in the best interests of current and future generations of Canadians.

Recommended Remedies 

The Government of Canada should formally and publicly review its nuclear governance framework in the context of IAEA standards and guidelines, with a specific focus on policies and legislation for decommissioning and nuclear waste management.  This review is urgently needed to identify gaps, to recommend reforms, and to assure compliance with international standards. 

Two types of reviews would be helpful:

  1. A review by a highly credible, independent and transparent body such as the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development or the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, and
  2. An ARTEMIS  review (Footnote 2) by the International Atomic Energy Agency that would 

review the safety cases for the three radioactive waste disposal projects advanced by the consortium that owns CNL, and broadly examine Canada’s policies and legislation for decommissioning and waste management.

Both review bodies should be provided with this petition as background information. The results of both reviews should be made public, as soon as possible after completion of the reports.

Drawing upon the results of these reviews, Canada should undertake a program of restructuring and reform of the CNSC to eliminate the problem of regulatory capture and ensure that Canada’s nuclear regulator has a clear mandate and adequate capacity to protect health and the environment.  Actions might include transparent, merit-based selection of board members and senior staff, training of board and senior staff, and establishment of a CNSC office of public service ethics.

Canada should establish a high-level, interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder task force with representation from civil society groups, First Nations and industry to advise on the development of policies and strategies for managing Canada’s post-fission, non-fuel radioactive waste that meet or exceed international safety requirements. 

Canada should strengthen existing legislation (NSCA and NFWA) to reflect international standards, and to better balance long-term human and environmental health considerations with short-term economic interests.

Overall Conclusion

This petition identifies serious weaknesses in Canada’s system of nuclear governance.  This creates risks for Canadians and their environment from nuclear waste, now and in the future. A formal commitment by the Government of Canada to review and remedy these weaknesses will protect current and future generations of Canadians and their environment from the hazards of improperly managed radioactive waste.


These questions are addressed to the Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, and Justice.  We ask that this petition also be sent for information to the Ministers of Health, Finance, and Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

1) Will you commit to addressing the problems with nuclear governance identified in this petition? If yes, what steps will you take to do so?

2) Will you commit to strengthening the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act to reflect international standards and to better balance long-term human and environmental health with economic interests?

These questions are addressed to Minister of Natural Resources Canada and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

3) Given the problems with nuclear governance in Canada outlined in this petition, what immediate steps will you and your cabinet colleagues take to ensure that any nuclear waste disposal project that is licensed in Canada will meet or exceed international safety standards, and will protect drinking water for current and future generations of Canadians?

4) Will you request a review of Canada’s nuclear governance by a highly credible, independent and transparent body such as the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development or the Office of the Auditor General of Canada?

5) Will you request an IAEA ARTEMIS review of the nuclear governance problems identified in this petition and will you provide the IAEA ARTEMIS team with this petition as background for its review?

6) Will you commit to establishing a high-level, interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder task force with representation from civil society groups, First Nations and industry to advise on the development of policies and strategies for managing Canada’s post-fission, non-fuel radioactive waste that meet or exceed international safety requirements.


  1. “A frequently cited concern was the perceived lack of independence and neutrality because of the close relationship the NEB and CNSC have with the industries they regulate. There were concerns that these Responsible Authorities promote the projects they are tasked with regulating. The apprehension of bias or conflict of interest, whether real or not, was the single most often cited concern by participants with regard to the NEB and CNSC as Responsible Authorities. The term “regulatory capture” was often used when participants described their perceptions of these two entities. The apprehension of bias on the part of these two Responsible Authorities eroded confidence in the assessment process.“
  2. In 1998 the IAEA instituted an “Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS)”, which is available to both government and private sector entities. ARTEMIS reviews can cover national frameworks and regulatory systems as well as specific aspects of national programs. (37). CNSC Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Operations Officer Ramzi Jammal indicated that the CNSC would “request an IAEA review mission for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programs (ARTEMIS) to review the safety cases for CNL’s proposed major projects” in a May 2018 presentation to the 42nd International Nuclear Regulators Association Meeting in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea (38).


1. CCRCA and CELA 2017. Canadian nuclear legacy liabilities: Cleanup costs for Chalk River Laboratories. Environmental Petition No. 405. Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Canadian Environmental Law Association. http://www.cela.ca/publications/1123NLLPPetition

2. CCRCA and CELA 2018. Follow-up petition on Canada’s nuclear legacy liabilities. Environmental Petition No. 405b.  Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Canadian Environmental Law Association. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxjb25jZXJuZWRjaXRpemVuc3JjYXxneDozM2FmNTM2MTU5OTY3ZDUw

3. CNL 2017.  Near Surface Disposal Facility Environmental Impact Statement.  Canadian Nuclear Laboratories.  Chalk River, Ontario.  http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/p80122/118380E.pdf

4. CNL 2017. Environmental Impact Statement – NPD Closure Project. NPD Decommissioning, Revision 0. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. Chalk River, Ontario. https://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/p80121/121057E.pdf

5. CNL 2017b. Environmental Impact Statement – In Situ Decommissioning of WR-1 at the Whiteshell Laboratories Site, Revision 1. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. Pinawa, Manitoba.https://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/p80124/120753E.pdf

6. IAEA 2011. Policies and Strategies for the Decommissioning of Nuclear and Radiological Facilities. Nuclear Energy Series No. NW-G-2.1. International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna. https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1525_web.pdf 

7. IAEA 2009. Predisposal Management of Radioactive Waste. General Safety Requirements. Safety Standards Series No. GSR Part 5. International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.  https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1368_web.pdf

8. IAEA 2009. Policies and Strategies for Radioactive Waste Management. IAEA Nuclear Energy Series No. NW-G1.1. International Atomic Energy Agency Vienna. https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1396_web.pdf

9. CCRCA. 2019. Updated list of municipal resolutions opposing the Chalk River and Rolphton nuclear waste dumps. Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.  https://concernedcitizens.net/2019/05/29/updated-list-of-municipal-resolutions-against-the-chalk-river-and-rolphton-nuclear-waste-dumps/

10. CEAA 2019.  Near Surface Disposal Project. Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. https://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/evaluations/document/exploration/80122?type=3&culture=en-CA

11. CEAA 2019. Nuclear Power Demonstration Closure Project.Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. https://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/evaluations/document/exploration/80121?type=3&culture=en-CA

12. CEAA 2019. In Situ Decommissioning of the WR-1 Reactor. Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. https://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/evaluations/document/exploration/80124?type=3&culture=en-CA

13. OECD 2009. Nuclear Legislation in OECD and NEA Countries. Regulatory and Institutional Framework for Nuclear Activities: Canadahttps://www.oecd-nea.org/law/legislation/canada.pdf

14. OECD undated.  Nuclear Energy Agency.  Nuclear Legislation.  OECD and NEA Countrieshttps://www.oecd-nea.org/law/legislation/

15. OECD 2015.  Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in OECD/NEA Member Countries: Canada. https://www.oecd-nea.org/rwm/profiles/Canada_profile_web.pdf

16. OECD 2018a.  Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in NEA Member Countries. https://www.oecd-nea.org/rwm/profiles/

17.  Government of Canada 2019.  Nuclear Safety and Control Act. Justice Laws Website.https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/N-28.3/

18.  Finnish Nuclear Energy Act. 2008. https://www.oecd-nea.org/law/legislation/Finnish%20Nuclear%20Energy%20Act%202008.pdf

19.  German Atomic Energy Act.  2002. https://www.nuklearesicherheit.de/en/licensing-and-supervision/the-legal-framework/german-atomic-energy-act-atomgesetz/

20. Government of Canada. 2019.  Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. Justice Laws Website. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/N-27.7/

21.  IAEA. 2016. Governmental, Legal and Regulatory Framework for Safety. General Safety Requirements.  IAEA Safety Standards Series No. GSR Part 1 (Rev. 1).  International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna. https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/Pub1713web-70795870.pdf

22.  OECD 2009.  The Regulatory Infrastructure in NEA Member Countries. http://www.oecd-nea.org/rwm/The-Regulatory-Infrastructure-4Feb10.pdf

23. CNSC. 2018.  The Commission.  Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.  https://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/the-commission/index.cfm?pedisable=true

24. Government of Canada. 2017. Expert Panel Report. Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/conservation/assessments/environmental-reviews/environmental-assessment-processes/building-common-ground.html, 

25. Wikipedia. 2019. Regulatory Capture. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture

26. CCRCA and OFWCA. Environmental Assessment of Nuclear Projects. Environmental Petition No. 413.  Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Old Fort William Cottager’s Association.  https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxjb25jZXJuZWRjaXRpemVuc3JjYXxneDozNDdmMjI3NzRiYzQwMTRm

27.  Nuclear Energy Insider. 2013. Whitepaper: Understand potential market deployment opportunities in Canada.  December 13, 2013. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxjb25jZXJuZWRjaXRpemVuc3JjYXxneDoyNmVkNDUxOWRkNTkzY2Y5

28. CNSC 2018.  Organization.  Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission., http://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/about-us/organization/index.cfm.

29.  IAEA. 2018. Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants, Research Reactors and Other Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities.  Specific Safety Guide No. SSG-47.

30. CCRCA and CELA 2018. Policies and strategies for managing non-fuel radioactive wastes. Environmental Petition No. 411. Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Canadian Environmental Law Association. https://tinyurl.com/policy-vacuum-petition

31. NRCan. 1996. Radioactive Waste Policy Framework. Natural Resources Canada. http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/uranium-nuclear/7725 

32. Carr, J. 2018. Letter from the Minister of Natural Resources to the Honourable Francis Scarpaleggia, M.P., Member of Parliament for Lac-Saint-Louis (Quebec). July 17, 2018. 

33. CCRCA and CELA 2018. Need for a national policy on decommissioning of nuclear reactors. Environmental Petition No. 418.  Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and Canadian Environmental Law Association.  https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxjb25jZXJuZWRjaXRpemVuc3JjYXxneDo3MzQ5MTMwMWFkNDg5ODk2

34. Government of Canada. 2019.  Nuclear Energy Act. Justice Laws Website. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/A-16.pdf

35. CCRCA 2018. Concerns about investment in “new” nuclear technologies. Environmental Petition No. 419. Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxjb25jZXJuZWRjaXRpemVuc3JjYXxneDo0MTNiOTJlMTgxZTNlOTBl.  

36.  CCRCA 2018.  Questioning nuclear power as clean energy.  Environmental Petition No. 421.  Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxjb25jZXJuZWRjaXRpemVuc3JjYXxneDo0MmM3MTU3OTM4NThmODc0

37. IAEA 2019.  Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS). International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.  https://www.iaea.org/services/review-missions/integrated-review-service-for-radioactive-waste-and-spent-fuel-management-decommissioning-and-remediation-artemis

38. Jammal, R. 2018.  Canadian Update to the International Nuclear Regulators Association. Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. http://www.nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/pdfs/Presentations/VP/2018/20180517-Ramzi-Jammal-CNSC-Regulatory-Activities-Update-eng.pdf 

Appendix A

What Canada can learn about nuclear governance from other OECD countries

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has produced two series of documents that are informative about nuclear governance in Nuclear Energy Association (NEA) member countries. These are: 

  1. “Regulatory and institutional framework for nuclear activities”. http://www.oecd-nea.org/law/legislation/ and 
  2. “Radioactive Waste Management Programmes in NEA Member Countries” https://www.oecd-nea.org/rwm/profiles/

Each OECD country has a report. Review of these documents indicates that Canada’s governance system is less robust than others, lacks checks and balances that exist in other countries, lacks attention to radioactive waste and is overly reliant on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Some highlights of nuclear governance in other OECD countries are presented below:

1) Finland 

Finland is advanced in terms of handling its radioactive waste. An examination of its report in the OECD series suggests some reasons for this. Finland has a very comprehensive “Nuclear Energy Act” that deals extensively with radioactive waste. It also has a “Radiation Protection Act” which aims to protect human health from the adverse effects of radiation, an Advisory Committee on Nuclear Safety and a State Nuclear Waste Management Fund that reports to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority is an independent body that reports to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Its principal functions are to prevent harmful effects of radiation, to regulate the safe use of nuclear energy and radiation, to carry out research on radiation protection and to provide training and information. Its secondary functions are to licence nuclear facilities and for this aspect of its mandate it reports to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

2) Germany

In Germany there are three advisory committees to the federal government on nuclear issues: a Reactor Safety Commission, a Radiation Protection Commission, and a Disposal Commission which advises the Environment Ministry on all aspects of nuclear waste including transport.

3)  France

France has an elaborate system of nuclear governance, with several high level committees, councils, commissions and directorates.  The Atomic Energy Commission in France was renamed and became the Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission; it now also deals with renewable energy. The National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA)  deals with all types of radioactive waste. It is supervised by the Ministries of Ecology and Industry and Research and is independent of waste producers. France has a National Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety. The President of France sits on the Council for Nuclear Policy. 

France also has an independent High Committee for Transparency and Information in Nuclear Safety. In France there is a National Plan for the Management of Radioactive Materials and Waste that is updated every three years. There is also an expert assessment committee that evaluates and reviews the various programs carried out for the management of high-level and long-lived intermediate-level radioactive waste; it is neither a regulator nor an operator.

4) The United Kingdom

In the UK, there is a National Radiological Protection Board and a Radiological Protection Act aimed at protecting mankind from radiation hazards; there is no equivalent for these in Canada. The UK also has two important advisory boards relevant to nuclear waste and decommissioning with no equivalent in Canada; these are the Nuclear Safety Advisory Committee and the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee. The UK also has a Nuclear Decommissioning Authority that reports to the government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; its role is to implement government policy to “ensure the safe and efficient cleanup of the UK’s nuclear legacy”.

5) The United States

A very large share of nuclear governance responsibilities in the US is vested in The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy. However there is also a major role for the Environmental Protection Agency. The National Research Council in the United States produces regular reports on health risks from exposure to low levels of ionizing radiation. Further there is a National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement with a mission to support radiation protection by providing independent scientific analysis, information, and recommendations that represent the consensus of leading scientists.

6) Sweden

Sweden has an Act on Nuclear Activities and a Radiation Protection Act that contains provisions for both radioactive waste management and decommissioning. The Nuclear Activities Act requires all holders of nuclear reactor licenses to establish and carry out an R & D program on the safe handling and disposal of nuclear waste including decommissioning and they must submit reports on this every three years to the government.

The National Council for Nuclear Waste is an independent committee attached to the Ministry for the Environment. The Council’s mandate is to study issues relating to nuclear waste and the decommissioning of nuclear installations and to advise the Government and certain authorities on these issues. The Council reports to the Ministry of the Environment. In Sweden, the Ministry for the Environment is responsible for the regulatory policy for nuclear activities, including management and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

Giant Radioactive Waste Dump on the Ottawa River: New revelations alarm citizens’ groups

(Ottawa, Ontario, April 3, 2017)  The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed giant nuclear waste dump along the Ottawa River is ringing alarm bells for citizens’ groups.   It reveals that the dump would contain plutonium and dozens of other waste products created by nuclear reactors,  many of which will be radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

The proposed “Near Surface Disposal Facility” (NSDF) would be built on a 34-hectare site about one km from the Ottawa River at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario.  The site is about 150 kilometres northwest of Ottawa, across the river from the Municipality of Sheenboro in the Province of Quebec.  The dump would be similar in design to a municipal landfill.  It would be used for permanent disposal of up to one million cubic meters of “low-level” and “intermediate-level” radioactive wastes in a mound up to 25 meters high.

The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) was released on March 17th.  A CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) decision on approval of the facility is expected in January 2018 and construction could begin soon after.

Johanna Echlin of the Old Fort William Cottagers’ Association was shocked to learn that the dump would contain very long-lived radionuclides. “How can it possibly be ethical and environmentally-responsible to put plutonium and other very long-lived radioactive wastes in a landfill beside the Ottawa River?” she asks. “I have talked to many people on both sides of the river, all the way to Montreal, and everyone I have spoken to thinks this is a terrible idea.”

Plutonium is one of many radioactive byproducts of nuclear fission that would be present in significant quantities in wastes disposed of in the NSDF.  Inhaling or ingesting plutonium or other radionuclides (e.g., in dust from the waste dump or runoff into the river) would increase risks of cancers of the lung, bones, blood and liver.

Dr. Ole Hendrickson is reviewing the draft EIS for the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area.  He says that the landfill-type design would expose radioactive wastes to wind, rain and snow.  Long-lived radioactive wastes would be hazardous long after plastic liners had deteriorated and leachate collection and treatment had ceased, and would spread into surrounding wetlands, lakes and waterways.   

“By failing to provide adequate waste containment, this proposal flagrantly disregards the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safety standard for disposal of radioactive waste,” warns Hendrickson.

The public has 60 days to respond to the EIS (until May 17, 2017).  It is posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website at: http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=118381

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