February 21, 2019

Remarks by Dr. John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
to the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
February 21, 2019

Thank you, Chair. My name is John Barrett.  I am President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association. With me today is Frank Saunders, Chair of the CNA and President of the Nuclear Innovation Institute, and Liam Mooney, Vice President, Safety, Health, Environment Quality and Regulatory Relations with Cameco Corporation

Given the time constraints on opening statements, I would like to go directly to the heart of the CNA submission and offer the following comments and amendments on Bill C-69 for your consideration.

Let me start by noting that the concept of ‘cumulative impact’ is not only a key issue with respect to the environment, but also with respect to investment in Canada.  Large energy projects require large amounts of capital.  Capital is fluid and investors do not like uncertainty. Any new legislation, no matter how well-intentioned, creates uncertainty. Furthermore, this uncertainty is magnified by the legislative regime being proposed, because it is missing a key element: the Project List.

I would also note that the nuclear industry is one of the most well-regulated industries in the country.  Its regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), is a quasi-judicial commission which is globally recognized and respected.  Our members believe in, and support, a strong, open and transparent regulatory regime, and we believe that exists in the CNSC.

Chair, CNA members support the government’s goal of maintaining Canada’s superior regulatory standards while enabling “good projects go ahead and resources get to market”.  We believe that this objective is achieved by the existing regulatory regime.

Let me now comment on three aspects of Bill C-69:  the Single Agency and Joint Panel Reviews; the Early Planning Phase; and Uranium Mines and Mills.

Single Agency and Joint Panel Reviews

The Bill proposes that a single government agency be responsible for impact assessment reviews. In the case of the nuclear industry, the Bill provides only the option of an agency-led Joint Panel Review.ile Joint Panels are not new (we have had joint panels in the past), the CNA does not believe this will be an improvement over the current process.

Most of the potential impacts considered in relation to nuclear projects are related to radiation protection and international commitments on safeguards and non-proliferation. That work must be overseen by an agency with significant and specialized scientific expertise. The CNSC is the only place in government with that expertise. We believe that assessments should remain with the CNSC as the most efficient and effective way of conducting reviews.

As a full-life cycle regulator, the CNSC licensing regime and regulatory framework already covers the entire life-cycle of the project and is subject to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and its regulations. This allows the CNSC to not only conduct the Impact Assessment in the planning phase of the project, but also to ensure that monitoring programs and follow-up conditions required by IA are directly integrated into the licensing process throughout the various stages of the projects.  Our industry is unique and the CNSC uniquely has the expertise and experience to best manage our projects.

Early Planning Phase

CNA members also have significant concerns over the early planning phase.  We understand and appreciate the government’s intention with an early planning phase, but we are skeptical of its potential effectiveness.

As the early planning phase occurs after the proponent has provided an initial project description, the proponent will have already undertaken stakeholder engagement to ensure the business case and to have some degree of confidence that issues are identified and can be mitigated. The CNA believes that the current process already allows for the important, early input and engagement from local communities, indigenous groups and public stakeholders.

The CNA recognizes that not all proponents undertake as detailed early engagement as necessary.  But we do not believe that the default position should be a second early planning phase led by the Impact Assessment Agency.  This punishes “good proponents” and is not always necessary.  In our view, the government’s objectives could be achieved by having the IAA conduct a federal verification or confirmatory review of the proponent’s early engagement process.

This could be further enhanced by the development and communication of best practice guidelines, which could ensure a consistent and positive approach to early engagement.

Uranium Mines and Mills

The CNA is deeply concerned by the treatment of uranium mines and mills under this legislation. The CNA is requesting simple amendments to section 43 (and related provisions) of the Impact Assessment Act to ensure uranium mines and mills are treated consistently with other mines and mills in Canada.

Currently, the draft Bill automatically imposes a review panel process on designated uranium mining and milling projects; whereas designated projects of similar complexity for other mines and mills (e.g., coal, gold, silver) are not automatically subject to a review panel process.

This arbitrary referral is dissimilar to all prior versions of federal environmental assessment legislation.  Moreover, it is not supported by any science or evidence.  In fact, the uranium mining industry is a top performer in Canada with respect to social, environmental, safety, and health issues, including regulatory compliance.  Furthermore, it is the only mining and milling sector in Canada that is already subject to continuous, dedicated oversight by a federal lifecycle regulator – the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

For the IAA to be workable for Canadian uranium producers, uranium mines and mills must be treated like other metal mines and mills. Our specific recommendations are included in our written submission.


I recognize that our written comments arrived with short notice, but I hope you have had an opportunity to review them, as we go into our concerns in much greater detail than I have in these opening remarks. Thank you for the opportunity for CNA to appear before the Committee, and we look forward to your comments.

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