REMARKS TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT - Canadian Nuclear Association

Speeches

REMARKS TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Remarks by Dr. John Barrett, President and CEO, Canadian Nuclear Association
to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources
November 17, 2016

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

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) has approximately 100 members representing over 60,000 Canadians employed directly, or indirectly, in uranium mining and exploration, fuel processing, electricity generation, and the production and advancement of nuclear medicine.

Today, nuclear energy produces approximately 20% of Canada’s non-emitting clean electricity, including 63% of Ontario’s electricity. Of note, when the Ontario government committed to phasing out coal generation across the province, a major part of this commitment was made possible through the refurbishment of 6 reactors., Looking to the future, nuclear energy will play an increasingly important role in the overall energy mix portfolio as well as in nuclear medicine, advanced manufacturing and electronics.

Canada’s nuclear industry also works closely with Indigenous peoples and communities to not only enable proactive engagement but also create mutually-beneficial opportunities.  As one example, working closely with Indigenous communities in northern Saskatchewan for decades on environmental stewardship, community investment, employment, education and training and contracting opportunities, Cameco has demonstrated the power of partnerships in improving the economic and social well-being for communities and the benefits of working together to bring about real change.

I want to preface our feedback by first highlighting 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.

With this in mind, the CNA would like to offer the following comments and amendments for your consideration on Bill C-69:

Joint Panels

The Bill proposes that a single government agency be responsible for impact assessment reviews. In the case of the nuclear industry, the Bill only provides for 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. The CNA believes that assessments should remain at the CNSC as the most efficient or 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 IA 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 to best manage our projects.

Designated Project List

Bill C69 makes provisions for a Designated Project List to be created by regulation. This list determines what projects are subject to review by the new agencies and – by default – what projects will be left to be reviewed by the life-cycle regulator in the case of the nuclear industry. This makes it difficult to fully consider the impact and consequences of the Impact assessment Agency without fulling understanding what projects the IAA will apply to.

The CNA believes that a facility or project should undergo one impact assessment for its lifecycle. As drafted, Section 43 could be interpreted as to require an IA for any activity at a facility regulated under the Nuclear Safety Control Act. Maintenance, technological and capital upgrades are fully regulated by the lifecycle regulator, provincial regulators or other federal authorities and there is no need for a new IA. This needs to be clarified.

In addition, many of our sites are large with significant space for new facilities, including new reactors and research facilities that could require an IA under the new agency. Most nuclear sites have undergone full environmental assessments have had continuous environmental monitoring and their environmental impact is well understood. If a new project were to occur on one of those existing sites, it should not require a full IA but rather an assessment of the delta between what has already been done and is now required. In our view, that delta could best be done by the life-cycle regulator.

Timelines

CNA members also have significant concerns over the proposed timelines. The CNA understands and appreciates the government intentions 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 can be mitigated. The CNA believes that the current process already allows for the important, early input community engagement from local communities, indigenous groups and public stakeholders.

In addition to the uncertainty caused by creating a new agency run early engagement process, Bill C69 dramatically increases the scope of assessment by adding several new elements of review. While the criteria, aims and goals of environmental assessment are well understood and measurable, there is a great deal of uncertainty around some of the new elements of assessment. We want to work with the government to provide greater definition to how the various elements are weighted in decision making. Are all elements weighted equally? Is there a minimum level that must be met?

Answers to these questions will help proponents factor in these elements in their project description and in early engagement with stakeholders.

Our members also have concerns over how closure will be achieved with respect to issues raised through the review process. It is our view that without some decision making that allows closure on contentious issues the new IA process will simply add uncertainty, increase timelines, create additional work with minimal benefits for the project and result in multiple legal challenges

Scoping

One of the specific amendments that the CNA would like to propose is to the multiple scoping phases in the proposed process. The planning phase was intended in part to improve certainty and predictability by determining the requirements the proponent would have to meet early in the process. In our view, the Bill’s process does not achieve that goal.

The proposed Bill sets out an initial scoping by the agency as informed by federal authorities, all other jurisdictions, the public and Indigenous groups. However, the Bill also allows for two additional scoping phases – one at the sole discretion of the agency and one by the review panel, which is appointed later. These final two potential scoping phases are well into the process and could change the scope of the project after the proponent has spent years and millions of dollars to comply with the original scoping.

For review panel reviews, a “one project, one review” process can only occur if the scoping stage is coordinated amongst the Agency, the review panel and all federal regulators as well as harmonized with provincial or other jurisdictional requirements. For this to occur two overarching amendments must occur:

  • The chronology of the provisions in the IAA must be changed; and
  • Successive scoping stages throughout the assessment process must be replaced by a consolidated, single, and harmonized scoping early in the process that is led by the review panel.

Uranium Mines and Mills

The CNA would also like to propose an amendment with respect to uranium mining. Similar amendments have been or will be proposed by MAC and PDAC.  More specifically, designated projects that are related to uranium mines and mills, like any other designated mining project, should undergo Agency assessments with full access to provisions for cooperation with provinces and Indigenous governing bodies.

Uranium mines and mills, like all mines and mills, are subject to provincial regulatory and permitting frameworks, but are also regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). CEAA 2012 allowed the CNSC to cooperate with the province in the ongoing oversight of uranium mines and mills. However, Bill C-69 would preclude this cooperation and prevent Agency-led assessments, joint review panel assessments, and substitution for all designated projects that are regulated by the CNSC.  As a result, the opportunity for cooperation with the province and using a “one process, one assessment” approach is lost by treating all such projects as exclusively in federal jurisdiction.

There is no justification for such different treatment, as the complexity and impacts of uranium mines and mills are not in a different category from those of other mines and mills. Cooperative assessment processes across jurisdictions increases efficiency and decrease timelines and costs and should be also be available to uranium mines and mill projects. The CNSC, like other federal regulatory bodies, would have the opportunity to be engaged in an Agency-led assessment, as provided for in the proposed process to encourage coordination within the federal government.

The CNA urges the Committee to recommend changes to the provisions dealing with CNSC-regulated projects to permit designated projects related to uranium mines and mills to access the Agency assessment provisions of the Bill, including the suite of provisions related to cooperation with provinces and Indigenous governing bodies by amending sections 39, 43, 44, 46, and 67 to specifically exclude uranium mines and mills from the automatic panel review created by s. 43 by adding “other than a uranium mine or mill” after each reference to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.  to specifically exclude uranium mines and mills from the automatic panel review created by s. 43 by adding “other than a uranium mine or mill” after each reference to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.