The letter below is a response from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to an editorial that appeared last week in the Whig and the London Free Press. The CNA responded as well (you can read our response here). The CNSC is the federal government agency that regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment. The editorial to which the CNSC’s Ramzi Jammal is responding was by a UWO professor – who writes about nuclear non-proliferation, but is not an expert in the regulation of nuclear energy or waste materials. Let’s get the straight goods from someone who is an expert in these issues.
CNSC response to the letter entitled ‘Debate over possible nearby nuclear waste site buried’ published in the Kingston Whig-Standard and London Free Press on July 21, 2012
Your July 21 guest editorial by University of Western Ontario professor Erika Simpson, entitled ‘Debate over possible nearby nuclear waste site buried’, compels me to correct some inaccurate and erroneous statements that may confuse your readers.
To begin with, the author is confusing two completely distinct projects: Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) proposed deep geologic repository to manage low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste produced from the continued operation of the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations; and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s (NWMO) Adaptive Phased Management (APM) project for the long-term management Canada’s used nuclear fuel.
The article’s author was correct in stating that OPG’s project is for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste and does not include used nuclear fuel. But she then proceeds to speak of used nuclear fuel and to further confuse several other different issues.
The OPG project is for the long-term management of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from the Bruce, Pickering and Darlington nuclear generating stations. This waste includes such things as tools, rags, filters, resins, refurbishment waste, and other radioactive contaminated materials. The government has appointed a panel to conduct the environmental assessment and the first stages of licensing for the project. Public hearings for the project are likely to be held next year in the Bruce area. More information about this project is available at nuclearsafety.gc.ca and www.opg.com.
The long-term management of used nuclear fuel is a separate project being managed by the NWMO which was established in 2002. In May 2010, the NWMO launched its Site Selection Process to identify a willing community to host a geological repository for the long-term management of Canada’s used nuclear fuel. As of July 7, 2012, 19 communities have formally expressed interest in learning more about the APM project to host a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel. More information about this project is available at www.nwmo.ca.
The NWMO’s project is still considered in its very early stages, and once the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission receives a licence application, it will carry out its due diligence in terms of safety and regulatory requirements. More information about CNSC’s early role in this project is available at nuclearsafety.gc.ca.
Your guest editorialist’s allusion that the CNSC is not independent is completely false. I would like to emphasize that the Commission is a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal, independent from any political, government or private sector influence. It is the Commission Members, and only the Commission Members, who render decisions based on all the evidence presented in the context of a hearing process.
The CNSC’s mandate is very simple. To ensure that nuclear activities are done in a manner that protects the environment as well as the health, safety and security of workers and the public and to implement Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
In the future, I encourage anyone writing for your publication to contact the CNSC in order to provide your newspaper’s editorialists with the facts, and as a result, editorials with more rigour and thoroughness, something this one is sorely lacking.
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission