Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources

Issue 24 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Thursday, October 19, 2000

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, met this day at 9:00 a.m. to examine issues relating to energy, the environment and natural resources generally in Canada.

Senator Mira Spivak (Chairman) in the Chair.

[English]

The Chairman: The Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources is meeting to review safety related aspects of nuclear power plants in Canada. Our witnesses are from Ontario Power Generation. This meeting is being broadcast live on the Internet.

We are anxious to hear your presentation. Please proceed. I am sure that when you are through, the senators will have questions for you. Unfortunately, some of our senators are busy at other meetings. You can understand that this is a crunch time. We want to get everything done. This might be the last day for meetings.

Mr. Ronald W. Osborne, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ontario Power Generation: We do accept that there are other issues on the agenda. Having said that, we are delighted to have the attendance we do, because we are proud of what we do. We will do our best to convince you that we should be. Thank you for inviting us.

We would like to cover four topics in our prepared remarks, but we welcome questions on any aspect of nuclear operations that you are interested in. The first topic is our commitment to safe operations. The second is our plan to return the Pickering A station to service. The third is our programs to protect the environment around the stations and safely manage nuclear waste. The fourth is our proposed lease of the Bruce nuclear station, which is of some interest to anyone following the nuclear industry.

I will begin with safety. Let me stress at the outset that no aspect of our nuclear program is more important than safety. Without safe operations there would be no nuclear operations. There has never been a fatality related to the operation of our nuclear stations in more than 30 years of commercial nuclear activity, going back to the beginning of the 1970s. As for public safety, we operate our stations to achieve radiation emissions that are less than one one-hundredth of the regulated limit. Most of time we are operating at well under one one-hundredth of the limit.

You are aware that we are now in the midst of a major nuclear improvement program. We are determined to become again a top performer within our industry. Safety performance is the most important element in overall nuclear performance.

Eight of the 11 indicators that we use to measure our nuclear performance relate to our safety performance. Those indicators were developed by the World Association of Nuclear Operators. I believe some of your members had an opportunity to visit WANO last week. Those indicators developed by WANO are used throughout the global nuclear industry to measure performance on a standardized basis. There is an attempt to achieve uniformity of measurement.

As I said, eight of the 11 indicators are safety related. Every one of those eight safety indicators has shown either a major improvement over the past two years or has remained stable. We were already at the top of industry performance. We are achieving the maximum score in five of those eight safety indicators.

The other, non-safety indicators deal with our performance in optimizing production from nuclear stations. They are not in and of themselves directly related to safety, although obviously all operations speak to safety. Now that we have achieved major improvements in our safety, we will over time be increasing our focus on the performance indicators, while maintaining our focus on the safety indicators.

I will give an indication of our progress. Our overall nuclear performance index, which is the amalgam of those 11 indicators, has moved from a score of 58 per cent or 58 points out of 100, at the end of 1997, to 83 per cent at the end of this year's second quarter. Obviously that is good progress, but we still have a way to go.

We compare ourselves to the North American nuclear industry. The bar for that North American industry is constantly rising. The performance index for U.S. nuclear stations now averages just over 90 per cent. We are at 83 per cent; they are at just over 90 per cent. However, over the past three years we have narrowed their lead. Our goal is to achieve top quartile among all nuclear plants in the North American index over time.

You are aware that the Ontario electricity industry is moving from a monopoly to a competitive framework. We have now been reconstructed as a commercial company with a bottom-line orientation. A logical question is whether a profit motive will cause Ontario Power Generation to relax its commitment to nuclear safety. I want to state unequivocally that our commitment to nuclear safety will not waiver. In fact, a commercial orientation requires a very strong safety focus.

Our nuclear units and hydroelectric stations are our lowest cost generators today, much cheaper to operate than fossil fuel stations and particularly gas fired stations given today's gas prices. We operate our nuclear stations on a continuous basis to maximize their contribution. That happens to be the way in which safety of the operations is maximized. Our nuclear stations represent close to one half of our annual electricity production.

Like our hydroelectric facilities, our nuclear stations have a huge environmental benefit: they do not emit greenhouse gases or the gases that contribute to acid rain and smog. Since 1971, when the first Pickering unit began to operate, our nuclear reactors have displaced 11 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide, 2.5 million tonnes of nitrogen oxide and some 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide that otherwise would have been emitted by virtue of burning fossil fuels. That 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide is the equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of all of the passenger vehicles in Canada over a 12-year period. It is a large contribution to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The OPG nuclear stations will be absolutely critical to our environmental performance and our future competitive success when we enter open markets. Having said that, I want to stress that we would never operate these facilities in such a way as to jeopardize their continued operation. To maintain and enhance the cost and environmental advantages that we enjoy from these stations, we will do everything that we can to improve their safe and environmentally responsible operation.

Bottom-line operation focus has occurred in the U.S. nuclear generation industry. Most U.S. nuclear units are held by investor-owned companies, not by public entities. Publicly traded firms are watched not just by regulators and other stakeholders but also by investors. Investors do not tolerate poor safety performance, so this clearly would affect the return that they get on their investment. Experience shows that the best-run nuclear units are the ones that have the best safety performance.

U.S. nuclear plants have shown tremendous improvement over the past 15 years. The nuclear performance index for the U.S. industry, which is tracked by WANO, has improved from a score of 42 per cent to 92 per cent between 1985 and 1999. As I mentioned earlier, safety performance is a major part of the overall index. At the same time, while achieving better safety performance, the U.S. nuclear industry has increased its power production. From 1980 to 1999, the last 20 years, the unit capability factor of U.S. nuclear units, in effect the percentage of maximum generation each can produce, has increased from 63 per cent to 89 per cent. And despite a small reduction in the number of nuclear units, the U.S. industry generated 9 per cent more electricity overall in 1999 than it did in 1998, while raising that WANO bar I referred to.

That directly benefits the environment, since more nuclear production equals less production from fossil fuel generators. It also clearly benefits the financial performance of those U.S. generating companies, because nuclear production is considerably cheaper than fossil-fuel generation. The bottom line for the nuclear industry is that reactors have to be very safe and well maintained to keep production high on a sustained basis. That is a commercial imperative for the financial health of the generating companies.

We are working hard at Ontario Power Generation to achieve those same excellent results attained by the U.S. nuclear industry. Our commercial orientation and our entry next year into a competitive market leave us no other choice. We will continue to improve both safety margins and production levels.

We are fortunate within the nuclear industry that we have adopted a cooperative spirit to help ensure safe operations across the industry. Our nuclear facilities receive WANO reviews and we participate in WANO reviews of other nuclear stations worldwide. Recently, we participated in a review of a nuclear station in Pakistan. While this raises a number of public policy issues, as I am sure you are aware, our position is that, on balance, such participation is healthy and necessary to ensure safe nuclear power operations throughout the world.

I will turn now to our plan to return the Pickering A generating station to service. I am pleased that some members of the committee visited the station to get an idea of how it operates. I want to emphasize that Pickering A was not laid up for safety concerns; it was always operated safely, as I have indicated. We laid up both Pickering A and Bruce A so that we could concentrate all of our resources -- human and otherwise -- on improving the performance of the remaining 12 reactors at Pickering B, Bruce B and Darlington. I gave you some indication of those improvements in the WANO indices. Those generators were also laid up so that we could prepare for a major retrofit of the Pickering A units, perhaps to be followed by a similar retrofit of Bruce A.

Ontario Power Generation believes it is important that we return Pickering A to service. The more than 2,000 megawatts of power capacity that station represents is the lowest cost incremental source of electricity generation available to Ontario. That has major benefits for our economy and obviously for our shareholders, the people of Ontario. However, this generation also has significant environmental benefits. As I said before, it is free of the emissions that lead to global warming, smog and acid rain. The 15 terawatt hours of annual production from Pickering A will displace 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, 18,000 tonnes of nitrogen oxide, and 60,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide that otherwise would be generated by coal-fired stations.

A question has arisen at these hearings as well as elsewhere about whether the environmental assessment process that has been followed for the return to service of Pickering A is adequate. We strongly believe it is more than adequate. It was the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that determined the type and scope of environmental assessment that we would perform based upon existing legislation. We have produced a very comprehensive examination of the potential environmental impacts associated with bringing the units back to service. We have identified the appropriate mitigating actions. We have a copy of the assessment and its supporting documentation with us here today, if you would like a comprehensive set. I know that you have many elements of it, but if you would like the entire package you are welcome. If you prefer that we take it away we will, because it is quite bulky. Obviously, the choice is yours.

Public involvement has been extensive, and generally it has been greater than is required by law under the process. You have a letter on file from Bob Strickert, our site vice-president at Pickering, that outlines the public involvement in the EA. I would simply add to that letter that we have been effectively performing environmental reviews under the Atomic Energy Control Board regulations or under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency regulations for about four years, in the public domain and subject to public scrutiny. It is a lengthy process.

We have provided information to thousands of people in the community through newsletters and our Web site. We have provided many opportunities for members of communities to talk with us at open houses, public meetings, and through a unique "Neighbourhood Walk" program.

Under the Neighbourhood Walk program, OPG employees have volunteered to go door-to-door in Pickering and Ajax neighbourhoods to discuss our plan to return Pickering A to service. I was one of those who volunteered a couple of weeks ago along with Mr. Gene Preston. Altogether, our employees have knocked on more than 16,000 doors in the communities of Pickering and Ajax. I must say we are very pleased with the positive reception that we have received from the vast majority of homeowners. We have a report on this activity available to you if you like.

While we are not the final arbiters of the adequacy of the environmental assessment, we fully support the position of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, formerly the Atomic Energy Control Board, that the environmental assessment produced meets all requirements. Of course, it would be impossible to satisfy all members of the community; we recognize that. Some critics of nuclear safety are unshakeable in their convictions. In the end, it will be up to the CNSC, our regulator, to decide if the assessment should be approved.

We are committed to making a number of safety and environmental improvements before we return Pickering A to service. We are investing actually more than $1 billion to upgrade the station. That includes extensive work on the steam generators, rebuilding the turbines, inspecting all of the pipes and making replacements where necessary, replacing many of the plant's heat exchangers, refurbishing valves and electrical switchgear, and enhancing the shutdown system. Moreover, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will review the safety of the station before they allow it to operate. The public interest will be safeguarded before the plant returns to service.

I will turn now to our commitment at OPG to becoming a top environmental performer. We see that as necessary for commercial competitive success. Each of our nuclear stations has achieved ISO 14001 registration for their environmental management systems. Our environmental management systems will greatly assist us in ensuring regulatory compliance in environmental matters. Darlington, in fact, was the first nuclear generating station in North America to be registered with this international standard a couple of years ago.

At each of our facilities we are protecting the health and survival of native wildlife species and ecosystems with which we share the land, under the guidance of our biodiversity policy. For example, at our Pickering station more than 25 per cent of the station's 195 hectares are included in the site's biodiversity and natural areas management plan. Last year, the Wildlife Habitat Council certified our Pickering wildlife management program with special commendations for our on-site Hydro Marsh and adjacent Frenchman's Bay and Duffin's Creek, which support significant wildlife populations.

We have also established a program at each nuclear station to assess and, if necessary, remedy land contamination.

Let me turn specifically to nuclear waste. Waste management is obviously an important environmental initiative. Few industries manage their waste in a more responsible and rigorous way than the nuclear industry. We have more than 30 years of experience in dealing with nuclear waste. We have safe techniques for managing our nuclear waste in surface containers at nuclear stations -- a technique we could, if required, use well into the future. Over the longer term, we could use surface storage or we could use underground storage. Either would be technically feasible. OPG supports the development of a waste management organization to manage nuclear waste over the longer term, working with Natural Resources Canada. The creation of a waste management organization has come out of a lengthy process that I know some of you were involved in with the Seaborn panel.

We also have plans to decommission our nuclear stations and to restore the sites. In addition, we have been moving on the financial front: we have contributed some $650 million to segregated funds over the past 18 months for long-term waste management and plant decommissioning. We will continue to make similar contributions in the future. When the time comes to decommission the stations and to permanently deal with the waste, we will have the money to do it.

Finally, let me turn to the Bruce lease. As you would have read in our submissions and in the press, we have entered into a long-term lease with British Energy via an entity that that company is setting up in Canada called Bruce Power. They will lease Bruce from us for a minimum period of 18 years. All of this is subject to regulatory approvals that we are now embarking upon. If approved, no arrangements will happen until some time next year.

This will be the most reviewed and scrutinized transaction I have ever been associated with in some 30-odd years in a variety of businesses. Our board of directors, which has a standard commercial obligation to its shareholders, first reviewed it. Our shareholder, the province of Ontario, looked over our shoulders and reviewed the transaction. The province hired its own financial advisers to second-guess the process that our financial advisors had gone through. Since its announcement, the transaction has been scrutinized by the public and by the media.

The transaction will be subject to continuing scrutiny. Bruce Power will have to satisfy all the regulations set by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the Ontario Energy Board, the same as we do, for continued operations to be assured. They will also need to meet all federal and provincial environmental regulations to which we are subject.

The lease of our Bruce plants to Bruce Power -- British Energy -- is important both to OPG and to the Canadian nuclear industry. It is important to us because it allows us to concentrate our resources on reaching top performance at Pickering and Darlington. It will also be helpful to have another player in the Ontario nuclear industry. It will be healthy for us to have competition in our own backyard from another nuclear operator. Regulators and other stakeholders, like yourselves, will have others besides us to talk to and against whom to compare us in CANDU reactivity.

The nuclear industry should take confidence in the fact that the British stock market behind British Energy is willing to make a major investment in the Canadian nuclear industry. In addition, last week's announcement that Cameco Corporation from Saskatchewan intends to acquire a 15 per cent interest in the transaction provides further evidence that the business community has confidence in CANDU technology and the nuclear assets at Bruce.

I will close by simply reaffirming our commitment to safe nuclear operations. As I have indicated, our nuclear operations are essential to our future competitiveness and success in open markets. If our nuclear operations are not safe, they threaten the viability of the company. If, on the other hand, we are top safety performers, we will be more likely to maxmize our financial success and enhance shareholder value. Safety and shareholder value go hand in hand.

Nuclear operations are also important to the economy and to maintaining competitive electricity prices. As I have said, they have a key role in minimizing air pollution and global climate change. We are absolutely committed to achieving the highest levels of nuclear performance and to becoming an industry leader in nuclear safety performance again.

I know we have been more long-winded than you would like, but there is a great deal to cover. We look forward to your questions.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Osborne. We appreciate this full explication.

Senator Banks: Mr. Osborne, you mentioned that radiation emissions are less than one one-hundredth of the regulated limit. Does Canada subscribe to the internationally accepted conventions for acceptable limits of radiation? For example, there is a group called the International Commission on Radiological Protection. Do we conform more or less to those standards?

Mr. Pierre Charlebois, Senior Vice-President, Technical Services, and Chief Nuclear Engineer, Ontario Power Generation: Yes, senator, we actually participate with the ICRP, the International Commission on Radiological Protection. In fact, we had some of their senior experts in our offices not too long ago to exchange information with them. We are a participant.

Senator Banks: Do we derive our standards more or less from ICRP? Do we agree with them? Is it a worldwide acceptable standard?

Mr. Charlebois: You must appreciate that we do not derive the standards. Our regulator derives the standards to which we must comply. Therefore, the regulator and the ICRP work in conjunction with the industry and establish those requirements for our regulations in Canada.

Senator Banks: As you are no doubt aware, there is some misgiving among folks on any industry that is more or less self-regulated. We have heard testimony to the effect that the ICRP is sort of a closed shop. It derives from the nuclear industry per se. It contains about half physicists, a quarter medical administrators from nuclear nations, some radiologists and a smattering of people from other disciplines. However, occupational health specialists, oncologists, epidemiologists and public health specialists are not included in the main committee of ICRP. That has caused some folks to wonder how much a self-regulated industry like that would have the public health in mind.

We have also heard testimony to the effect that those standards, which we understand are more or less worldwide for the nuclear industry, are not what the public thinks they are. When we hear about conforming to acceptable standards, most people think it means that our health is protected by those standards. Most people think it means that if exposure to ionized radiation falls below those standards then there is no health hazard. However, we have heard testimony to the effect that that is not so. We have heard that the ICRP standards are set not in terms of an acceptable health standard but in terms of an acceptable trade-off: the danger to public health on the one hand against the benefits derived from the risks on the other hand.

The standards are not always comparable. For example, we understand that the standards accepted and imposed in Minnesota are more strict than the ICRP universal standards, by which I think Canada is governed, by a factor of 2,000. That causes some people to be concerned.

I would appreciate your comments on the contention that the standards by which we are judging our exposure levels are not safety standards or health standards, but rather an acceptable trade-off. By reference, the chemical industry has standards for the acceptable number of deaths per population that are considerably higher than those which are deemed to be an acceptable standard in the nuclear industry. When people who are not scientifically equipped hear that what is being done is within the acceptable standard, can they rely on that standard? Can they take comfort that the acceptable standard is a health standard and not a trade-off of benefits and risks?

Mr. Osborne: I will start at the 200,000-foot level while Mr. Charlebois tries to think of technical answers. That is an incredibly complex question.

Senator Banks: It is a complex subject.

Mr. Osborne: It goes to years of study on defining acceptable limits. The issue you raise is not unique to nuclear power. For example, every one or two years we are required to perform something called a dam safety review with respect to our hydroelectric facilities. Those facilities pose certain public risks because they store water in an unnatural fashion behind an artificially created dam. You are well aware of the consequences of what happens when a dam breaks -- the Saguenay River incident a few years ago springs to mind. Precisely this issue -- what is an acceptable level of risk -- is behind the standards of dam safety analysis and performance.

I have to admit that I was somewhat startled when I returned to this business after 30 years of absence to find that we as an industry and the population at large must make subjective judgments around the probability of dam failure and the number of deaths one is prepared to tolerate. When the statistics are actually examined and one looks at the probability factors in dam safety, the conclusion is soon reached that our dams are operated and maintained at incredibly high standards -- they are designed not to create any fatalities. However, the simple fact is that there is risk attached to having dams.

Equally, it is a fact that there is no form of electricity generation that does not in some way impact upon the environment or safety at large. People manufacturing windmills are injured in plants that manufacture the windmills. People manufacturing photovoltaic material get injured in plants that manufacture that material. A coal-fired plant is equally susceptible. It always astonishes me that a coal-fired plant in Detroit can explode and kill three people, which happened two years ago, with absolutely no ripple through the community at large to speak of, beyond the immediately affected community. That was a fossil plant that literally exploded and killed three employees. The reality is that we face all of those kinds of compromises, if I can use your term, in life.

In my former life in telecommunications, it was the issue of the impact of headsets and radio waves on brain cancers. I have learned, as a layman coming into this business somewhat late in his career, that the focus on safety issues, emission levels, radiation levels and so on is incredibly more intense than I could ever have surmised. I put myself through the rigors of trying to figure out what it means. For example, in a recent maintenance outage at our Darlington station, I decided to go inside the vault to try to understand what our employees put themselves through when they do that. I was astonished that the time it took me to get in and out of the vault was infinitely longer that the time I was permitted to actually spend in the vault. Most of the time was spent preparing for possibilities as opposed to working in the vault.

Similarly, last week I went into the vacuum building at Pickering to experience firsthand what these issues mean in real life. All I can say to you is that the best brains we have available to us in the nuclear and regulatory industry have been applied to this subject. No evidence has ever surfaced to suggest that any health hazard has resulted within the confines of our plant or similar plants operated appropriately, within the regulations and by competent people.

We are pleased that the CNSC will conduct another cancer survey in Pickering, because we are entirely convinced, based upon all the evidence to date, that the results will be the same as those of all the other, similar surveys. I suspect that you are familiar with a survey in Port Hope; that example has been cited by all viewers. Clearly, with the benefit of hindsight, there was behaviour around radioactive materials that would not be acceptable today -- behaviour that never has been acceptable in our operations and that would certainly not be acceptable in anybody's operations today. The results of that study are in the public domain. We are scrutinized by all of the appropriate health authorities.

With all due respect, while it is worth debating, I find your observation that this is a self-regulated industry difficult to accept. Having appeared on numerous occasions over the past three years in front of our regulator here in Canada, I am absolutely convinced of the independence of that body and of their diligence in looking after the public interest. I have read all of the articles that imply that the gene pool is the same -- all nuclear physicists went to the same school or came out of the same training program, et cetera. It is a fact that there is a gene pool of nuclear physicists and health scientists. Just as in most walks of life, regulators and operators tap into that gene pool in various ways. However, the reality is that there is independence and objectivity within the regulator in Canada. I have the firsthand experience and the scars to show as a consequence.

With respect to the specifics of actual emission levels and barriers, I claim no expertise. Clearly I could not comment on Minnesota, for example; I can only observe what we are subject to. I will ask Mr. Preston or Mr. Charlebois to add to the comments.

Mr. Charlebois: As Mr. Osborne indicated, all activities in life involve a certain amount of risk. Exposure to radiation is essentially the same. I cannot comment on the ICRP committee composition, but I can assure you that they are a very capable scientific body. They establish limits for exposure based on a large amount of historical experience with accidental exposures to radiation, as well as exposures to radiation during events such as Hiroshima. On the basis of that accumulated body of information they establish limits for nuclear energy workers and for the public. In fact, that represents a very low risk of impact on the health of the population. Our regulations are driven by those scientific backgrounds.

We must recognize that radiation is a natural occurrence. As examples of natural sources of radiation we have the sun, rock formations and many building materials. The industry aspires to make a small contribution to the overall exposure that people experience in their day-to-day lives. That kind of information is published from time to time in Ontario, demonstrating the impact of the emissions from our nuclear facilities.

The committee must also be reassured that the limits that we use internally for administrative control in terms of exposure, either to the public or to the employees, are lower than the limits allowed by regulations. Thus, we strive to make it as low as possible.

The Chairman: This is an important question and perhaps we could return to it. There are other senators who wish to ask questions.

Senator Eyton: In the last part of your presentation, Mr. Osborne, you talked about Bruce. I am curious as to why, in looking at the alternatives, Ontario Power Generation decided that it would sell first Bruce and not the others. I recognize your indication that you were trying to concentrate on Darlington and Pickering, but I guess the question is: Why Bruce?

My second and related question is this: Why British Energy? Could you comment on their nuclear performance relative to OPG's performance in terms of the WANO standards? Was British Energy perceived to be a good operator?

Can you tell us something about the terms of that transaction? Everyone looked at it very carefully, but was it a good transaction for Ontario? In particular, there are some costs that we do not know about. Who would be responsible for the decommissioning costs, for example, of that transaction?

Mr. Osborne: I will deal with your questions serially. Why was Bruce chosen? As I indicated, logic dictated that Pickering and Darlington were an operating unit that could be maintained with all the flexibility to move people and their skill sets backwards and forwards between Pickering and Darlington. It made no sense to split those units and end up with us at Bruce and someone else at either Pickering or Darlington. That was a purely pragmatic decision.

There was another aspect of pragmatism to the choice of Bruce. We had determined that for a variety of cost and technical reasons it made more sense to focus on bringing back the Pickering A units before focusing on bringing back the Bruce A units, which were equally fallow. Those reasons went not to safety but rather to the question of the most pragmatic way to deal with the recovery of the units. We are focusing on Pickering A. We cannot focus on Pickering A and Bruce A simultaneously. It is simply a bridge too far for one company and one management team. If it there was to be an early opportunity for Bruce A units to come back, it should be in someone else's hands.

Why British Energy? We hired Salomon Smith Barney, an internationally reputable firm of investment bankers, to lead the process so that all qualified successful nuclear operators could bid into the process. It was a typical commercial transaction in that sense, except that in working with Salomon Smith Barney we had obviously identified nuclear operators that we thought should be invited to the party and some that should not. We ended up with roughly 15 global-scale nuclear operators that we thought had the heft and capability to run a Bruce unit without risk to the public. Through the normal auction process, those 15 operators were whittled down to five final bidders. There was another round with three bidders, and British Energy won the bid.

The essence of British Energy's bid is in the public domain. In aggregate terms, there is roughly $3.1 billion of lease payments, of which $625 million will be paid by way of a deposit in the early stages. Annual payments will be roughly $150 million a year thereafter. Net present value is a concept that I have had some difficulty explaining to the media. Nevertheless, business people understand that the net present value of a stream of payments is not the aggregate. The net present value is just slightly shy of $2 billion. That is the essence of the deal, and it happens to reflect well the value placed upon Bruce when all of Ontario Hydro's assets were revalued by a combination of Goldman Sachs, Wood Gundy, Merrill Lynch and ScotiaMcLeod three years ago on the restructuring. We were satisfied not only that we had done the restructuring correctly but also that we had a fair result from the auction.

The benefits to the province are manifold, as I have indicated. I will not repeat what I said in my prepared text except to say that I think that Ontario and Canada will be well served by having not just us but others operating CANDU reactors.

Why British Energy? It was a qualified bidder, as I have indicated. It has done a superb job of resurrecting a nuclear program that in the United Kingdom would have been described as troubled 10 years ago when the U.K.'s industry was restructured much as ours is being restructured. British Energy's safety record is excellent. It has continuing dialogue with its regulators, just as we do. One can find information on the public files with its regulator. All that information is available to our regulator, by the way, and to anyone who wishes to intervene in our regulatory process. One can find full discussion of all the issues that British Energy faces with its regulator. Those issues are strikingly similar to the issues we deal with. For example, will there be enough trained scientists 30 years from now? Are you sure that you have adequate control of people hired from third parties to do work? Are you sure that you have not cut your head count back to the point where you do not have sufficient people to run the plant, et cetera? We will see all of those issues displayed and explored between British Energy and its regulator in the public domain. Those same issues will be explored in the public domain in two hearings next year. British Energy will have to satisfy the CNSC as to its bona fides. That is why at the end of the day, senator, British Energy is a good choice.

Senator Eyton: Could you comment on the decommissioning costs?

Mr. Osborne: We have operated Bruce now for the last 25 years, and virtually every dollar of decommissioning cost that will ever be incurred, albeit years in to the future, has already been incurred. Whether the plant runs for 35 years or 25 years does not change the decommissioning equation. The decommissioning cost is an estimable if not a known quantity.

That is our liability. We have that liability today, and the most economic way to come up with a transaction that was not fraught with uncertainty and that did not attempt to hand off that liability to newcomers or to the province was for us and the province to retain that obligation. That was taken into account in the bidding process. The amount that bidders would have been prepared to pay under the lease would have been significantly and disproportionately lower had we even attempted to offload this historic liability on them.

On balance, we considered that maintaining control of our existing liability made sense. British Energy will, however, share in any errors in estimate that we have made. If it turns out down the road that we have underestimated, British Energy will have to share in those costs proportionate to its use of the plant versus our use of the plant. With respect to used fuel disposal, British Energy will pay the incremental cost per fuel bundle that we will incur on our own fuel bundles. That is, it will pay its share of the incremental cost of high level waste used fuel, essentially disposal.

British Energy is paying its share either through the lease or through the incremental cost of used fuel. We have maintained control of the liability, and we will be responsible for creating, working with NRCAN, the new waste management organization that is the subject of draft legislation, which I understand should be introduced some time in the next few months.

Senator Wilson: I notice that in 1998 you began to set up an environmental advisory group. I was in on that from the beginning but unfortunately had to stop due to other commitments. Despite that advisory group, four of the leading citizens groups from neighbouring communities continue to be very concerned about the way in which the environmental assessment is being done. Our committee hired a consultant, the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, which recommended that a new analytical model be developed to provide a more credible picture of the accident risk posed by the Pickering station.

I note that you have done a fair amount of consultation. Your report says that there have been newsletters, information, and interchanges through community forums. My contention, though, is that citizens are not wanting more information. Something must be done about people's dread of the nuclear industry. People are less concerned with voluntary risks than they are with involuntary risks. This plant is an involuntary risk in their community -- they did not choose it. Therefore, they have more questions.

Many people are more concerned with consequences than with probabilities. We keep hearing from you that it is not probable, but we want to know what the consequences are. There has been some failure to look at a wide range of worst-case scenarios. People want to know the risk of severe accident.

I should like your comments regarding the IRSS's conclusions. The institute reviewed available studies relating to the Pickering A accident risk. They found that the studies did not provide a complete and accurate picture of that risk. I think it is because risk is conceived of too narrowly, only in technical terms. Ordinary people have a much broader understanding of what risk might involve for them.

The study concluded that you have not established a basis for an informed public debate about the risk implications of restarting the Pickering A reactors. I should like to know what your reaction to that is, and then I have one additional short question.

Mr. Osborne: Let me deal with the 200,000-foot level and then hand the specifics off to my colleagues.

I accept that not everyone in our community has accepted our definition of risk or the nuclear industry's definition of risk.

Senator Wilson: I was speaking of adjacent communities.

Mr. Osborne: I accept that there are people within those adjacent communities who do not accept our definition of risk. I do not accept, however, that there is what you refer to as a dread of nuclear in those communities. We have knocked on 16,000 doors over the course of the past five months. Everyone at this table has participated in that role. I just fail to believe that people could be so incredibly polite to me and to others and not tell us what is on their minds. We ask them what is on their minds. We ask them what their concerns are.

Yes, there are people who are very concerned. We accept that, but there is not a widespread dread through out the community -- quite the reverse. We are gratified with the results of that.

When we have some elements of a community leading in one direction and other elements leading in another, and there are bodies of scientific thought on either side of the debate, it behoves us to have someone who has to make a call on the nuclear front. The person who makes that call is the regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which is peopled by qualified nuclear folks.

On the political side, it has to be, ultimately, the responsibility of the federal government, with your advice and the advice of other people who make those kinds of calls. All we can do is put the best available information forward, and that is what you have from us. There is no interest on our part in putting forward information that does not hold up. We recognize that others will always look for holes in that information, but we always put our best foot forward. With respect to specific safety analysis, Mr. Johansen will address that.

Mr. Kurt Johansen, Senior Manager, Environmental Assessments, Ontario Power Generation: First, we are sensitive to the dread factor in neighbouring communities' feelings of concern about risk. We undertook scientific social research for the environmental assessment in order to get a handle on that. We were pleased but somewhat surprised to find that the distribution of the level of concern was pretty uniform, right from the fence line of our station to the northern reaches of the city of Pickering. Basically, it says that there is a high level of satisfaction with life in the neighbourhoods of the community. There is simply no evidence of a widespread concern about our operations, or concern about the restart of Pickering A. We have scientific data to back up that conclusion, which is fully documented and included in the EA reports that we are leaving with you.

That scientific research is corroborated by a number of other activities that we have undertaken to get a handle on public concern, such as the Neighbourhood Walk program, which many of us participated in. No evidence showed there. We conducted seven open houses in the community and three more are planned. So far, only 131 people have turned up for the open houses. We sent out 60,000 mailing cards and received fewer than 200 back. Only a fraction of those expressed concern. As you see, we are not relying on only one technique; rather, we have cast a broad net to use different techniques to get a handle on this. We simply do not see widespread concern.

With regard to worst-case scenario accident analysis, we hear much talk about the fact that the environmental assessment is incomplete and overly selective and so on. We must emphasize that a wide range of accident scenarios have been analyzed and documented in the form of the official Pickering A Safety Report and the companion report, the Pickering A Risk Assessment. Those are on the public record and were made available to reviewers. The issue is the extent to which the extreme, or shall we say the incredible, end of the range of accident scenarios should be included in the environmental assessment. The regulator, CNSC, directed that we should include for examination in the environmental assessment only those accident scenarios that were "reasonably probable," to use their words, because the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the legislation governing this process, requires that malfunctions and accidents that have some reasonable likelihood of occurring should be considered, not incredible or unlikely scenarios. Thus, the environmental assessment covered what it was ordered to cover by the responsible authority, and it has exceeded the requirements of the legislation. Beyond that, OPG has done many analyses of accident scenarios, going well beyond those that are examined in the environmental assessment on the public record.

Senator Wilson: I am surprised that your industry must have such complete unanimity among the public. You must be one of the few industries that have that.

In waste management, when the time comes to make that decision, what are your plans for interaction with the aboriginal community?

Mr. Osborne: I will comment on the issue of unanimity. This industry studies itself outside, inside, upside down and backwards constantly. We recognize that the industry has to scrutinize and regenerate itself constantly. The industry is also scrutinized by third parties constantly. In 30 years, I have not been involved in an industry that has such a level of public scrutiny. I fully accept why there is such a level of scrutiny, but in my experiences I have never been subject to this level of scrutiny. We try to do our best to respond to that scrutiny.

We have an entire business profile with First Nations, because for example many river systems are within their territory. We have First Nations colleagues up at the Bruce Peninsula and in the Inverhuron area. Thus, we are very experienced in addressing the concerns of First Nations.

With respect to the ultimate disposition of high and intermediate levels of waste, no decision will be taken by the Government of Canada, whose decision it is, without a full public process. Your Seaborn panel made that clear, and the government has accepted that recommendation. The waste management organization that we are being mandated to create will be responsible for coming up with modalities to achieve that interface. At the end of the piece, any decision around high level waste disposal, with respect to siting, for example, will be subject to full and open public scrutiny and, undoubtedly, a full three- or four-year panel process. To me it is inconceivable that all interested parties would not have every opportunity to comment not just on the philosophy of high level waste disposal but also on site-specific issues.

Senator Adams: You mentioned that from 1985 to 1999, nuclear plants improved from 42 per cent to 92 per cent. Did that happen because of improved technology, better equipment or the education of those who operate nuclear generating stations?

Mr. Osborne: I will introduce Mr. Preston. He lived through that 15-year period and was instrumental in recovering the performance of one major U.S. facility. He can tell you firsthand how it happened.

Mr. Gene Preston, Executive Vice-President and Chief Nuclear Officer, Ontario Power Generation: Senator Adams, we ran our plants in the onset without much understanding of the maintenance requirements necessary to continue to have them run at such a high performance level. As well, we did not have strong training programs for our people to ensure that they had all the appropriate knowledge for the various scenarios, transients and different operating conditions that the plants would have to undertake. We learned those lessons through individual plant experience and through sharing operating experiences with the nuclear community and INPO, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, and WANO, the World Association of Nuclear Operators. Sharing operating experience, sharing solutions to problems and then implementing those lessons learned have been perhaps the largest contributors to the fact that performance has been increasing over the last few years.

Senator Adams: I see that you are upgrading generators, environment and electrical stuff for this team. Do you have many units? Must you shut down any operation? How will the system work while you are upgrading?

Mr. Preston: The upgrading referred to in the document is primarily the large upgrades associated with the return to service of Pickering A, which is already shut down. Those upgrades will be completed prior to the plant returning to service. In the operating stations we take periodic maintenance outages, usually of 30-day to 90-day duration on a routine basis. We inspect and ensure that the physical condition of the asset or the plant is as we have predicted through our models and our understanding.

The Chairman: I have one comment and then a series of questions. You said that you wanted to emphasize that Pickering A was not laid up for safety concerns. However, it could not meet the 1997 deadline for adding second safety systems, and you shut down voluntarily. There is a play on words here.

We met with the World Association of Nuclear Operators last week. There was quite a bit of discussion about confidentiality. I know that there is a court case. What is your position on that case? Will you intervene in that case, or perhaps you have already? What is your position on confidentiality?

We also talked about the issue of ageing reactors with WANO, but I could not get a very clear view. WANO said that some of its plants had been licensed to operate for 40 years and are now operating for 60 years. I could not get a handle on the technical basis for that, which is of course relevant to what we are doing with Pickering and with Bruce.

How much cheaper is nuclear power? Is the decommissioning cost included in that? What about your operating coal-fired plants? There is some controversy about those plants and their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Are those plants the state of the art with scrubbers and all the other technology? I know that is a matter of investment, but you have not really done most of that, have you?

If there is anything you do not want to answer here right off the bat, you could write to us.

Mr. Osborne: I will try to answer in the same amount of time it took you to deliver those questions. They are complex questions.

We would not claim that our coal-fired plant that we operate is as good as anyone's coal-fired plant in our air shed with respect to sulphur dioxide. In fact, our plant is 25 per cent ahead of most U.S. plants on the sulphur dioxide front. With respect to nitrogen oxides, we are doing precisely what the plant in the United States is doing. We are adding selective catalytic reduction units. I do not know technically what they are except that you add chemicals to existing chemicals to make a third chemical and end up with a by-product that can be handled as opposed to an emission through a stack. We create fertilizer and gypsum from the sulphur dioxide.

We recognize that our fossil plant needs upgrading. We have announced a program accordingly. We will be state of the art. The Province of Ontario has told us that we will always be at or ahead of the U.S. limits that have an impact on us through the air shed. The vast majority of coal emissions in our province come up through the air shed from the U.S. mid-west.

How much cheaper is nuclear power than other forms? It depends on whether you already have a plant or not. If you have no nuclear plant today, and you are comparing building a new nuclear plant to building other forms of generating source, then nuclear is not the cheapest form. The cheapest form, assuming that you have run out of hydro sites, would be coal. The second cheapest source would be natural gas, and the third cheapest would be nuclear. Having said that, with the run-up in natural gas prices in the last 12 months, the daylight between gas and nuclear is very small as we sit here today.

If you already have an existing plant and the vast majority of the dollars have been incurred, whether for the physical plant or for the decommissioning costs, as is the case with Pickering A, then the incremental costs of going forward with nuclear are cheaper than the other forms. The incremental cost of the Pickering A electrons is roughly the same as the incremental cost of coal-fired electrons going forward and considerably cheaper than gas, hydroelectric, photovoltaic, windmills, et cetera.

As I indicated in my prepared comments, the megawatts available from Pickering A are in fact the cheapest source of incremental production in the province as we sit here today, recognizing that all decommissioning costs and plant costs have already been incurred. It is there. That liability sits on our balance sheet as we sit here.

I will ask Mr. Charlebois to talk to the ageing reactor issue.

On the WANO confidentiality, we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. We have no desire to hide anything from the public. We have put everything we have that is within our power to put on the public record on the public record. I can assure you that your staff could read all the CNSC reports and former AECB reports on us, read all of our own submissions and public documents about what we are good at and not good at. We made a very public disclosure of what we were not so good at some three years ago just after Mr. Preston arrived and just before I arrived. If your staff read all that, they would get the essence of what is contained in those WANO reports.

The simple fact is that WANO operates best on the basis that its work is confidential. It is not because of Ontario or Quebec or New Brunswick, or even the United States. It is because there are jurisdictions in the world that would not join the club if they felt that WANO was not going to do its utmost to stand behind its criteria of confidentiality. WANO finds that it does its job best when it can be totally frank and open without fear of membership being nervous about public disclosure. We are on the public record in spades in many other fora. The WANO reports simply underline and reinforce what we have been saying to the public for some years.

We support WANO in its efforts to maintain that confidentiality because we believe it is important that other countries -- I am not particularly anxious to name names, but you know as well as I which countries they are -- be part of the club because, frankly, it is the best form of regulation that we have of those other operations. We believe WANO is critical.

The Chairman: You could leave the issue of ageing plants, because a number of senators wish to ask questions.

Senator Taylor: In 1997 the Atomic Energy Control Board gave you 14 generic action items. What progress has been made by OPG thus far? Was a time frame placed on those actions?

Mr. Charlebois: Yes. The generic action items are issues that have been raised by the regulator. Sometimes they are questions about our analysis, or they may be asking us to demonstrate by research that the analysis is conservative. That work has been underway since 1997, and we are making good progress. We established a schedule for the completion of those activities. Those activities require a certain amount of research and development as carried out by various labs in Ontario. We are submitting our information progressively to the regulators.

This year, if I recollect, we will close three or four of those generic action items. We have a similar schedule in the year 2001-02 to completely close. The criteria for closure have been established with the regulator, and so far none of the action items we have dealt with has resulted in a major redesign or retrofit of our plants. They have demonstrated that the built-in margins, our safety analysis process and our plant design were, in fact, very robust. None of the issues raised as questions resulted in having to do any more work.

Senator Taylor: Did you say that you will be finished all 14 action items by the end of 2002?

Mr. Charlebois: I believe the last one, which requires the longest time, will be finished around 2004. We could submit to the committee the same information that we submit to the regulator. Every six months we give the CNSC an update on the status of the generic action items.

Senator Christensen: Perhaps you could clarify your response to Senator Banks. You talked about safety and the very excellent safety record that exists in your plants. You also equated it to an explosion in a coal-fired plant and said that you were surprised that it generated so little attention. Surely you are not saying that an explosion in a coal plant would be equated with an explosion in a nuclear plant.

Mr. Osborne: I am not suggesting that at all. I was simply pointing out that there is no form of generation that does not raise safety issues. We take them all seriously, whether it is dam safety or fossil safety; we have the same level of safety requirements appropriate to the different forms of generation right across the board. My comment was with respect to the surprise that the industry and the population at large do not seem to have the same safety focus. Our safety focus is absolute right across all of our forms of generation, and quite clearly a nuclear plant explosion is a different animal. My point is that we believe safety is absolute in all of our operations across all forms of generation. We believe that we can hold our heads high in the face of public scrutiny on all safety fronts.

Senator Christensen: I am also wondering about background radiation and the amounts that are released from plants. It was quite clear that they are well below the standards set and yet other witnesses tell us that there is no safe standard of radiation. Relating back to a couple of other studies in which I have been involved, over the aeons different forms of life establish a tolerance to many things. However, if the level is increased over a sustained period of time, major problems can occur. What is the effect on all life with increased background levels over extended periods of time?

Mr. Osborne: I will hand off to my expert colleagues for that answer. I agree with you that there are expert witnesses who can argue both sides of that debate. There are no clear, crisp answers on levels of radiation that are safe or unsafe any more than there are clear answers on levels of radio waves that are safe in cellular phones. I use that as an example of the kind of debate that occurs between experts on both sides. Equally, I have heard the argument -- and I am not qualified to give it credence -- that there is a beneficial effect from certain levels of radiation above and below which one should not go. I will ask Mr. Charlebois to provide a scientific answer.

Senator Christensen: There is not any real definitive answer to that.

Mr. Osborne: There is none.

Senator Christensen: I raise that as a concern. We just have to accept that it is a risk that we must take for looking at nuclear power.

Mr. Osborne: We must task ourselves to stay on top of the issue and be as good as we can in the analysis of that risk, just as we do with other environmental emissions, such as those from the fossil plants.

Senator Christensen: Do we admit there is a risk?

Mr. Osborne: Yes.

The Chairman: To interject, the public is worried because there is the question of who is assessing the risk. There are many people involved in the nuclear industry, and there is that question: do we need more of a mix?

Senator Eyton: I have a factual question and then a comment. This committee visited Washington last week or perhaps the week before, where we met with senior officials of the NRC. It was a fascinating meeting. They gave us a picture of the nuclear industry in the United States. They regulate in total, I think, 102 nuclear generating plants, and those plants represent about 20 per cent of all power generated in the U.S. now. The other 80 per cent comes from other sources including coal-fired, which we continue to complain about, and gas, on which they will increase their reliance. The NRC officials also talked about alternative fuels. In that context, what direction is OPG taking in terms of nuclear power and the percentage of power nuclear will supply within Ontario? What can you tell us about the alternative sources of power?

Mr. Osborne: As I indicated, around 50 per cent of our electrons today are driven by nuclear. That should be around 60 per cent with Pickering A in its order of magnitude. Of the remaining 50 per cent that is not nuclear, roughly one half is hydroelectric and the other half is coal with a bit of gas and oil.

We have a nuclear-rich makeup within Ontario. Across Canada, as a whole, nuclear represents roughly 20 per cent in the order of magnitude. Therefore, relative to the United States, we are not far off, but other provinces have the benefit of much better geography. For example, Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia have superb geography for hydroelectric power. In Ontario, we have Niagara Falls and the St. Lawrence Seaway and then relatively small facilities.

With respect to alternative sources of power, we are working on a number of fronts. We work with windmill operators, and we have just recently committed to buy the output of a new windmill farm that is being built. We also work with landfill site operators, and we have committed to buy the output from some methane gas extracted from landfill in Kitchener-Waterloo. Perhaps most interestingly, we are working with fuel cell technologies in our research arm, which is based in western Toronto. For 10 years our research arm has been providing service to what used to be Westinghouse, which subsequently became Siemens Westinghouse. We have an agreement with the federal government of Canada and the federal government of the United States in the personage of the department of energy. Siemens Westinghouse and OPG are funding a portion of the research to develop a large-scale commercially viable fuel cell for distributive generation. We are working on a number of fronts, but I do not want to mislead anyone into thinking that, in the short to medium term, alternative sources of fuel will replace the tonnage of electrons required by Canadians or Ontarians. It will not happen. It is something that will develop over time. Costs will have to come down significantly before there is whole-scale, widespread development of those new technologies.

We are as keen as anyone to offer what are called green products in our energy portfolio. We have committed publicly that five years out we will have 2 per cent of our product line defined as green, which is a defined term accepted by all stakeholders. It is something of a trick to get to 2 per cent. That is a lot of power. It may not sound like much in percentage terms, but in absolute terms it is a lot of power. It will require a lot of small hydro plants, windmills, high technology, and methane gas. We are up to it, but it will require everyone to put his or her shoulder to the wheel.

Senator Taylor: In view of the fact that we are decoupling the manufacture, transportation and distribution of electricity to three different areas, the consumers will be calling the tune much more than they did in the past, and not only to pricing -- they may well be calling it to source. I do not know how far this has progressed in Ontario. Have you made any forecasts or do you see any changes in that 50 - 45 - 5 sort of set up that you were talking about? Do you think the consumers will put their money where their mouth is and buy non-nuclear power? Do you see any real change?

Mr. Osborne: To be honest, I think any change is highly unlikely. I hate to predict public reaction to anything -- I am not in that business -- but I think it is highly unlikely that very many people will say that they do not want to consume any nuclear power, because they would run the very distinct risk of running out of power.

Senator Taylor: They would rather have coal.

Mr. Osborne: They could go with coal and hydroelectric. The question often gets asked in the reverse: How much extra will people pay to get photovoltaic, windmill, landfill and other green power? The jury is out.

There are measures in California that require utilities to offer green products. The uptake is not high. If you look at experience in California on electricity prices over the course of the last summer, you see that the overwhelming concern has been over the cost of basic generation, not whether people will pay for the extra.

The Chairman: That is because of deregulation.

Mr. Osborne: It is due to a number of factors, senator.

Senator Taylor: She would buy green power.

Mr. Osborne: We would be happy to supply it. With respect to California, the reason they are out of power is that nothing has been built in the last 10 years. It is as simple as that. You can blame that on a 10-year lead up to restructuring, if you like. I do not know what the real factors are. The simple fact is that for whatever reason -- inability to get siting permissions, inability to get transmission lines built, concern about the regulatory environment and how to make money, et cetera -- not a single plant has been built in 10 years. Not surprisingly, with electricity demand in a buoyant economy increasing, there is no daylight. The inevitable happens. In a commodity, if you run $1 short, prices go through the roof. If you have $1 too many, prices plummet. That is a commodity. Californians are paying the price of 10 years of under construction.

Senator Banks: You will have derived from my first question that I have serious misgivings about the standards, not about your capacity, willingness and urgency to meet and exceed the standards. I am not also questioning CNSC and all that. I am questioning the standards that everyone in the world uses, because those standards are not health-based, they are risk-based, I think. Would you consider undertaking research, or is there any interest in the industry in looking at finding a standard that would be health-based as opposed to risk-based?

Mr. Osborne: Let me accept for the minute, although I am not qualified to do so, that your definition of the standard is risk-based rather than health-based. I do not know that, and I am new enough not to have the background. I will try educating myself on that. I will try to either prove or disprove your theory. I would ask Mr. Charlebois to comment on it in a moment.

If there is some truth to what you are saying, and I recognize that you say it with the best intent and without in any way trying to prejudice the debate, then certainly we would be interested in participating in general debate on that subject. I think that realistically we are a small player on the world scene. We are not going to move the boulder by ourselves. It would require that the entire industry take a look at this. There is, for example, the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna responsible for this. Reference has been made to the International Commission on Radiological Protection. There are a number of government regulatory bodies, including the NRC which some of you visited last week. This is not something where we stand out as being, if you like, able to move the ball.

Senator Banks: But would your company be prepared to look at that?

Mr. Osborne: Absolutely. As a layman in this business for three years, I had thought it was a combination of risk-based and health-based standards.

Mr. Charlebois: Mr. Osborne is correct. It sounds like it is risk-based, but it stems from assessment of health effects impact.

I will state one particular example. There is a location in Africa where, because of naturally occurring radiation, the population is exposed to radiation levels that are considerably higher than what we receive in southern Ontario by a factor of at least 10, if not more. There have been numerous studies, some of them by the ICRP, to see if any pattern is discernible that would suggest that those radiation levels are having an adverse effect on the population. To the best of my knowledge, that has never been proven emphatically. There is no apparent concern.

Senator Christensen: Would it not be that that population has been exposed to that type of radiation in that particular area for a very long time and has developed a tolerance to it?

Mr. Charlebois: There are specialists who believe that the human body has an ability to repair any damage that might be caused by radiation. There have been many studies on that matter. The information could be provided to the committee to demonstrate some of the history behind that.

The Chairman: We are at the end of our time. We do not have time to deal with the ageing nuclear generator question. Could you give us that answer in writing? We are also interested in your forward-looking position on export of nuclear power. There may be other questions, and I hope we could ask you to respond. I am sorry that our time is so brief, because I know there are other issues we would like to explore with you. However, I want to thank all of you gentlemen for coming here today and giving us your time and sharing with us this information.

Senator Christensen has a matter to discuss with us in relation to the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This issue was taken up with the people at the Canadian embassy and it is to be hoped we will get a report soon.

Senator Christensen: Have we not in the past written a letter on this issue to the U.S. President?

The Chairman: This committee dealt with this issue when Senator Carney was the minister. It was the subject of discussions between us and officials in the United States. However, I think we need to look at this again.

Senator Christensen: I will just give you a bit of background. I am not asking you to sign this petition, but it has been circulated by the First Nations asking the President, before he leaves office, to declare the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a national monument in order to protect it from further development. The First Nations have asked if our committee would support that petition. I have drafted a letter, the wording of which I am willing to modify, asking that this consideration be given. I am not sure whether we, as a committee, can send that kind of letter.

The Chairman: Sure we can.

Senator Eyton: What kind of area is involved? Is there any use that could be made of it that would not be detrimental?

Senator Christensen: The area is the north slope where major oil and gas exploration is being done.

Senator Eyton: What is the size of the area?

Senator Taylor: It is 80 to 100 miles deep from north to south, from the ocean to the mountains. It is about 250 miles in the Alaska portion, and about 100 miles in the Yukon portion. It is a huge area. It is about 400 miles by 100 miles.

The Chairman: It is the key area.

Senator Christensen: It is the only area open for that particular herd, which is the largest herd in the world. Due to the topography of the area, at calving time it has very rich feed available, which means that the cows do not have to graze over large distances. Also, at that time of year big winds come off the ocean and keep the flies away, which ensures that the cows do not become run down as a result of fighting flies.

The Chairman: There is also a lack of predators there, I understand.

Senator Christensen: Yes, that is true, but the feed and the wind are the more important factors.

The Chairman: Senators, is there agreement to send this letter?

Senator Taylor: I do not know what "national monument" means. I know that in Greenland the caribou are a much greater source of food than they are here. You can operate in a caribou area as long as you shut down operations during calving season, which is very short.

The Chairman: What is the view on this issue?

Senator Taylor: I am a little afraid on it.

Senator Banks: Can we get some background and deal with it again?

Senator Christensen: No. It has to be to the President before he leaves office.

The Chairman: He can do it the day after the election, before he leaves office, without affecting the election. I would advise him to do that.

Senator Taylor: You can develop oil and gas without hurting the caribou.

The Chairman: You are not in favour of this letter?

Senator Taylor: I do not know what "national monument" means.

Senator Christensen: It is like a national park.

Senator Taylor: If they allow restricted types of development at restricted times within the national monument, that would be okay.

Senator Eyton: I know nothing about it other than what I have learned this morning. It is fair enough to express concern about preserving the habitat and calving opportunities for the caribou herd, but I am not sure we can translate that to say that action should be taken to protect this area and this wildlife. Like Senator Taylor, I am not sure what "national monument" means. Does that mean that nothing can happen in that area?

The Chairman: That is right. That is the Canadian government position.

Senator Eyton: Is it?

The Chairman: Yes. It has been for a long time.

Senator Taylor: But not with a national monument.

The Chairman: That is just a method to maintain that.

Senator Taylor: The Canadian government bought a whole lot of reindeer from overseas in the 1950s and turned them loose in that area.

Senator Banks: Has Canada declared the adjacent area to be a national park?

The Chairman: Yes. Senator Adams, are you in favour of this?

Senator Adams: I do not think the letter should come from the committee. Maybe it could come from the senator from the Yukon.

The Chairman: It looks like three are in favour and three are opposed.

Senator Christensen: Unless it is unanimous, I do not want to proceed.

The Chairman: We can, however, send letters individually.

Senator Eyton: I do not mind expressing concern.

The Chairman: The issue is not that, Senator Eyton. Canada's position is that we have a national park there and do not want oil and gas development there and would like the American government to have a national park.

Senator Taylor: That is not true. They have leased out all the oil and gas rights.

The Chairman: This is Canadian government policy, and we would like the Americans to follow that policy. The issue will be that, if there is a change in government, the Americans will want to explore that and the Canadians will be opposed to it.

The committee is not in favour of sending this letter. I regret that, but I must bow to your decision.

The committee adjourned.