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

Issue 29 - Evidence, May 2, 2002

OTTAWA, Thursday, May 2, 2002

The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, to which was referred Bill C- 27, respecting the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste, met this day at 9:11 a.m. to give consideration to the bill.

Senator Nicholas W. Taylor (Chairman) in the Chair.


The Chairman: Today, we have witnesses from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Please proceed.

Mr. Ken Pereira, Vice-President, Operations Branch, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission: I appreciate this opportunity to brief you on the CNSC staff perspective on Bill C-27 and to respond to your questions.

The CNSC is an independent federal agency and a quasi-judicial tribunal that reports to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources. Our role is to regulate the nuclear industry in Canada in such a manner that the development and use of nuclear energy do not pose an unreasonable risk to health, safety, the environment and national security. We also have responsibility for the implementation of certain international obligations relating to the safeguarding and non-proliferation of nuclear materials. The CNSC does not make policy or investment decisions on the use of nuclear energy or nuclear materials.

Under the proposed Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, there is no additional role for the CNSC or its staff' nor are there any conflicts between Bill C-27 and the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. The CNSC will not be involved in choosing the waste management option — that is the responsibility of the Governor in Council, as set out in clause 15 of Bill C-27. However, once an approach to long-term management of nuclear fuel waste has been chosen, the waste management organization will be required to seek the necessary licences from the commission. These will include siting, construction and operating licences. This process reflects the CNSC's regulatory independence, in that the commission maintains objectivity and acts at arm's length from the minister and the industry.

Because of the scientific and technical expertise of staff, the CNSC is uniquely capable of providing expertise and guidance on health, safety and regulatory issues pertaining to the nuclear industry in Canada. Consistent with our practice with any potential licensee, CNSC staff will be available to provide advice to the waste management organization on expectations regarding health, safety, security and protection of the environment. CNSC staff undertook a similar role with the Seaborn panel, where CNSC staff performed independent technical reviews of the disposal concept and the associated safety case. CNSC staff would also be available to provide technical advice to the minister. For instance, staff of the CNSC would be able to determine whether the nuclear fuel waste management option proposed by the waste management organization has potential to meet the regulatory requirements of the CNSC.

Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the commission may require, as a licence condition, financial guarantees, to ensure that resources are available to decommission nuclear facilities safely and effectively. These financial guarantees include costs for disposing of nuclear fuel waste. CNSC staff has had discussions with the licensees and the provinces on the form of financial guarantees for the decommissioning of major nuclear facilities and waste management, including fuel disposal. Preliminary plans for those decommissioning proposals have been reviewed. CNSC staff is planning to bring these financial guarantees to the commission during this calendar year for incorporation into licences.

The CNSC approach to financial guarantees is given in the CNSC Regulatory Guide G-206, entitled ``Financial Guarantees for the Decommissioning of Licensed Activities.'' G-206 requires full funding of decommissioning costs. This is consistent with the ``polluter pays'' principle, as described in the government's radioactive waste policy framework of 1996, and minimizes taxpayer liability. A copy of G-206 is provided with our briefing material.

The financial guarantees required by the CNSC and the segregated cash fund required under Bill C-27 will be complementary. Any moneys deposited in the trust fund established under the proposed Nuclear Fuel Waste Act will be considered as part of the financial guarantee required under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. Monies in the trust fund can only be used to implement the chosen option, and only once the CNSC has issued a construction licence. Activities before that point, including the issuance of a siting licence, must be funded in a different manner.

CNSC staff has worked with Natural Resources Canada to ensure the policies reflected in the proposed Nuclear Fuel Waste Act and CNSC's policies on financial guarantees do not conflict.

In conclusion, the CNSC is mandated to protect the health, safety, security and environment for all Canadians. If the waste management organization envisioned by Bill C-27 were established, we would be available to provide technical advice to the waste management organization and others, including the Minister Responsible for Natural Resources.

I should be pleased to answer any questions you may have at this time.

Senator Banks: I am sure you know better than I that Canadians, and I suppose everyone, have concerns about nuclear power generation. Those concerns are probably out of proportion, however, in that if we were to compare the damage to life and property caused by other means of power generation, we would probably discover that nuclear generation is pretty safe, notwithstanding Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

The difference is that conventional accidents, if I can use that term, such as, to give a worst-case scenario, an earthquake under a hydro dam, are relatively contained and the length of time over which they wreak havoc is relatively brief. In contrast, most of us believe that an accident, or other incident, having to do with a nuclear facility would have more widespread potential to damage life and property. People everywhere are very concerned about this.

You spoke about your mandate to ensure that nuclear generation and things attached to it, such as the disposal of spent nuclear fuel, which is specifically what we are talking about, do not pose an unreasonable risk to Canadians. If there is an unreasonable risk, then there must be a reasonable risk. There is a line somewhere. How is that line established? What falls below the line and is a reasonable risk, and how is it measured? What is above the line and is an unreasonable risk? What is the quantitative or qualitative stuff by which that determination is made?

Mr. Pereira: To examine risks that arise from nuclear operations in Canada, we look at probabilities. We would look at probabilities less than ten to minus 6. We compare risks associated with other industries and risks associated with other activities that pose a hazard to life, and rank the consequences, to determine what risks society accepts in other areas. We then look at the engineering and procedures in the nuclear industry. We look for enough defence in depth to reduce the risk of releases to the public or to the environment to below probabilities of risk that are accepted elsewhere.

That is our strategy. We engineer in multiple barriers. There is not just one defence against failure; there are multiple defences and multiple measures in terms of monitoring and tracking the performance of nuclear facilities, bearing in mind the very issues that you have mentioned, the extent to which one could have impact over a period of time. Bearing that in mind, we put in additional barriers to provide assurance.

Senator Banks: The measurement is not just a percentage of the likelihood of an event taking place. You also factor into it some form of measurement of the enormity of the event; correct?

Mr. Pereira: The enormity of the event is factored in, as well as the likelihood that the preventive measures or the defences will all function or, if one does not function, that there is a backup. By adding on layers of defence, one is then reducing the probability of an impact of significance.

Senator Banks: I like, as I think we all do, the government's policy at the moment, that is, that polluters pay. However, I am concerned about the financial burden on the generators, a burden that is going to be passed on to consumers. We have had a degree of success in Alberta, which is the province I come from, in providing a valuable service. Once we have established a facility that is capable of doing such things as, in this case, disposing of toxic wastes, which other jurisdictions do not have, there has been some success in providing the service to others from outside that jurisdiction. I wonder whether we will have the capability to help prop up the financial viability of the WMO and its operations by providing that service to people who have spent nuclear waste that does not come from within our jurisdiction.

Mr. Pereira: That is something that the government would have to decide on. As a regulator, we would only regulate if there were a decision to import waste. We would then regulate and control the import activities, making sure that the recipient of the waste is qualified to receive it and that the transport is done in a manner that protects Canadians and the environment.

Our role as a regulator is to ensure that any decisions taken in that respect comply with the law, which is the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, even with respect to importing. There are also obligations to the international community in terms of safeguarding and non-proliferation. There are many aspects to be addressed.

However, our role as a regulator is to have that independent overview to ensure that whatever decision is taken complies with the law and with international practice.

Senator Banks: With respect to your considerations, and looking down the road at Bill C-27, have those been among the things that you have contemplated, that is to say, transport and importation and things of that nature? When you do that pro forma, as it were, have you considered that fact in your deliberations?

Mr. Pereira: Not in assessing the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, but the information we have shared with others is the fact that if this organization is approved and is established and then seeks licences the requirements it will have to comply with are requirements that we are responsible for regulating, too.

The Chairman: I have a supplemental to something you raised, Mr. Pereira. You mentioned importation of nuclear waste. Clause 7 reads, in part, as follows:

(b) all owners of nuclear fuel waste produced in Canada that are neither members nor shareholders of the waste management organization

its nuclear fuel waste management services that are set out in the approach that the Governor in Council selects under section 15 or approves under subsection 20(5).

Have you read through the bill in detail? Would you say that there is permission to import?

Mr. Pereira: I did not ask the question. Senator Banks asked a hypothetical question.

The Chairman: You gave a hypothetical answer to a hypothetical question?

Mr. Pereira: That is correct. Senator Banks was asking if we would permit it as a regulator.

The Chairman: You do not see that in this bill?

Mr. Pereira: No.

The Chairman: In other words, if they wanted to import nuclear waste — in other words, make a deal — they might say, ``You buy four CANDUs from me and I will look after you''?

Mr. Pereira: It is not the regulator's business.

The Chairman: Do you see that in this bill?

Mr. Pereira: It is not there. I do not see the details.

The Chairman: Neither do I, but I am receiving many phone calls in that regard.


Senator Gauthier: I take it your President, Ms Linda Keen, was not available this morning?

Mr. Pereira: No.

Senator Gauthier: Then you are speaking on behalf of the Commission?

Mr. Pereira: Correct.

Senator Gauthier: As part of its mandate to regulate nuclear waste management facilities, the Waste Management Organization proposed in Bill C-27 would be required to submit to the Government of Canada a nuclear waste management strategy and to oversee the implementation of that strategy. Could you give us an idea of the kind of relationship that will exist, to your way of thinking, between the CNSC and the WMO?

Mr. Pereira: The WMO will be a licensee. It will need the CNSC's permission to build and operate waste management facilities. As a regulatory body, we operate at arm's length from the Department of Natural Resources and from the nuclear industry. We monitor nuclear use to ensure that there are no risks to the environment, health and safety.

Senator Gauthier: How many people are currently employed by the CNSC?

Mr. Pereira: We have 420 employees. Most work in Ottawa, but we also have offices in other locations.

Senator Gauthier: How will the adoption of Bill C-27 affect your staffing requirements? Will you require extra funding?

Mr. Pereira: We may need five additional staff members, but this will depend on how the legislation evolves.

Senator Gauthier: Five additional employees to do the same work?

Mr. Pereira: That is correct.

Senator Gauthier: I would like to follow up on Senator Banks' question concerning exports and imports.

I read in your annual report that the CNSC issued licences for the export of 10,966 tonnes of Canadian natural uranium. How many tonnes were imported?

Mr. Pereira: Negligible amounts. Canada is the world's largest producer of uranium.

Senator Gauthier: So, when you state in your annual report that CNSC continued to license the import and export of substances and equipment, what you are really saying is that few if any import licences were issued. Correct?

Mr. Pereira: In many cases, we are talking about sales of radioactive drugs. The CNSC is responsible for issuing licences for a range of nuclear industry products. These products are sold to the United States as well as to many other countries. To date, however, we have not imported any nuclear waste.

Senator Gauthier: When the minister testified before the committee last week, I asked him about possible future waste imports. Bill C-27 is silent on the matter of imports. Many people have asked me about this and I have not been able to give them an answer. Are there any provisions in place should Canada ever need to import nuclear waste? I put a hypothetical question to the minister. Suppose Canada sells a CANDU reactor to a foreign country. The reactor is known to produce nuclear waste. If we adhere to the ``polluter pays'' principle, could the government request an exemption and request a licence from the CNSC to import the nuclear waste generated by a CANDU reactor in a foreign country?

Mr. Pereira: That is a possibility, but we have certain stipulations governing the transportation and handling of waste. Anyone wanting to import waste must comply with Canadian nuclear industry laws and regulations. We are not responsible for drafting policies and making decisions. That is the role of the government and of the department.

Senator Gauthier: Currently, nuclear waste is not shipped via the Great Lakes. Is that right?

Mr. Pereira: Correct.

Senator Gauthier: The Americans are talking about shipping nuclear waste on the Great Lakes. What would happen in that case?

Mr. Pereira: We are only responsible for the transportation of nuclear waste in Canada. The Great Lakes are also part of the United States. Therefore, they are entitled to use these bodies of water for transporting waste.

Senator Gauthier: Some territory comes under joint jurisdiction. The water that would be polluted is jointly owned. The problem would be as difficult to resolve as if it originated here at home.

Mr. Pereira: The Department of the Environment and Health Canada are responsible for certain areas. The CNSC is responsible solely for activities in Canada. However, other departments are free to comment on these matters.

Senator Gauthier: In terms of deciding on a waste site, what will the nature of the relationship be between the CNSC and the WMO? Will the CNSC be cooperating with this new agency?

Mr. Pereira: Our relationship will not be in the nature of a collaboration as such, because we are a regulatory body. The WMO will be required to obtain a licence from us. Like other licensees, it must comply with legislative and regulatory requirements.

Senator Gauthier: Therefore, if the United States wishes to ship nuclear waste via waters that are jointly owned, such as the Great Lakes, they will need to request a licence from the CNSC. Correct?

Mr. Pereira: If the waste is being imported into or transported in Canada, yes, but if that waste is being shipped via US waters, we have no authority over this matter whatsoever. Our mandate applies to Canada. Our laws apply in Canada.


Senator Banks: In other words, they can pollute their end of the pool, senator.

Senator Gauthier: The trouble is, it comes back to our place.


Mr. Pereira: A board would be responsible for establishing procedures to be followed by the two countries. The respective departments of Foreign Affairs would appoint members to this board, or tribunal.


The Chairman: Senator Gauthier is responsible for piloting this bill through the Senate, which is why his questions are so probing.

He raised a point that I thought of when you mentioned that the WMO must get permission from the CNSC before going ahead. Suppose you and the WMO are at loggerheads, that the WMO thinks you are fuddy-duddies or that you change your mind. Is there a system of solving the conflict between the two?

Mr. Pereira: Licensing decisions for this type of facility would be rendered by an independent commission, a quasi- judicial tribunal, established under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. The hearings are public; in other words, a disagreement on interpretation of compliance with our requirements would be public. The process involves two separate hearings; presentations are made by the staff and by the applicant. Public interveners are invited, should they so choose, to appear before the commission or to provide written submissions. A quasi-judicial tribunal provides the opportunity for resolution of disagreements. Once a tribunal has rendered its decision, then that is the decision.

The Chairman: I am not sure I fully understand you. Is there a tribunal over and above the WMO and CNSC?

Mr. Pereira: The CNSC is a quasi-judicial tribunal established under the Nuclear Safety Control Act. Staff support the tribunal in its decision-making processes. We represent that staff. If the WMO is established and applies for a licence, the licence application will be assessed by staff and recommendations will be made to our commission, either for the issuance of a licence or a refusal to issue one. The hearing will be public. The WMO can appear before the tribunal, which is really the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission — the staff just happens to be there to support that commission.

The Chairman: Is there a difference between your staff and the tribunal?

Mr. Pereira: No, the tribunal is the body established under the act. The staff is there to provide advice and information to enable the commission to render decisions on any licensing matter.

The Chairman: I am still having trouble. It sounds like a kangaroo court. If the WMO and the staff do not agree, you appeal to yourself at a public hearing.

Mr. Pereira: We provide a recommendation to the commission.

The Chairman: But the commission is you.

Mr. Pereira: No, it is a Governor-in-Council appointment. They do not work for the commission.

The Chairman: They do not work for the WMO either.

Mr. Pereira: No, they do not. They are eminent people from across the country.

The Chairman: I apologize, I am a little slow this morning. There are a number of them out West where you appeal to the same people who render the decision.

Mr. Pereira: It is an independent tribunal.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Senator Christensen: Will the proposed WMO be subject to and covered by the Nuclear Liability Act?

Mr. Pereira: Yes. If an application for licence is received from the WMO, the facility will fall under our class 1 regulations, that is, a category of installations for which the Nuclear Liability Act can be applied and it is likely that it will apply.

Senator Christensen: Are there limitations on the amounts that are available under that?

Mr. Pereira: There are. However, I believe Natural Resources Canada is in the process of reviewing the provisions of the Nuclear Liability Act and that as such a proposed revision of the act will be brought forward in due course. I am not sure as to the timing.

Ms Maloney advises that the time frame for that is something like two years, but it is a work in progress.

Senator Christensen: The concern we are hearing from most of the public on Bill C-27 — which has to do with nuclear waste management, not with materials coming in from other places — is that the fox is looking after the chickens; in other words, we are giving industry the responsibility to manage itself and to come up with the proposals.

The industry has three options — on site, buried or above ground. It decides on an option it feels is safe. Could you walk us through the process as to how that in fact finally becomes the option that is chosen?

Mr. Pereira: The final decision on the choice of site is a Governor-in-Council decision. If asked for advice by the minister or by anyone else, we would look at the application for a siting licence. That would be the first step.

Senator Christensen: I am asking about the process before it gets to you. The industry says: ``This is the preferred option. We feel that it is affordable, safe and everything else.'' What does the industry do next?

Mr. Pereira: They would send that proposal to the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister would carry out a review, obtain advice from us if necessary, and consult whatever other experts they see fit.

The minister will then provide a recommendation to the Governor in Council.

Senator Christensen: Where does the WMO come in?

Mr. Pereira: The WMO sends a proposal to the minister on their preferred choice, and then the minister makes a recommendation to cabinet.

Senator Christensen: You are licensing, so you do all of the background work and the public hearings to decide whether it meets the requirements.

Mr. Pereira: Correct. When the WMO decides to move forward with the proposal and they want to select a site, they would first have to get our regulatory approval for the choice of the site. That is the first licence. The next stage would be a construction licence. Upon making a declaration that they intend to construct a facility at a particular place, the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act are immediately triggered. The first step, even before they apply for a first licence, is for an environmental assessment to be carried out under the requirements of the CEAA. As the agency that would be responsible for issuing that first licence, we would be the lead agency for carrying out that assessment in partnership with other stakeholders in government and with full public consultation. That is likely to be an extensive process, with lots of consultation and public input.

Senator Christensen: It appears to be a rather complicated process.

Mr. Pereira: Yes, it is.

Senator Christensen: It is difficult for the public to follow that. What can we do to help the public with the process, make it simple for them to get the information and follow the process, in order to know when their input will be required and as such prepare for these things?

Mr. Pereira: The first step that I mentioned, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act process, is public. With registries being established that have all the documentation readily available, it is a process that provides lots of information to the public, comprehensive information on the environmental aspects of the proposal.

Senator Christensen: What would the time frame be for a siting?

Mr. Pereira: At least two years, given these various phases of assessment. The environmental assessment itself will take well over a year, and there will be plenty of opportunity for public input and widespread consultation. It is not something that will be done in less than two years, based on our previous experience with major projects that have had to go through similar processes.

I offer as an example the processes for uranium mining. It is a long, drawn-out affair. There is no real pressure to move quickly because waste is being stored in a safe manner at the moment, interim storage on sites.

Senator Christensen: We visited, as you know, some of the sites, and the amount of waste that is stored is a surprisingly small amount considering the length of time that some of these plants have been operating.

It would seem, technology being what it is, that within the next 15 to 30 years there may be a use for that type of thing, so it could be reused rather than having it shut away some place.

Senator Finnerty: Are the existing above-ground storage facilities operated under separate licence, or are they covered by the power plant operating licence? Who controls that?

Mr. Pereira: At present, we have separate licences for the power plant and waste facilities, but they are owned by the same utilities so it is the same licensee. We have separate licences for administrative purposes, and the same quasi- judicial tribunal, for the power plant and the site, hears applications for those licences. The licensees are the same organizations, and the processes for managing them are the same ones I use for the nuclear power plant.

Senator Finnerty: I am still confused about who is in control.

Mr. Pereira: The responsibility lies with the owner of the waste, which happens to be Ontario Power Generation, Hydro-Québec or New Brunswick Power. They are responsible for management of the fuel under the requirements of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

We are the regulator, so we ensure that they comply with the applicable law, but the responsibility for doing that lies with the licensee, which happens to be the power production companies. They have to take all the measures required to comply with the requirements of the law, which is the Nuclear Safety and Control Act in this case.

Senator Finnerty: I am a native of Timmins, Ontario, and as such am receiving many letters about Kirkland Lake. We fought Toronto garbage being dumped into a pristine pit; now we are talking about nuclear waste being put in a mine. Management and some town officials, but not the public, seem to be quite happy about that. Most of us who come from mining communities are very concerned about these possibilities.

Our chairman knows about attempting to contain anything in a mine that is not operating. There is the possibility of cave-ins, water filling up those places and contamination of the waterways. This is of great concern, and the public do not understand. By what means can the public become more secure in understanding what is happening here?

Mr. Pereira: The waste management organization is required to attend a public consultation process when it comes up with a proposal. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act then calls for more widespread consultation and also contains sharing-of-information requirements. As such, there will be quite an extensive process with respect to what is to be done with nuclear fuel waste. I am not aware of any proposals to put any waste down abandoned mines. I do not think that is a proposal at the moment.

Senator Finnerty: That is the concern of many people. There needs to be more public relations.

Mr. Pereira: Certainly there is a need for that, but we are not aware of any proposal for the storing of any nuclear waste down abandoned mines. There are several categories of waste. There is high-level waste, which is the nuclear fuel, as well as intermediate- and low-level waste. As we understand it, currently the waste producers have it stored in interim storage on their facilities, with no plans for using mines for disposal.

I agree with you, perhaps there is a need for more public information on how waste from the nuclear industry is handled.

We have a program run by the commission that addresses the legacy wastes left around the country from the early years of nuclear power and wartime activities. The CNSC pioneered this program and required the cleanup of many sites across Canada. This is a success story of how, under our new act, we have more powers to require owners of such properties to undertake cleanup. These programs are well in hand, and information is being shared. However, this is dealing with legacy wastes.

In terms of new waste, we have fairly rigid requirements putting boundaries on where waste can be disposed of. It is under much more rigid regulatory control now than it has ever been in Canada.

The Chairman: Does the CNSC have any say in surface or geological disposal? As you know, the U.S. is going into the Yucca Mountains, which is a volcanic tooth that we do not have in the Canadian Shield. We have to go to the Yukon or to B.C. to find the same find the same type of formation.

In your position, will you have any say if the WMO wants to use geological storage versus surface storage? Do you only look at the safety, or do you have any decision-making power about whether it is above or below ground?

Mr. Pereira: Under our mandate, we will not be involved in making a decision. We will indicate whether the proposed alternatives comply with Canadian requirements, and provide that advice to the minister. That will then be part of the input for the Governor in Council decision.

The Chairman: As you know, in places around Canada, such as Yellowknife, cyanide is sealed up and put in mines. I am interested in the interface.

Senator Finnerty: Was there not a situation with respect to a ship loaded with contaminants that sank off the British Columbia coast, where plans were being made to take that waste to Kirkland Lake but the public stopped it?

The Chairman: I did not hear about that.

Senator Finnerty: I will have to find out more about it.

Mr. Pereira: We are not aware of anything like that in the last decade. It was not radioactive material, but it may have been other toxic chemicals. Our mandate strictly deals with nuclear material.

The Chairman: Senator Finnerty, it is your job to calm those people.

Senator Finnerty: I have been trying to do that.

The Chairman: People feel there is a nuclear bogeyman sneaking up and down the alleys at night.

Senator Finnerty: They think there is no population in the Arctic, so it is safe to dump there.

Senator Adams: Mr. Pereira, your waste management organization deals with Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick and the nuclear power generators there. Are the waste management storage sites tendered out, or do you have to own property to have one? Does it have to be tendered to the public, or is waste management handled by a private company? It is the generating people and power plant owners that own power plant waste. How does this system work?

Mr. Pereira: At present, the waste is owned by the public utilities, Ontario Power Generation, Hydro-Québec and New Brunswick Power. Under this bill, they are required to establish a fund for disposal of the waste, and the fund is held by the waste management organization.

How that organization will propose to dispose of that waste, whether it will set up a private company or a governmental-type of organization, is not clear. As far as our requirements are concerned, they need to comply with the proposed legislation, and based on the bill the organization that is set up is supposed to be a non-profit organization.

Regardless of what entity is established, it will be required to comply with the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. There will be certain requirements on organizational capability, the management framework that is set up, and the whole planning of the process, the location and the construction projects. All of those controls will need to comply with the regulatory requirements, regardless of who it is. As it stands right now, we read the proposed act as indicating that this WMO, which is a not-for-profit organization, is being provided with the funds to undertake this task.

Senator Adams: The public has been in Pickering with the committee to see those wastes encased in concrete. I am not sure how many tonnes could be put in the storage site, but it requires heavy equipment to move it.

People are concerned about the transport of nuclear waste down the highway and about the kinds of equipment being used for that. Has the subject of putting nuclear waste in the field been addressed?

Mr. Pereira: A decision must be taken on the matter of siting. Regardless of the decision, there will need to be some transport. The international community, with us being participants, has developed the requirements for transport. The shipping containers required for this kind of transport have been tested to survive transportation incidents.

There are measures to transport this kind of material, but it is not the decision of this regulator to select the site. Our decision, once the site has been chosen, will be whether the measures in place for transport and handling comply with our requirements. These requirements are not just made in isolation in Canada for transport, because transport crosses boundaries. These are internationally validated measures for handling and transport.

Senator Adams: According to Bill C-27, there is no regulation in respect of the distance or how many companies may be involved in the transporting of nuclear waste.

Mr. Pereira: Even in the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, there is no limit on transport, not just with fuel waste but also with any nuclear materials. There is a requirement to comply with how the material is transported.

Senator Adams: If you have a facility for Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, can you transport that waste from Quebec and New Brunswick to Ontario?

Mr. Pereira: A siting decision must be taken. We are not involved in selecting a site, but after the selection has been made, an application must be made to us for a site licence for that selected site. We will then review all of the implications of that choice — the suitability of the site for safe storage.

Senator Adams: If you were looking for another storage site, in Ontario, Quebec or New Brunswick, would there be a public tender? Could a conflict arise between storage sites in the selection process? How much does it cost per year to store that kind of waste? Does it work that way or can you comment?

Mr. Pereira: I am not sure how they make their decision to select a site.

Senator Buchanan: ``You're in good hands with Allstate.'' We all know that saying. Well, I believe the nuclear industry in Canada is in good hands with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Mr. Pereira: Thank you.

Senator Buchanan: Let me tell you a funny story about innovative ideas from Maritimers. Back in the mid-1980s, a council of Maritime premiers met in P.E.I. There was a group protesting New Brunswick's selling of nuclear power to P.E.I. from the Point Lepreau CANDU nuclear power station. This group of protesters did not want nuclear power to be sent across to P.E.I. The innovative thinking of some people in New Brunswick was as follows: ``Do not be concerned because as the transmission lines are coming from New Brunswick across to P.E.I., we will separate out the nuclear power and you will receive only oil and coal power.'' That is innovative thinking. It must have satisfied the protesters, because they all went home.

I have a question for you, Mr. Pereira. This committee travelled to the United States where we met with the Nuclear Control Institute in Washington. We also met with an interesting group in Atlanta, Georgia, that is also a nuclear agency with members in just about every nuclear power plant in the world, including Russia and Point Lepreau.

Senator Adams: Not in India or in Pakistan.

Senator Buchanan: That is right.

As the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, do you have any indirect or direct relationship with these nuclear agencies in the United States?

Mr. Pereira: We have regular communication with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. In fact, the President and Chief Executive Officer of CNSC, Linda Keen, and I are scheduled to visit the U.S. at the end of May to discuss issues of common interest. The organization to which you refer is the World Association of Nuclear Operators, WANO.

Senator Buchanan: That is the one I was thinking about.

Mr. Pereira: That is an industry organization.

Senator Buchanan: Yes, it is.

Mr. Pereira: They share their information with the industry, but as regulators, we are not members of that. However, there are periodic meetings with the WANO. In fact, this June at the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, in Vienna, there will be a joint meeting between the OECD/NEA and the WANO, which regulators and industry representatives will attend.

Senator Buchanan: Where will that be held?

Mr. Pereira: It will be in Paris.

Senator Buchanan: Will your organization be attending?

Mr. Pereira: Yes, our president will attend.

Senator Watt: Under the ``Interpretation'' section of Bill C-27, ``management'' is defined as follows:

``management'', in relation to nuclear fuel waste means long-term management by means of storage or disposal, including handling treatment, conditioning or transport for the purpose of storage or disposal.

To my knowledge, I do not think such a thing still exists in respect of disposing of that waste. Could you explain to me what this means? Are they leaving themselves open to access new technology as it becomes available, so they can actually dispose of it? Is that what this means?

My second question is: How many of those old waste sites exist across Canada? How many of the new waste sites, since you have been in existence, exist across Canada?

Mr. Pereira: With respect to disposal, the words chosen in the bill refer to the fact that there may be a number of options. There may be the option of holding the waste on a surface-type facility, thus leaving the waste accessible for the future should society decide that there is some use for this material, which could then be reprocessed in some manner. That is one option.

Another option that is referred to is the deep geological route, whereby the waste is taken down into a prepared facility in a stable rock formation, or a stable geological structure, for storage, and then the repository is sealed off, making it inaccessible. That would be disposal. There is a spectrum.

Senator Watt: And permanently disposed of.

Mr. Pereira: Yes, it would be permanently disposed of, with no option of removal of that waste.

The Chairman: I have a supplementary question. The stuff that is disposed of, if it is sealed there, would it be any stronger or weaker than the uranium as far as radioactivity is concerned than the ore body you are getting out of Rabbit Lake or Great Bear Lake?

Mr. Pereira: It would be much higher because there are products of radioactive fission in there. The ores that you find on the ground are radioactive uranium mixed in with other materials. The richest ore we have in Canada is 28 per cent uranium, although we have ores down to 2 or 3 per cent concentration that are viable. The uranium concentration with respect to ores in the ground to start with are not as high. The fuel being disposed of is totally uranium, plus products of radioactive fission, including plutonium and a number of other long-lived products — that is, they have long radioactive lives.

Senator Watt: What you are telling us is that there is no way at this point to neutralize the waste.

Mr. Pereira: There is technology that can be used to re-utilize the waste.

Senator Watt: Not re-use, I am talking about neutralize. There is no such thing as a technology to neutralize waste.

Mr. Pereira: No, I believe not.

Senator Watt: Is that possible? Is this proposed legislation keeping the door open?

Mr. Pereira: There are experiments going on —

Senator Watt: I am just wondering whether it is being left open under the interpretive provisions of the bill. I am not saying it is bad; I am trying to understand the thinking behind the government's bill, if there is a possibility of opening up a new idea or technology.

Mr. Pereira: I will ask Ms Maloney to comment on that.

Ms Cait Maloney, Director General, Directorate of Nuclear Cycle and Facilities Regulation, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission: The word ``disposal'' has taken on a rather firm meaning in this community. As Mr. Pereira indicated, it is a means of isolating the waste from the environment with no need for human intervention. I agree that it is not the same as making the radioactivity disappear.

Senator Watt: I understand. The next question?

Mr. Pereira: Just to clarify, you were asking us how much old waste there is?

Senator Watt: After your presentation, one of the senators was asking you about new waste and old waste, and you replied by saying that some old waste is being cleaned up and things of that nature. I want to have a general idea of what we are talking about in geographic terms when you look at the whole of Canada. Where are they located? Are they scattered across the country, the old waste and the new waste?

Mr. Pereira: Let me clarify that the old waste is not nuclear fuel waste; it is other products of mining of uranium and of handling of products such as radium in the war-time years. There are some residues in different locations across the country. Port Hope is one site that perhaps you have read about.

Senator Watt: I am very familiar with the Mid-Canada Line transmission.

Mr. Pereira: Correct. That is one of the areas that are being cleaned up. It involves the products of uranium mining as the ore was being transported. We are not talking about fuel waste; we are talking about other products.

Senator Watt: My question is related to the fuel waste.

Mr. Pereira: There is no old fuel waste. All of the fuel waste is held at the nuclear power stations at the moment.

Senator Watt: In one location?

Mr. Pereira: At each of the nuclear power stations: Bruce generating station, Pickering, Darlington, Point Lepreau and Gentilly-2.

Senator Watt: Right close to where the power plants are.

Mr. Pereira: Correct. Each facility stores the waste it produces in either wet storage or dry fuel stores. There are two options. The dry fuel stores are interim solutions, where there is stable control of the conditions in which the fuel is held.

Senator Watt: Since the commission has been in existence, has there been any transporting of this fuel waste other than close to the power plant, to your knowledge?

Mr. Pereira: Very small quantities have been moved from some of the stations to the Chalk River Laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited for testing work, but not large quantities. All of the fuel is essentially held at the power station sites. At present, close to 5,000 tonnes is being held at all of these sites in total.

Senator Watt: Is there a future plan that may decide to relocate them from where they are today?

Mr. Pereira: That is possible. One of the options for the waste management organization is to have a centralized storage facility, in which case the fuel waste would have to be transported to that location, wherever it is.

Senator Watt: Does the commission also have responsibility to regulate how the waste is drawn out from the plant and put into the storage itself? Is that your main function?

Mr. Pereira: Yes, that would be our mandate. Handling at the original site of origin, transport, interim storage at the new site and disposal all have to be subject to the requirements of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and its regulations.

Senator Watt: If there were to be relocation, would this commission also have responsibility?

Mr. Pereira: Yes, it would have to be done under licence from our commission.

Senator Banks: How many people form the commission, and could you give us a rough idea of who they are — not necessarily names — but where they come from?

Mr. Pereira: The act permits a total of seven commissioners. At present, we have five commissioners: Linda Keen, our president; Mr. Alan Graham, who used to be a minister in the Government of New Brunswick; Dr. Christopher Barnes, a professor at the University of Victoria; Ms Letha MacLachlan, an environmental lawyer from Calgary; and Dr. Giroux, an associate professor from the University of Laval.

Senator Banks: These people are appointed by the Governor in Council?

Mr. Pereira: Correct.

Senator Banks: As are we. You said that the commission will not pick a site.

Mr. Pereira: Correct.

Senator Banks: You also said that the commission will issue a site licence. If a body is going to issue a licence, it presumes that the commission could decline to issue a licence, that is, if the site that was chosen originally by the industry to the minister was deemed by the commission not to be appropriate.

Mr. Pereira: Correct.

Senator Banks: The commission would be able to say, ``No, you cannot put it there.''

Mr. Pereira: That is correct.

Senator Banks: In light of the cynicism that Canadians have about things like this, including us, can you give us an idea of how independent the commission is, given that it is appointed by the Governor in Council? What is the willingness and likelihood of the commission in its capacity denying a licence for a site that has been chosen by the Governor in Council? Would it do so if it simply thought, on the merits of the question alone, ``Sorry, government, you have chosen the wrong place; you cannot build it there''?

Mr. Pereira: Yes, it would.

Senator Banks: This is another of my hypothetical questions.

Mr. Pereira: I think the commission is independent enough to do that. It is a quasi-judicial tribunal. It reports to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources, but it is not part of Natural Resources Canada. It is very independent, and it has rendered some difficult decisions from time to time in the past.

My view is that, as these proposals are firmed up, the Minister of Natural Resources will take advice from us on the viability of the options being proposed.

If we, early on, did not see prospects of a particular option being considered as viable in terms of compliance with the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, then it would be up to the minister to take our advice. We would not be involved in making the decision, but we would provide advice if invited to do so.

Senator Banks: When and if the spent fuel that is currently stored virtually abutting the sites of the plants were approved to be moved to another site, have you given any thought to the point at which that spent nuclear fuel would become the responsibility of the WMO and cease to be the responsibility of OPG, for example? Is it the moment it leaves the site? Is it when it is on the truck? Is it when it arrives at the site? Have you thought about that?

Mr. Pereira: We have not given that much thought. I would imagine that it would be when it leaves the site of the originating organization.

The Chairman: That would be if it were not moved from one part of the site to another part of the site?

Mr. Pereira: It would be when it leaves the site. It would depend on the conditions established in the contract.

The Chairman: They might move it from the back 40 to the front 40 on the same site.

Mr. Pereira: As long as it is on the site of the original organization, it is their responsibility.

The Chairman: They can move it without going to you, as long as they stay within the boundaries.

Mr. Pereira: That is correct.

The Chairman: That is interesting.

Mr. Pereira: They have licences for handling fuel. Initially, when the fuel comes out, the reactor goes into a cooling facility, a pond. It is held there for a number of years until it is cooled, until the fission rate is lowered. It is then often transported into a dry storage facility on the site where the fuel is sealed into different types of containers. They do transport fuel on the site.

Senator Banks: This again reverts to the alarmist kind of questions that are in all of our worst dreams, particularly since the events of last fall. The generating part of most nuclear plants is contained within a really hard shell of one kind or another. It would take a big effort to get through those shells. They are built with seismographic considerations. The storage facilities, including the pools for cooling and the dry storage into which they are moved after the spent fuel has cooled down and ceases to glow quite so much, are less difficult to penetrate.

People have posited scenarios, including people tossing grenades and sticks of dynamite and flying small planes into these facilities. A fire or an explosion may not be caused, but a leak or release could be created. It is the release with which we would be really concerned with respect to spent fuel, whether it was released by fire, explosion or whatever.

Bearing in mind that these storage facilities are in fairly close proximity to flowing water, will you be giving any thought in the continued licensing of the temporary storage of fuel that could become permanent storage of spent fuel, to hardening those storage facilities?

Mr. Pereira: Yes, since the events of September 11, considerable attention has been focused on security and protection of nuclear facilities.

As an organization, we carried out design-basis threat assessments of these facilities prior to September 11 to define the security provisions that licensees need to have. Post-September 11, we commissioned a repeat of that design-basis threat.

Senator Banks: With a different bar in mind?

Mr. Pereira: That is correct. A number of new security requirements were put in place for these types of facilities. An order was issued by the commission in mid-October requiring certain additional measures to be in place with a view to protecting against the sort of threats you are talking about.

Much of this information is security-protected, but be assured that considerable attention has been focused on these sort of threats, and a number measures have been put in place.

We continue to work on measures. We are working on changes in our legislation to address security. There is a project in progress to reinforce requirements in the law. We have an order in place, and we will make it permanent with the revisions of our regulations.

Senator Banks: We very much look forward to that. Thank you.


Senator Gauthier: I would like to follow up on the comments of Senators Banks and Watts concerning existing regulations for waste management facilities. Are surface storage sites at the seven nuclear stations operated under a separate licence or does each station have a separate operating licence? Who has jurisdiction over such matters?

Mr. Pereira: Currently, two different licences are issued: one for the operation of the station, and one for the storage site at each station, whether Gentilly-2, Point Lepreau, Darlington, Pickering or some other station.

Senator Gauthier: Is the current regulatory regime adequate in terms of the issuance of licences and quotas for a combustible waste management facility or are further regulations needed? Do you currently have what you need to meet future requirements?

Mr. Pereira: In our opinion, the regulatory regime is adequate for the facilities we now have. In so far as new waste management facilities are concerned, we do not feel that regulatory changes are warranted.

Senator Gauthier: Is the CNSC involved in the process of selecting a nuclear waste management site?

Mr. Pereira: Are we involved in the site selection process?

Senator Gauthier: That is right.

Mr. Pereira: In terms of site selection, the applicant must obtain a licence from the Commission. Public hearings are held to weigh arguments in favour of the site selected and other considerations such as environmental protection issues. Site selection is truly a legal process.

Senator Gauthier: According to your annual report, the CNSC issued a total of 550 licences last year.

Mr. Pereira: Correct.

Senator Gauthier: Were public hearings held in each case?

Mr. Pereira: No. Most licences issued involved the use of radioactive substances within the industry, such as radioactive drug products. For the most part, these licences were for substances used infrequently, and therefore granted limited authority.

Several CNSC officials have been granted the authority to issue licences for these substances. As a rule, the Commission is responsible for scheduling 80 public hearings every year.

Senator Gauthier: How many public hearings did the CNSC hold last year in order to issue 550 licences?

Mr. Pereira: Somewhere around 13 hearings. The number varies from year to year as needs change.

Senator Gauthier: Do you foresee the Commission being more active in the future or do you think you will continue at more or less the same pace?

Mr. Pereira: We do not anticipate a great many changes.

Senator Gauthier: You stated that the Commission may be hiring five new directors.

Mr. Pereira: That is correct, but the approval process for the new waste site will take several years. The public will be consulted and the process is quite lengthy.

Senator Gauthier: Perhaps then you should correct the following statement contained in your annual report:

Before the Commission makes a decision on a licensing matter, a public hearing is held so that applicant, staff and members of the public can present relevant information. A hearing is typically held over two days, about 60 days apart.

This according to your annual report. And you say you held 13 such hearings last year?

Mr. Pereira: Correct.

Senator Gauthier: I am not very familiar with technical jargon. What is tritium? The Commission issued uranium and tritium export licences.

Mr. Pereira: Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen gas. It is found in the red lights used for exit signs. The use of tritium is widespread. This isotope provides a light source without requiring any electrical connection.


The Chairman: Is it radioactive?

Mr. Pereira: Yes, it is put into fluorescent tubes and used in exit signs and airport landing lights.

Senator Gauthier: I have a question that was recently put to me by some friends, concerning the permit given by the Minister of Transport in the MOX case, regarding nuclear waste and Russia case. Why were you not involved?

Mr. Pereira: We were involved in certification of the container in which the MOX was shipped, for transport of nuclear material in Canada. The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and the Minister of Transport Canada are also involved in the transport decision. We are involved in approving the container in which nuclear material is shipped.

We were part of that process. The lead agency in that case was Transport Canada. We were an important partner in that process, and I was personally involved, as was Ms Maloney, in consultations on the Hill and with the public leading to the transport of those two sets.

Senator Gauthier: They needed the Minister of Transport's authorization to do that?

Mr. Pereira: For the transport part.

Senator Gauthier: They needed further authorization from you for the container?

Mr. Pereira: Correct. When it comes to nuclear fuel waste, there are other provisions that apply because nuclear fuel waste has different types of energy levels. There are security requirements in which we need to get involved. Additional requirements apply. We are more involved in nuclear waste than we were for MOX.

The Chairman: Thank you, senators. It sounds more like the beer industry every day.

Senator Buchanan: How many research reactors are there in Canada, eight, ten, twelve?

Mr. Pereira: Something like that. At Chalk River Laboratories, we have the main centre of these reactors.

Senator Buchanan: I am thinking about universities. Maybe you talked about this before I came in. I was a little late. There is one in Halifax at Dalhousie University. Are these just specifically research reactors, or are they working reactors that have the capability to generate electricity? If so, what do they do with it?

Mr. Pereira: They just research. They do not produce electricity in any way. They are used for the students to carry out physics experiments in a radioactive environment.

Senator Buchanan: No electricity, however.

Mr. Pereira: No.

The Chairman: My question is about balancing the budget, et cetera. Does the question of economics come in at all when you are licensing?

Mr. Pereira: No.

The Chairman: It should not.

Mr. Pereira: Our mandate is health, safety, security, environment and international obligations.

Senator Banks: I suspect that you appeared before the Commons committee in respect of this bill?

Mr. Pereira: No, we did not.

Senator Banks: You did not?

Mr. Pereira: No.

The Chairman: I wish to thank the witnesses for their attendance here today. We certainly learned a lot on this side.

The committee adjourned.