Environmental assessment of nuclear projects

Petition: 413

Issue(s): Compliance and enforcement, environmental assessment, governance, other, waste management

Petitioner(s): Canadian organization

Petitioner Location(s): Ottawa, Ontario and Westmount, Quebec

Date Received: 29 January 2018

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition raises concerns about the role of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission as the sole responsible authority for the environmental assessment of nuclear projects. The petition suggests that an independent assessment authority for nuclear projects be created instead, as recommended by the Expert Panel for the Review of Environmental Assessment Processes in its 2017 report, Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada. The petition also cites Environmental and Regulatory Reviews, a discussion paper by Environment and Climate Change Canada, to support its view that the Commission’s status as sole responsible authority is problematic. The petition concludes that the Commission is a “captured regulator” and is thus not sufficiently impartial.

The petition declares that the Commission made improper scoping and procedural decisions in several instances. The petition illustrates its concerns by presenting three examples of the Commission’s involvement: the Near Surface Disposal Facility Project on the Chalk River Laboratories property beside the Ottawa River and the in situ (leaving in place) decommissioning of both the Whiteshell Reactor #1 facility in Pinawa, Manitoba, and the CANDU reactor in Rolphton, Ontario. The petition focuses primarily on the Near Surface Disposal Facility Project and asserts that the approval process had a number of flaws. The petition states that the Commission did not sufficiently engage with First Nations; did not translate project documents into French for Quebec residents potentially at risk from the project’s adverse environmental impacts; did not revise the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project; and did not provide public access to documents referenced in the statement.

The petition asks how the Government of Canada will ensure that decisions on the disposal of federally owned radioactive wastes serve the public interest. The petition poses a series of questions to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change on how purported weaknesses in the environmental assessment process for nuclear projects will be rectified. The petition also asks the Minister to respond to the Expert Panel’s report, including

The petition asks the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs to provide information on the actions they have taken to enhance the participation of experts and Indigenous groups in assessing nuclear projects, in accordance with the two ministers’ respective mandate letters from the Prime Minister. In addition, the petition asks the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Minister of Science about the actions their departments have taken to ensure that decisions on the environmental assessment process are based on science, facts, and evidence.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Natural Resources Canada